Wyoming oil and natural gas operators are keeping a close eye on new guidelines to protect wildlife migration that were established Thursday by the state Game and Fish Commission.

The commission’s action calls on state wildlife officials to continue identifying routes traveled twice annually by elk, antelope and mule deer that roam the landscape of the nation’s least populated state. The Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) has said the oil/gas industry can work within the guidelines.

The guidelines would not force state officials to prohibit future oil/gas development, according to PAW’s Esther Wagner, vice president for public lands. Wagner told the Associated Press that the commission’s actions involve recommendations, not regulations.

Gov. Matt Mead has long stressed that energy development and conservation/environmental mitigation can work together and are doing so in Wyoming, the nation’s most resource-intense state (see Daily GPI, June 5, 2013).

The guidelines, however, will have an impact for oil/gas development sought on public lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) when developers seek to drill on public lands overseen by the BLM.

Wyoming’s wildlife migration corridors for mule deer, pronghorn and elk are some of the longest in North America, according to state game/fish officials.

“The strategy has been reframed to include proactive measures to conserve migration routes by examining potential threats and having the department review and comment to partners on a case-by-case basis,” the commission said.

In recent years, state and other researchers have studied and identified the migration of big game animals. As a result, the commission has concluded that there is a need for the state to conserve the documented routes. The guidelines are considered “potential advances” in the migration corridor conservation efforts.

“We’re not going to shut the lights out,” Game and Fish Commissioner David Rael said in an AP report. “We’re not going back to the Stone Age, and we’re not going to let wildlife decline.”