MDF Migration Corridors and Winter Range Initiative Projects Completed Through Support from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund
In 2020, MDF’s Migration Corridors and Winter Range Initiative received a boost from a $125,000 grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund to do on-the-ground project work in six states. This funding is generated by the more than 200 million passionate sportsmen and women who ‘round up’ their purchases at time of checkout at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s to support conservation. The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund supports a number of conservation activities with partner organizations around the country, and this was their first grant to MDF for habitat work.
MDF’s goal was to implement habitat enhancement projects to support conservation needs identified by states in response to the 2018 Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3362 (SO3362), Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors. MDF was able to use the grant funds to leverage an additional $467,350, a nearly 4:1 ratio, effectively putting $592,350 on-the-ground through this grant. Although it was hoped that these projects could be coordinated as volunteer projects, the continuing COVID-19 limitations meant most had to go on without the extra helping hands. Here’s an update on those projects and we hope that our chapters will have a similar opportunity to get their hands dirty on projects in the coming year. In the meantime, keep supporting Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s and rounding up your purchases when you check out!
Idaho – Crooked Creek Fencing
Five miles of woven-wire fence (which was acting as a barrier to movement) was removed and replaced with wildlife friendly fencing in a big game migration corridor and winter range in the Crooked Creek valley along the southern end of the Beaverhead Mountains in eastern Idaho. The project is within the Big Desert-Mountain Valley Complex, one of the five priority areas identified by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in their SO3362 State Action Plan. The area is home to over 5,000 migrating mule deer, thousands of pronghorn, a core greater sage-grouse population, and a small population of bighorn sheep. Tens of thousands of acres of public lands were made available to big game through this effort.
Nevada – Toano Mountain Restoration Project
MDF is working with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) to help implement the Toano Mountain Restoration Project that will remove invasive juniper in sagebrush winter range habitat in the top priority mule deer migration herd in Nevada. This project is currently underway and will ultimately treat 400 acres, improving over 3,000 acres that will benefit a deer population of about 4,000 animals.
Wyoming – Riparian Fencing
MDF is working with a ranch in southcentral WY near the town of Baggs to protect 300 acres of a riparian area through fencing. This area includes natural springs that provide water and other important habitat for mule deer, elk, and livestock. This area is on national forest lands and is within the Baggs mule deer migration corridor in which hundreds of mule deer move through during seasonal migration. The fencing is a lay-down fence that will allow for wildlife use while protecting the riparian area from overgrazing and trampling. Through this project, two miles of riparian fence was erected that will improve habitat on 300 acres.
Montana – Wildlife Friendly Fencing
MDF worked with a ranch in central Montana to replace four miles of fence with wildlife friendly fence. This ranch borders Bureau of Land Management and Montana state lands and is within the Canadian Border to Musselshell Plains priority area. The ranch and adjacent public lands support daily and seasonal movement of an estimated 2,000 deer as well as a large elk herd. The fencing that was replaced will make almost 5,000 acres of habitat more available and reduce fence-caused mortality.
Washington – Bridgeport Fire Restoration
MDF is working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to restore mule deer winter range habitat on the Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area that was burned by the Bridgeport Fire in 2020. These post-fire restoration efforts will help to restore native winter range through seeding of vegetation on priority areas that support a deer herd of about 2,500 animals. Through the funding, 190 acres were reseeded to stabilize soils and improve 210 total acres.
Colorado – Pine Gulch Fire Restoration
MDF worked with the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to collect and clean sagebrush seed for the restoration of important winter range and migration corridor habitat burned by the Pine Gulch Fire in August 2020. Volunteers from MDF and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation collected seed near the burn area in December 2020, and MDF will be planting the sagebrush plants grown from the seed collected on about 100 acres within the burned area in 2021. This is part of a larger fire restoration project that MDF is helping to lead in the area.
Steve provides the Mule Deer Foundation leadership on all things related to mule and black-tailed deer conservation. Steve is a Certified Wildlife Biologist® and has over 30 years in wildlife conservation profession. Steve earned his Master’s degree from the University of Wyoming and B. S. degree from the Pennsylvania State University. Steve is a Fellow of The Wildlife Society and the National Conservation Leadership Institute, and resides in Red Lodge, Montana with wife, two kids and two labs. His experience in federal agencies, the private sector, and non-profit conservation worlds, provide a unique skill set valuable for work that MDF does for deer and other wildlife. He believes habitat is the key to properly managing sustainable wildlife populations across the many landscapes they are found. When he isn’t tirelessly managing the Conservation needs of MDF, he enjoys bowhunting, fly-fishing, and a recent infatuation with deep sea fishing.