New Luke Lynch WHMA Helps Preserve Mule Deer Migration Route

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CHEYENNE – A new wildlife habitat management area that helps secure one of the country’s most critical mule deer migration routes was recently acquired by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.

The new Luke Lynch Wildlife Habitat Management Area (WHMA), located along the western front of the Wind River Range north of Pinedale, will be managed to conserve mule deer migration and preserve open space for big game winter range habitat.

It is named to honor Luke Lynch who was The Conservation Fund’s Wyoming state director. Lynch helped conserve this portion of the migration corridor, as well as many other critical properties in the state, before his untimely death in 2015.

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“This land is a key piece in the longest mule deer migration route ever recorded in the lower 48 states. Thanks to our many partners who came together to maintain this important route, and I especially want to appreciate Luke for what he did for wildlife and for the partnerships he created that led to this moment,” said Scott Talbott, Game and Fish director.

The Conservation Fund moved quickly to purchase the 364-acre Fremont Lake property on the open market in April 2015, protecting it from subdivision and development, which could have cut off the crucial migration pathway. Researchers at the University of Wyoming had identified the Fremont Lake Bottleneck property as the most threatened portion in this internationally-significant bi-annual Red Desert to Hoback Mule Deer Migration.

Lead funding from the Knobloch Family Foundation along with significant contributions from the Wyoming Wildlife & Natural Resource Trust, Muley Fanatic Foundation, Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, George B. Storer Foundation, Packard Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Crucial Corridors program enabled The Conservation Fund to acquire, enhance and donate the property to Game and Fish this fall.

“Luke had a passion for the conservation of working ranchlands and for maintaining the connectivity of large animal migration routes,” said Mark W. Elsbree, senior vice president and western director for The Conservation Fund. “The new Luke Lynch WHMA is a tribute to his legacy and his hard work to maintain this incredible and enduring natural migration cycle, so it may live on for centuries to come.”

The Luke Lynch WHMA is planned to open to the public May 1, 2017, and is currently closed until that date. The annual anticipated seasonal closure will be Dec.1-April 30, consistent with the nearby Soda Lake WHMA. This area will be open to hunting and other recreational pursuits. Between now and the opening date, Game and Fish will be working to prepare the area for public access.

“Game and Fish will be putting up public access signage, maintaining roads, and constructing parking areas and wildlife friendly fences,” said Miles Anderson, Pinedale regional habitat and access supervisor. “We are working to keep the area as natural as possible for big game migration, so development will be limited to a minimum of access roads and parking areas.”

Other planned projects include cheatgrass spraying and habitat restoration. These are in addition to the projects already completed by The Conservation Fund before the transfer, such as elk fence improvements, removal of older infrastructure, development of a Sagebrush Habitat Enhancement Plan, reclamation of disturbed areas, and other administrative work.

To learn more about The Conservation Fund and their work in Wyoming visit http://www.conservationfund.org/where-we-work/wyoming or contact Ann Simonelli at (703) 908-5809.