Protecting the Pronghorn Path

June 18, 2008

The U.S. Forest Service designates the nation’s first wildlife migration corridor to protect the movement of North America’s fastest land animal, the pronghorn. These swift creatures number nearly half a million in Wyoming alone, but the proliferation of gas fields and housing development has sliced up much of their territory.

The pronghorn’s ancient travel route is receiving modern protection. The U.S. Forest Service recently adopted an amendment that will safeguard one-third of the 150 miles that pronghorn travel annually. The animals have used this path, between Grand Teton National Park and the Upper Green River Valley in northwestern Wyoming, for at least 6,000 years. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been studying the route for the past five years.

The agency stated that all future activities on Forest Service lands within the designated corridor will not impact the movement of the pronghorn. “With the signing of the amendment, we are pledging to assist the preservation effort of this corridor,” said Kniffy Hamilton, supervisor of Bridger-Teton National Forest. “This migration is an important part of Wyoming’s history, and we want to do all we can to maintain it.”

These swift creatures number nearly half a million in Wyoming alone, but the proliferation of gas fields and housing developments has sliced up much of their territory. The amendment to the Bridger-Teton National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan applies to 45 miles on Forest Service lands, but there are 30 remaining miles on private lands and areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). WCS is working with government agencies and conservation groups to encourage private citizens and the BLM to follow in the footsteps of the Forest Service to protect the migration route, known as the “Path of the Pronghorn.”

"This represents a tremendous conservation victory and demonstrates that by working together we can find solutions to preserve our nation’s wildlife heritage," said Dr. Kim Murray Berger, a WCS biologist who studies pronghorn migration.

Although pronghorn are not endangered, fewer than 200 have been seen in recent years during the summer months in Grand Teton National Park. The animals cannot survive the park’s harsh winters; the snow is simply too deep. Without a migration corridor, the pronghorn would face local extinction in Grand Teton.

“We remain concerned about the long-term persistence of this migration corridor because it is a life link for our pronghorn population,” said Steve Cain, senior wildlife biologist for Grand Teton National Park, who partnered with WCS on the migration study. “We would not have pronghorn if the corridor became impassable.”

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