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Sportswomen to Western Governors: Save the Bird, Save the Herd

Mule deer herds have declined by 40 percent around the heavily developed gas fields near Pinedale. (Getty Images)
Mule deer herds have declined by 40 percent around the heavily developed gas fields near Pinedale. (Getty Images)
August 31, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- With hunting season just around the corner, the sportswomen's group Artemis is making the case that keeping habitat viable for the greater sage grouse also will be good for mule deer populations.

The group's new report, "Living on Common Ground," co-produced with the National Wildlife Federation, comes as the Trump administration is reviewing sage grouse conservation plans for any negative impact on energy production. Artemis co-founder Sara Domek said hunters and anglers need to step up to make sure wildlife populations exist for future generations.

"The conservation plans that, across the west, have been worked on - here in Wyoming for decades - these are really powerful measures to make sure that mule deer and sage grouse are conserved in the long run,” Domek said.

After working with states, scientists and private landowners, the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture finalized plans in 2015 to manage sage grouse habitat across 70 million acres in 11 Western states. The effort kept the iconic western bird off the endangered species list.

Oil and gas industry groups want the Department of Interior to loosen restrictions claiming lost productivity and jobs.

Domek said growing up in the Upper Green River Valley, she saw first hand how unbridled oil and gas production impacted deer populations. She noted in the first few years of development, those populations declined by more than 40 percent.

"What it comes down to, really, is the sagebrush steppe,” she said. "Sagebrush - so here in Wyoming it's Wyoming big sagebrush - is what sustains greater sage grouse through the winter months, and also mule deer through the winter months."

Domek said protecting important migration corridors for winter habitat and fawning season should be a priority, and argued Wyoming's hard-won conservation plans provide sound measures to protect mule deer and sage grouse habitat.

"This is our chance to make sure we stand up and take action to get in touch with our governors and let them know that these plans need to be given a chance,” Domek said.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY