Wyoming Game and Fish Commission accepted a 364-acre gift from The Conservation Fund on Thursday keeping a “bottleneck” open on the longest mule deer migration path in the Lower 48.
The property near the outlet of Fremont Lake just outside Pinedale will be named after the conservationists who worked to preserve it. The property will honor the memory of Luke Lynch, a Conservation Fund employee, who died in a ski mountaineering accident on Mount Moran in 2015.
Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the acreage, purchased by The Conservation Fund for $1.7 million and rehabilitated with another $400,000 of the group’s funds. Development of the parcel was the top threat to the route some 4,000 mule deer travel every year from the Red Desert north to summer pastures and back again. Property owners had listed it for sale and development.
Lynch and The Conservation Fund, “they were the heavy lifters,” Game and Fish administrator Butch Parks told the commission in Pinedale. “In honor of that, the area is being named the Luke Lynch Wildlife Habitat Management Area.”
Conservation Fund Senior Vice President Mark Elsbree quoted Lynch’s father who said “there’s no greater way to honor Luke than to continue his conservation work.” Elsbree told the commission, “You all have done that today.”
The conservation group reckoned it would take three years to raise the money for the property. “It was a significant challenge,” Elsbree said in an interview. “We didn’t have a lot of answers to the questions,” he said of the challenge.
The uncertain prospects didn’t deter Lynch. To Lynch “it had to be done, it will be done, and that was it,” Elsbree said.
The Conservation Fund accomplished its goal in only two years. Elsbree gave credit to the Wyoming Migration Initiative and University of Wyoming Professor Matthew Kauffman for documenting and publicizing the mule deer migration route.
The Knobloch Family Foundation was a leader in fundraising, Elsbree said, along with the George B. Storer Foundation. The Jackson Community Foundation dedicated proceeds from the Luke Lynch Memorial Fund to the effort. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wyoming Game and Fish also contributed, as did two chapters of Muley Fanatic Foundation and a handful of others.
“As a conservationist there is no finer recognition than having a spectacular, important property named in your honor,” Elsbree said. “This project has been a journey, a migration of sorts, like life itself.”