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Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridor Program

Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridor Program

Mule Deer Foundation Receives Grant from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for Habitat Restoration Projects

Salt Lake City, Utah: The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) announced today that it had received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridor Program. The grant program was coordinated by NFWF as part of the implementation of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Secretarial Order 3362. Working with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), MDF will conduct land restoration and fence modifications for several key mule deer herds in the state. The NFWF grant funding will be matched by MDF and partners for a total estimated project impact of about $2 million. The funding will dramatically increase the impact of MDF’s Migration Initiative that was announced at the end of 2018.

“We are excited to launch these important habitat restoration and corridor improvement projects thanks to the grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation,” said MDF President/CEO Miles Moretti. “Working with our partners at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and private landowners in the state, we will be able make improvements on nearly 2,000 acres of federal public land and modify about 45 miles of fences to make them wildlife-friendly.”

The projects will be targeted toward the Sublette and Platte Valley herd units that have undergone extensive public review through the WGFD Mule Deer Initiative starting in 2010. Over the last eight years, projects in these herd units have accomplished hundreds of thousands of acres of invasive weeds treatments, dozens of miles of fence modifications, hundreds of thousands of acres protected through conservation easements, and tens of thousands of acres of habitat restoration through treatments such as prescribed burns, shrub plantings, conifer removal, and sagebrush treatments. This past success demonstrates the ability to complete projects and work with partners to implement proactive conservation efforts. The NFWF grant funding will continue this great work with new projects that focus on the removal of invasive plant species, land restoration including prescribed burns and removal of encroaching conifers, and fence improvements.

“Functional big game migration corridors are critical to healthy big game herds,” said Brian Nesvik, director of Wyoming Game and Fish. “For over a decade we’ve been working with the public, the Mule Deer Foundation and other important partners to put conservation on the ground as identified through our Mule Deer Initiative. It takes big money to tackle larger scale habitat projects and we are excited to work together to put these dollars on the ground to benefit wildlife.”  

Secretarial Order 3362 was signed at MDF’s annual convention, the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo, in February 2018 spurring significant partnership efforts to identify and improve key big game migration corridors and winter ranges.  Through a NFWF capacity-building grant awarded in late 2018, MDF has directed additional staff time toward habitat projects that support the conservation efforts identified in S.O. 3362. MDF’s Migration Initiative will focus on mule deer winter range and corridors in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.

“MDF has been working closely with our state and federal partners to support conservation of mule deer habitat through stewardship agreements and landscape restoration projects,” noted Steve Belinda, who is coordinating the implementation of MDF’s Migration Initiative. “The NFWF grant will allow us to greatly expand our efforts in helping Wyoming Game and Fish improve important mule deer range in the state and we are looking forward to getting these projects up and running.”

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