The wide-open spaces of the American West contain one of our nation’s greatest assets: a vast network of public lands that in turn support an abundant variety of wildlife. These lands and animals form the fabric of many communities, enriching local economies and cultures, supporting outdoor recreation, and boosting the ecological health of the region. That’s why it’s vital that the migration routes of our wildlife—and the habitat these routes connect—remain as free as possible of human-made impediments such as roads and development.
Fortunately, there’s promising news on this front. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt recently suggested that he would expand an initiative dedicated to identifying and conserving wildlife migration corridors in Western states to include additional big-game species and more of their habitat. This would further empower federal land and wildlife agencies to work with states to ensure that science is guiding land management decisions in crucial habitat for species such as mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep.
The benefits of this science-centered approach extend far beyond conservation. As the Western Governors’ Association noted in a 2017-2018 policy resolution supporting science-based land management, “Large intact and functioning ecosystems, healthy fish and wildlife populations, and ample public access to natural landscapes are significant contributing factors to the West’s economy and quality of life.”