April 10, 2019

Conservation Leaders Provide Perspectives on Western Wildlife Migration Corridors

On April 10, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted a Capitol Hill Breakfast Briefing to provide updates and perspectives on Secretarial Order 3362 and associated conservation initiatives impacting western big game and winter range migration corridors.

Interior Secretarial Order 3362 directs the Department of the Interior (DOI) to work in partnership with states across the Western U.S. to enhance and improve the quality of big-game winter range and migration corridor habitat on Federal lands under DOI management; while also recognizing state authority to conserve and manage big game and respect private property rights.

CSF Senior Director of Western States Andy Treharne welcomed Members of Congress, staffers, and conservation partners to the briefing, and introduced Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Vice-Chair Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI). Rep. Dingell introduced the briefing topic. “Today’s event provides a thoughtful and educational discussion, as the Interior Department is working in coordination with our western state neighbors to enhance and improve the habitat and migration corridors for big game such as elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and other wildlife,” said Rep. Dingell. “We are so grateful that you are here and supporting the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Senior Advisor for Western States Casey Stemler provided specifics on the progress of S.O. 3362. “Language throughout the Order refers to conserving, restoring, enhancing, and improving conditions of priority big-game habitats. However, what we are doing for big game species benefits a heck of a lot more species,” said Stemler.

Stemler explained the next steps for implementing S.O. 3362: Update State Action Plans; Provide additional science support; Provide habitat project support; and Expand efforts with the Department of Agriculture and Department of Transportation.

Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Science Coordinator Jim Heffelfinger explained the state-federal nexus on identification and conservation of migration corridors. “[Wildlife] make these [seasonal] movements in order to keep their populations healthy. Agencies are now starting to gather this information,” said Heffelfinger. “If we know where these corridors are, then we have the chance to make informed decisions about energy development and community development throughout the West.”

“It’s not just ungulates and big game, this issue transcends all wildlife – they all need to get across the road,” said Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Chief Scientist Ed Arnett. “The connection across states, within the agencies, and across stakeholders to identify best practices and points of leverage for action, and advance that action within the states, is addressed within Secretarial Order 3362.”

Arnett also highlighted an April 8 letter signed by more than 40 wildlife conservation organizations including CSF and Breakfast Briefing sponsors TRCP, Boone and Crockett Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Mule Deer Foundation, to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The letter requests that Congress invest in natural infrastructure that benefits wildlife habitat connectivity and recreational access.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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