Cooperatove Conservation Project

Greater Yellowstone Mammal Migrations

Partnering to Preserve Yellowstone's Overland Mammal Migrations

Location: Midwest/Northern High Plains Region: Wyoming

Project Summary: The Nature Conservancy and partners are committed to protecting critical seasonal ranges for Yellowstone's migrating animals and preserving these historic overland movements.
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Resource Challenge

For more than a century, Yellowstone National Park has been an icon of American conservation. But survival of the 2.2 million-acre park—and the plants and animals that live there—depends on what happens in an even larger landscape: the 27 million-acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).


In recent years, land use changes and loss of open space resulting from residential development, energy exploration, and transportation infrastructure have increasingly affected wildlife movement in the region. The Greater Yellowstone mammal migration partnership aims to develop a conservation approach that will result in the protection of wildlife movement patterns while addressing the needs of the human community. This work will be successful only through the collaboration of many regional constituencies—from federal, state and county governments, to conservation organizations, to family ranchers, to landowners and visitors to the region.


Goals of the partnership include: 

  • Gain an understanding of conservation projects occurring in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem related to wildlife connectivity and migratory movements.
  • Conserve remaining priority migration corridors.
  • Synthesize existing information and knowledge of migratory areas and key mammal species.
  • Identify information gaps in our knowledge of migratory areas and for which species. 
  • Manage mammal movement data for use by parties working in community planning, private land conservation and stewardship, research and public land management.  
  • Identify critically-needed priority research on mammal movement and migration patterns.
  • Create a data set and products (e.g., maps) that represent past and current wildlife movement patterns for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Examples of Key Partners
The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee, federal land management agencies, state game and fish agencies, state departments of transportation, local land trusts, communities, and private landowners.
Results and Accomplishments

Strategy, collaboration and good science blend to form the basis of the partnership's efforts. Guided by natural delineation rather than politically-created boundaries, the partnership is developing solutions that ensure one of the ecosystem's natural processes—mammal migrations—remain intact and thrive. Several key accomplishments have been achieved that will lay the foundation for the partnership's ongoing work:

  1. Conducted two meetings, with a total of 50 participants from around the ecosystem, to begin assessing migration data, significance of specific corridors, viability of migrations and opportunities for conservation collaboration.
  2. Passage of the $15 million Wyoming Wild Trust Fund to protect and enhance wildlife and wildlife habitat.  
  3. 41,957 acres of private land protected through conservation easements and acquisitions to preserve migration and seasonal ranges around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. 
  4. The Nature Conservancy developed three related science prioritizations for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem over the past five years. The most recent, completed in 2005, used migration data to identify the highest priority areas for conservation, which represented 4% of the ecosystem. This data is available for state and federal planning purposes and conservation strategy development. 
  5. Formation of a working group including NGOs, and state and federal agencies to create recommendations for the Bureau of Land Management regarding Trapper’s Point, an antelope migration bottleneck in Wyoming, which due to subdivisions is now less than a third of a mile wide. 
  6. Development of a conservation strategy that draws upon the interests, expertise and resources from NGOs, federal land management agencies, state departments of transportation and private individuals to address the challenge of keeping migration corridors intact across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. 
  7. Conveying the ecological importance of migration to local citizens, state governments and others who can help reverse the loss of elk, bison, wolves, and antelope and other icons of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.




Five of the 17 longest overland migrations remaining in the world occur in the Greater Yellowstone, with some animals covering nearly 120 miles each season.

Project Contact
Laura Hubbard
Greater Yellowstone Program Manager
The Nature Conservancy
12 Gardner Park Drive
Bozeman, MT 59715
(406) 556-7277


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