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Report: Migration Key to Conserving Big Game in Bridger-Teton Forest

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Thursday, September 2, 2021   

JACKSON, Wyo. -- A report published today focuses on data-driven efforts to conserve big-game migration in Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Sportsmen organizations hope the findings can help guide decision-making as the U.S. Forest Service prepares to revise its 31-year-old management plan.

Bridger-Teton's 3.4 million acres of public land play an important role in seasonal migration for species such as elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep and more.

Joy Bannon, field and policy director for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, said GPS technology has made it easier to track animal migration patterns and make suggestions on improvements to habitat conservation.

"Is there a fence, for example, that isn't wildlife-friendly, that we can make wildlife-friendly?" Bannon proposed. "Timber harvesting is utilized as a benefit and certain breaks for these animals as well. There's a lot of interesting pieces to this assessment that will help not only the users of the land but also the land managers putting that management onto the ground."

Bridger-Teton, located in northwestern Wyoming, is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the biggest, intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states. The Forest Service recently announced the management plan revision process will start in Fiscal Year 2023.

Another solution proposed in the report includes creating timing restrictions for vehicles to avoid disturbing migrating wildlife.

Nick Dobric, Wyoming field manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said migration is key to sustaining wildlife abundance, particularly for finding food along their route.

"If a species is able to migrate, they're able to take advantage of those different habitats in the summer, and the winter, and in those transitional times in the fall and the spring," Dobric explained. "Science has shown that if a herd migrates, it's going to have more numbers than one that does not and, generally, it's going to do better overall."

The report also suggested some prescribed burning could be helpful with enhancing forage production, along with concentrating recreational activities during migration periods.


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