PROMO Animal - Elk Rocky Mountain National Park - NPS

Bureau of Land Management prioritizes wildlife connectivity

Elk at Rocky Mountain National Park. NPS.
Suzanne Potter

(Nevada News Service) The Bureau of Land Management said it is now going to make it a priority to protect wildlife corridors, which are the routes animals like mule deer take between their winter and summer ranges.

The agency issued a Memorandum of Instruction Tuesday, officially telling their state offices to consider the impact on wildlife migration when making decisions going forward.

Russell Kuhlman, executive director of the Nevada Wildlife Federation, said the BLM has the power to approve or deny permits on a wide range of projects.

"They oversee cattle permit grazing, renewable energy projects, the oil and gas leasing, and they also approve building permits," Kuhlman outlined.

A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey found the American West is losing 1.3 million acres a year of sagebrush habitat, mainly to wildfire but also to development, which has pushed the sage grouse population closer to extinction.

Kuhlman pointed out the BLM posted a notice online last week, stating it will offer new oil-and-gas leases in Nevada soon, but then, the agency pulled the web page.

"So, I'd be very interested to see if they lease areas of low-to-no potential land for oil and gas, having just sent out this instructional memorandum calling for the protection of wildlife connectivity," Kuhlman remarked. "I'm going to keep my eye on that."

Experts warned animal populations become more vulnerable to disease when they are cut off from parts of their range, in part due to increased inbreeding.