The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) announced today that it has hired a Habitat Partnership Coordinator and a Regional Director to focus on the Dakota Grasslands region. Casey Nordine was hired in October to serve as the regional director who will coordinate chapter activities and fundraising in South Dakota and Nebraska. In early November, Brennen Borah joined the MDF staff to serve as a habitat partnership coordinator working with state and federal agencies and private landowners to restore habitat for mule deer, grouse, pronghorn and other wildlife in the area. of the Dakota Grasslands project. Along with North Dakota Regional Director Sara Wagner, Wyoming Regional Director Shawn Blajszczak, and Montana Regional Director Chris Fortune, the Dakota staff will lead a focused effort to implement projects in the eastern mule deer range. , which is dominated by private land with mixtures of federal land and state land. Efforts began today with a volunteer project to remove old fences or convert them to wildlife-friendly designs in the US Forest Service’s McKenzie Ranger District in western North Dakota.
The project completed yesterday in the Little Missouri National Grassland was an effort to remove fences that were a barrier to wildlife movement and replace them with wildlife-friendly fencing. This was a “boots on the ground” project in partnership with the US Forest Service (USFS) by MDF volunteers and the North Dakota Petroleum Board. Material costs were shared by MDF and USFS, and equipment and labor were provided by MDF employees and industry partners with MAP Mechanical, ONEOK, Rossco Crane, TC Energy, and Terracon; Weatherford provided lunch for the volunteers. The project serves as an example of the opportunities that MDF and its partners will pursue through Dakota Grasslands habitat conservation efforts.
“The Mule Deer Foundation has increased its role in North Dakota over the past five years with volunteer and industrial projects on private land that benefit mule deer and many other wildlife species,” said Steve Belinda, director of conservation for the Mule Deer Foundation. MDF. “The addition of Brennen and Casey to our team in the Dakota grasslands region will create a significant new opportunity for us to make a difference in the grasslands where mule deer live.”
The Dakota grasslands are a key focal area for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Northern Great Plains program and consist of grassland and sagebrush dominated habitats that are highly productive for pronghorn, mule deer , capercaillie and many other grassland and sagebrush obligate species. State and federal agency partners have highlighted the need for interagency coordination and planning among partners for cumulative efforts to occur in the region. MDF received a grant from NFWF in the summer of 2022 to hire a Dakota Grasslands Habitat Partnership Coordinator to focus on Western North Dakota, Eastern Montana, Northwestern South Dakota, and Northeast Wyoming. In this position, Borah will provide a critical new capability to network with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), USFS, North Dakota Game and Fish, South Dakota Game Fish and Parks, Fish, Wildlife and Montana Parks and Wyoming Game. and Department of Fisheries, as well as industry and conservation partners to implement landscape-scale habitat conservation in the region.
Brennen is a South Dakota native with a passion for wildlife and habitat management. He graduated from South Dakota State University with a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Science and spent 10 years managing habitats on public and private lands at South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks. It will be based in Spearfish, SD, in the far north of the Black Hills. Borah will work with federal, state, and private landowners on transboundary projects that improve the critical mixed-grass prairie ecosystem found in the project area, particularly removing encroaching conifers, fence modifications, riparian restoration, grazing plans , and more.
“I am excited to be stationed in my home state and working within the Dakota Grasslands region to support habitat restoration efforts,” Borah said. “MDF now has project funding, dedicated staff and a growing network of volunteers that will allow us to significantly increase the amount of work we will be able to do in the coming years.”
Casey Nordine is the new regional director focused on South Dakota and western Nebraska, an area where MDF has not had a dedicated field staff. He will focus on coordinating fundraising events, building chapters, and engaging volunteers who can support conservation efforts in their states. Casey grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota and has been hunting and fishing for over 20 years and loves to hunt mule deer across the rolling foothills of the Great Plains. He spent 8 years running a new microbrewery, performing many roles including facilitating large festivals and fundraisers. He currently serves on the board of directors of the wild foods-focused organization Harvesting Nature, where he helps run field-to-fork hunting camps that focus on teaching the skills necessary to hunt, butcher, process and cook their own wild meat.
“Having a full team of staff focused on the Dakota Grasslands opens up a tremendous opportunity for MDF chapter conservation and development,” said Marshall Johnson, Director of Field Operations for the organization. “We all met with our partner agencies in Deadwood recently and today we completed this fencing project in the Little Missouri National Grassland. I know all of our partners are excited to get started on more projects that we can implement together.”
The Mule Deer Foundation is the only conservation group in North America dedicated to restoring, enhancing, and protecting mule and black-tailed deer and their habitat, with a focus on science and program efficiency. MDF is a strong voice for hunters on issues of access policy, wildlife management, and conservation. MDF recognizes regulated hunting as a viable management component and is committed to recruiting and retaining youth in shooting and conservation sports. Get involved in your state or become a member at www.muledeer.org or call 801-973-3940