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Increased Conservation Projects, Growing Conservation Team for Work in California

Increased Conservation Projects, Growing Conservation Team for Work in California

The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) has added two key conservation staff positions in California to support the growing habitat projects being coordinated by the organization. Over the summer, MDF has engaged in dozens of projects throughout the range of mule deer and black-tailed deer. The projects have focused on the organization’s priority activities of post-fire restoration, invasive plant management, water availability, and reducing barriers to wildlife movement. The two new positions helping to implement these projects include Chris Daunt, a conservation forester focused on the Plumas National Forest, and Zach Craft, a habitat project coordinator who will implement restoration projects on the Modoc National Forest.

“The Mule Deer Foundation’s conservation program continues to grow, and with growth MDF is adding key, qualified staff to increase the beneficial impact we are having on accomplishing our mission,” commented Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO Joel Pedersen. “Whether it is removing barriers to deer movement and migrations through fencing modifications or improving forest and rangeland health through habitat restoration projects, MDF is making a significant difference on the ground for mule deer and black-tailed deer.”

MDF Volunteers remove old fence, and replace with installation of wildlife friendly design.

MDF projects emphasize priority habitat objectives for the organization. For example, on the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest and adjacent private lands in southern Wyoming, MDF implemented a shrub mowing project to improve forage in crucial winter range, treated invasive plants, and gathered seed for future shrub planting projects. In Arizona, MDF is continuing mastication and lop and scatter projects on more than 1,200 acres of the Apache-Sitgreaves and Kaibab National Forests to improve vegetation; similar projects are underway in Colorado and Utah. Fence modification projects have taken place in Idaho, Montana, and Arizona, and in Idaho, wildlife jump outs have been repaired along the Highway 28 migration corridor. MDF’s presence in California also increased this year with reforestation of over 100 acres on the Mendocino National Forest and preparation for an additional 300+ acres in the Lassen National Forest, shrub mastication in the Stanislaus National Forest, post-fire tree removal in the Lassen and Plumas National Forests, installation of two guzzlers burned in the Whaleback fire on the Lassen National Forest, and more. The work in California has been expanded due to the addition of two new conservation staff positions this year.

Aerial application of herbicide to control invasive cheatgrass in Idaho.

Chris Daunt, who started with MDF in the spring, is a conservation forester based out of the Plumas National Forest Supervisor’s office in Quincy, California. His focus is working to improve wildlife habitat and promoting overall forest health across the Plumas National Forest, which has had numerous large wildfires in the past few years. He graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) with a B.S. in Forestry and Natural Resources and spent five years working with the timber industry in northeast California before joining MDF. Chris is a Registered Professional Forester through the California Board of Forestry, a Certified Archaeological Surveyor through CAL FIRE, and a FAA certified UAV (drone) pilot.

As the Habitat Project Coordinator working with the Modoc National Forest in California, Zach Craft will be leading habitat projects to benefit mule deer on the Long Bell Game Refuge and to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire on the Doublehead and Big Valley Ranger Districts. Zach received his undergraduate degree in Natural Resource Conservation with a focus in natural resource policy and planning from the University of Montana. His previous work was focused on recreation management for the U.S. Forest Service in Montana and California.

“Our conservation team is working extremely hard to develop innovative partnerships to expand the amount of habitat management projects we are accomplishing every year,” concluded MDF director of conservation, Steve Belinda. “We are excited to see our team growing in areas with key partners like the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other agencies so that we can see even more work get done on the ground.”

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