The Path of the Pronghorn Protected

Forest Service agrees to remove livestock corrals that impede the pronghorn’s migration.

Cheyenne, WY- Conservationists and the US Forest Service today signed a settlement agreement that will protect a 6,000-year-old, critical migratory corridor necessary for the survival of North America’s fastest land animal, the pronghorn. The Path of the Pronghorn is the longest remaining migration of any land mammal in the lower 48 states.

Pronghorn antelope – credit: Brian Ertz, WWP

Western Watersheds Project, represented by Western Environmental Law Center, had filed a lawsuit in November 2011 challenging the Forest Service’s decision to authorize the building of private livestock corrals on public lands on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The corrals had the potential to impede pronghorn migration and block the movement of other large mammals. The agency has since withdrawn plans for future construction and fencing, and today, the agency agreed to take existing structures down.

“Though it’s unfortunate we had to go to court to convince the Forest Service that fencing for livestock corrals was bad for pronghorn, we are happy with the result,” said Jonathan Ratner, of Western Watersheds Project. He continued, “Now, the agency agrees to protect the path of the pronghorn, and we have offered to help remove the barriers and restore the migration corridor when conditions permit. “We also established an important precedent that it was illegal to build the corrals in 2006 and call them ‘temporary’ and leave them there for half a decade,” Ratner added.

The contested corrals are located at the confluence of Slate Creek and the Gros Ventre River in Wyoming. This area is a critical link in the “Path of the Pronghorn,” an annual migration corridor for the species between the Upper Green River Valley (near Pinedale) and Grand Teton National Park. Numbering only a few hundred, this dwindling herd relies on this migration corridor for its very survival. In 2008, in recognition of the importance of this corridor to the pronghorn, the Forest Service designated this area as the nation’s first wildlife migration corridor.

In addition to the impacts of the corrals on the pronghorn, the manner in which the agency made the decision to build these and other structures in the Path of the Pronghorn was problematic. “For the most part, these decisions to build were made behind closed doors, via internal ‘categorical exclusion’ decisions, and in the absence of an environmental analysis as required by law,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center in Helena, Montana who represented Western Watersheds Project. “In the future, if the Forest Service wants to authorize new facilities and other fencing projects in the Path of the Pronghorn, it must first take a hard look at the overall, cumulative impacts to the migration corridor,” Bishop concluded.

Download the settlement agreement

View Path of the Pronghorn in a larger map




  1. Nancy Avatar

    This is good news…..probably for more than just Pronghorns.

    Watched a small group of elk cows & and their calves from last year, come off the hillside next to me yesterday morning, making their way into the valley.

    Don’t know how many fencelines behind me they had to cross (in addtion to roads) to get here but as I watched them, they jumped another 6 fencelines in order to be where other elk had already begun to gather for spring “rites”

  2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The BLM needs to make all of their fences Pronghorn Friendly. The bottom wire needs to be 18″ off of the ground and barbless. Pronghorns rarely jump fences, they crawl under. The fence wires also need to be more visible. I have seen running Pronghorns hit barb wire fences so hard that they cause staples to pop out of the posts. The top wire should be replaced with a pole to prevent deer and elk from catching their back legs between the top wire and the next one down.
    I photographed a still living deer caught in a fence in Utah just last fall. I didn’t have any wire cutters with me and called a deputy sheriff who shot the deer. He took the deer with him for his family to eat. Is that ethical? I put a fencing tool in my pickup so that I can cut the next fence caught deer free.

    1. JB Avatar

      “He took the deer with him for his family to eat.”

      According to some who post here, sustenance is the only ethical justification for killing wildlife. It seems what is considered “ethical” is quite subjective.

    2. Dan Avatar

      One item that torques me is fencing in Wyoming. Every year I make a trip with my brother to hunt pronghorn in Wyoming. We trophy hunt and sustenance hunt. We typically each get a buck tag for trophies and a couple of doe tags to make the trip more worthwhile. (FYI -Contrary to some opinions, pronghorn meat is very tasty, we believe it’s all in the handling. As soon as we harvest an animal we process it and put the meat on ice.) Anyway, we do our homework and scout/hunt rarely accessed public land areas that require extra map and GPS work. In operating this way we have had several discussions with Wyoming ranchers and landowners about property boundaries and ownership. It’s entertaining to point out property boundaries to ranchers and landowners, much to their chagrin. Over the years we have noticed there is a very wide variance in fence building in Wyoming. About half the time or so we find nicely built 3 wire fences with the bottom wire 18 inches off the ground but it is an all to common occurrence to find 4 wire fences with the bottom wire 6 inches off the ground. I’ve always thought that it would be good PR and an easy thing to build fences to accommodate pronghorn passage. This is one spot where I tend to agree with the folks who say ranchers are obtuse.

    3. Mike Avatar

      Was it deer season?

    4. SAP Avatar

      Larry, I quit using the combo-fence plier tool (pliers, staple puller, hammer, cutter combo) a few years back when I had to cut some wire in a hurry. They’re ok if it’s nothing urgent. If there’s a hurt animal involved, I like to cut wire fast, without having to get the wire in that small cutting groove. I like high quality cutters like Knipex or Klein brand. They cut barbed wire effortlessly. They’re also stout enough to cut a snare off your dog.

      1. Nancy Avatar

        SAP – after trying, with little success, to free a Mulie doe, trapped in a barbwire fenceline (with your average wire cutters) I went to Ace Hardware, upgraded to cutters that cut thu steel.

        Unfortunately, that upgrade doesn’t make much of a difference if that animal has been hanging or struggling, in that wire, for hours or days.

  3. cindy Avatar

    There is one portion towards the end of their journey (just a few miles from the Park) where the trail is super super narrow and has a straight drop into the Gros Ventre River. When we were on an outing to welcome them back a few years ago, seeing that trail through binoculars was hair raising enough. We never did get to see any of them cross that section but man what a spectacular scene it would be. I believe it has nick name there, but I can’t remember:)

  4. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    Sheep fence is the worst: 36″ of woven wire topped with 2 strands of barbed. I once saw a sheep pasture in Colorado that had speed goat remains hanging every 50 yards for more than a mile…

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Brian Ertz