Mule Deer Foundation Working on Colorado Mule Deer Habitat Restoration through Stewardship Agreement with Bureau of Land Management
Salt Lake City, Utah: The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are working together to improve mule deer habitat in Colorado through a 10-year Statewide Stewardship Agreement. Working collaboratively with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) through the agency’s West Slope Mule Deer Strategy, the partners will be focusing on habitat restoration on BLM lands in the state. The agreement started in fall 2016 with two projects that cleared encroaching conifers on more than 640 acres of mule deer winter range. The partners have plans for an additional seven projects in 2017.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the Mule Deer Foundation to work collaboratively with the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to make significant improvements to as much as 10,000 acres of mule deer habitat on public lands,” said Miles Moretti, MDF President and CEO. “By focusing on rangeland and forest restoration, we can provide better winter range and fawning habitat for mule deer while also reducing wildfire hazard conditions.”
The Statewide Stewardship Agreement officially took effect in August 2016 and two projects were completed in the first months of the agreement. The first project, known as the Dry Ryan Project, removed pinyon pines and juniper that were encroaching into sagebrush habitat near Meeker in northwest Colorado. Hand-crews used chainsaws to thin more than 450 acres in a landscape that is identified as a priority focus area under CPW’s Mule Deer Strategy. MDF’s Northwest Chapter dedicated $2,500 funds to the project which helped clear 25 acres. The second project last year was the second phase of using a hydro-axe to “masticate” (mow and mulch) pinyon pine and juniper as well as larger shrubs within sagebrush flats in the Piceance basin. The treatment creates new or larger openings within dense vegetation which improves foraging opportunities for deer. MDF provided $16,500 to treat 60 acres through the stewardship agreement and CPW provided $29,400 to treat an additional 131 acres.
“Through the projects that we’ve already completed in 2016 and the ones that we are planning for 2017, we are targeting areas specifically prioritized in CPW’s Mule Deer Strategy,” said MDF Habitat Stewardship Coordinator, Stan Baker. “CPW documented a drop in mule deer populations on the western slope of Colorado and recognized that habitat loss as well as the decline in quality of remaining habitat are key factors in this decline. Our projects focus on the removal of encroaching conifers, improving existing sagebrush and grasslands, and increasing health and function of aspen stands in summer range – all of which will help our mule deer population, and many other species including sage grouse.”
Several projects are planned or underway for 2017. In southwest Colorado, the Dry Mesa project on the Uncompahgre Plateau will target conifer removal on 167 acres of BLM land which will complement an additional 566 acres of Forest Service land. In northwest Colorado, an additional 300 acres are planned for continued hand thinning of vegetation on the Dry Ryan project. In addition, 400 acres near Cathedral Rim are identified for shrub and conifer mastication. Near Burns, 487 acres of treatment will have both hand thinning and mastication in the Pump Gulch area. Just north of Rifle, 141 acres of encroaching pinyons and junipers will be removed using hand thinning on the Cedar Mountain project. Finally, more than 830 acres at the Hartman Divide south of Kremmling are slated to be masticated. While some of these projects are still awaiting funding, if all are completed more than $480,000 will be committed to restore over 2,300 acres this year.
The Colorado Statewide Stewardship Agreement between MDF and BLM will have significant impacts for mule deer habitat identified in CPW’s Mule Deer Strategy. These habitat restoration projects are indicative of how collaborative conservation can make a difference on the ground.
The Mule Deer Foundation is the only conservation group in North America dedicated to restoring, improving and protecting mule deer and black-tailed deer and their habitat, with a focus on science and program efficiency. MDF is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. MDF acknowledges regulated hunting as a viable management component and is committed to recruitment and retention of youth into the shooting sports and conservation. Get involved at www.muledeer.org or call 1-888-375-3337.