State lawmakers advance bill dealing with migration corridors

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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) Wyoming state lawmakers advanced a bill Wednesday creating a process for designating wildlife migration corridors. The state Select Federal Natural Resources Management Committee will sponsor the bill during the 2020 budget session.

Wyoming State Sen. Brian Boner, R-Converse/Platte, speaks at a state Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee meeting in Casper, Wyo. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019.

It would give the Wyoming Game and Fish Department the power identify migration corridors but not to designate them. That power would go to the governor, but before that, the governor would have to receive a recommendation from a group of stakeholders appointed by the affected counties’ commissioners.

Opponents believe the bill would remove science from the designation process.

“It is removing the authority of the Game and Fish to designate migration corridors. I mean, we firmly believe that folks that are doing the science should be the people that are implementing the science,” Wyoming Wildlife Federation Advocacy Coordinator Jessi Johnson said.

Supporters disagree. Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Fremont, said the system would still rely on science, but would also take into account other factors, like potential economic impacts.

“We have to look at land use as a whole,” Larsen said.

The only committee member to vote against the bill was Rep. Stan Blake, D-Sweetwater. He said the bill is not ready for prime time.

The proposal comes after Gov. Mark Gordon, R-Wyoming, announced his intention to issue an executive order giving Game and Fish the power to designate corridors.

“The executive order came as a recommendation from the advisory group that met over the summer and that was eight citizens from across the state representing a broad set of interests,” said Renny MacKay, Gordon’s policy director.

Johnson said the Wyoming Wildlife Federation also supports Gordon’s path forward with an executive order.

MacKay said Gordon will release a draft of the executive order in December and plans to issue a month later.

Larsen said the bill may change during the budget session based on what’s in the executive order.