New BLM policy will protect wildlife migration in future land use planning

Working with local communities to preserve wildlife migration is at the heart of a new federal government policy.

According to a new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy.

The agency wants to work more closely with states and tribes to support wildlife migration routes, known as “habitat connectivity.”

“They depend on their ability to get from point A to point B,” said Matt Skroch, wildlife project manager at Pew Charitable Trusts and helps drive the policy. “If there’s an interstate highway or other forms of development that get in the way, then those animals are restricted in their movements. And that often results in dwindling populations of wild animals – animals that aren’t able to truly thrive.

In order to avoid this loss of habitat connectivity, Skroch said the BLM, states and tribes will need to work to avoid developing future energy projects in migration corridors. For example, a recent study showed that mule deer could not reach their best forage when their migration routes were disrupted by energy development.

Skroch said future renewable energy projects will need to be carefully planned.

“These projects, as necessary as they are, have trade-offs. And those trade-offs can include the reduction or unavailability of wildlife habitat,” he said.

He said the new policy will help avoid federal permits in these crucial areas. The BLM will also support existing executive orders in Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming that place protections on wildlife migration corridors.

He added that another way to help with habitat connectivity is to remove old fences or update them to make them more wildlife-friendly.

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