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MDF Receives RESTORE Colorado Grant for Habitat Restoration Projects

MDF Receives RESTORE Colorado Grant for Habitat Restoration Projects

Pine Gulch fire of 2020

The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) has received a $383,358 grant for habitat restoration projects through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s RESTORE Colorado program. The project funding was announced today during the Colorado Partners in the Outdoors conference in Vail. MDF will be working in cooperation with the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), and other partners to restore habitat for mule deer, sage grouse, and other wildlife in sagebrush rangelands through the work of Northwest Colorado Sagebrush Habitat Partnership Coordinator, Jamie Nogle. MDF and its partners will leverage the RESTORE grant with additional funds for a total impact of more than $775,000 for projects including: land restoration and improved management on rangelands impacted by the 139,000-acre Pine Gulch fire; invasive weed treatment; conifer removal; fencing removal and modification; improved land management practices; and mesic meadow restoration projects.

“Western Colorado, currently and historically, supports some of the largest mule deer herds in the state and is often called Colorado’s ‘mule deer factory’,” said MDF President/CEO Joel Pedersen. “Much of the proposed project area is part of the Book Cliffs priority big game corridor/winter range which is home to 7,500 mule deer and 5,000 elk. Improving the habitat in this part of the state will provide tremendous benefits to big game, sage grouse, and countless other species that depend on the region’s sagebrush rangelands.”

Firefighters battling the Pine Gulch fire. Photos courtesy of National Interagency Fire Center

The three-million-acre focal area includes important sagebrush and shrub dominated habitats that are highly productive habitat for elk, mule deer, sage grouse, and numerous other sagebrush obligate species. Partners such as CPW and USFWS have highlighted the need for cross-agency, partner coordination and planning for cumulative and landscape scale conservation efforts to occur. MDF’s Nogle will be working with BLM, IWJV, CPW, and other partners to identify and prioritize habitat and range improvement projects within the focal area that will benefit habitat for both big game and sage grouse. RESTORE Colorado funding will support her efforts to implement high priority projects on public and private lands to support the state’s West Slope Mule Deer Strategy, Secretarial Order 3362 state action plan, and the Colorado Statewide Greater Sage-grouse Plan.

“This funding will be leveraged with partner dollars to increase habitat connectivity, provide forage on critical big game winter range, and improve habitat for sage grouse and other sagebrush obligates,” said Nogle.  “We have a unique opportunity through my shared position and a RESTORE Colorado grant to coordinate cross-boundary, landscape-level wildlife habitat improvements where they are needed most in Northwest Colorado.”

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