Salt Lake City, Utah (February 3, 2023): The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) today announced expanded partnerships with the USDA Forest Service and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that will leverage millions of dollars with MDF to implement habitat restoration projects throughout the West. The announcement, made during the Western Big Game Migration Forum held in conjunction with the Western Game and Conservation Expo at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Utah, builds on decades of previous successful partnerships with both agencies.
The agreements with the Forest Service are for up to 20 years and will allocate up to $60 million over the first 5 years for forest health projects that will improve wildlife habitat while reducing wildfire severity, protecting communities and improve the health and resilience of fire-adapted forests. BLM announced it will provide up to an additional $5 million for habitat restoration projects that will focus on the sagebrush biome and conserving mule deer corridors and habitat. These new partnerships will significantly increase MDF’s ability to address habitat concerns along the mule deer’s seasonal migration corridors, from the summer range in Forest Service-managed montane forests to the range of winter often managed by BLM and private owners.
“The Mule Deer Foundation has significantly increased our commitment to habitat restoration and in recent years we have implemented or funded 333 projects with $14 million that was matched or leveraged with another $62 million for a total of $76 million benefiting approximately 392,000 acres of habitat treatments and 171 miles of fence removed or modified,” said Mule Deer Foundation President and CEO Joel Pedersen. “This work with the Forest Service and BLM will allow us to greatly increase the scale and scope of MDF habitat projects. We thank Forest Service Deputy Chief Chris French and BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning for joining us at our annual convention to announce these incredible new partnerships that will result in even more work being done on the ground.”
The wildfire crisis impacts MDF’s approach to delivering conservation actions that focus on habitat enhancement or restoration, wildfire prevention and recovery, water availability, and climate resilience. MDF’s experience in active habitat management, and specifically in forest and grassland restoration, has positioned MDF as one of the leaders among conservation organizations in meeting the primary objectives of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act as a partner administration of federal public lands.
“This agreement reflects our longstanding relationship with the Mule Deer Foundation and how we work together to support forest stewardship on the national forests and grasslands,” said USDA Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “Larger wildfires, more frequent natural disasters, and other disturbances continue to threaten the health of these public lands, especially wildlife habitat, habitat connectivity, and big game migration corridors. We must continue to come together and do this work in the right place, at the right time, and at the right scale. Together we can make progress to reduce the risk of wildfires across the country and improve the health and resilience of fire-adapted forests.”
“The Bureau of Land Management is proud to be a part of this important effort, based on longstanding partnerships with the Mule Deer Foundation and the US Forest Service,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “These kinds of collaborations are critical to our shared public lands approach to stewardship and will not only help protect the mule deer we all cherish, but also countless other wildlife and natural resources that share their habitat.”
MDF has worked on the full range of mule deer in different ecotypes – woodland, grassland and grassland – and is well positioned to work with agencies to increase habitat resilience in the face of a changing climate. In addition, MDF’s partnerships with BLM have resulted in shrub planting and invasive plant treatments, as well as improvements for better water retention in arid western grasslands. MDF has developed an organizational approach to conservation delivery based on landscape-scale initiatives and has identified and mapped numerous landscapes and herds where habitat work is needed. New Forest Service and BLM funding will help MDF implement this Priority Herds & Landscapes approach to project implementation.
“These new partnerships will help MDF accelerate our new Priority Herds & Landscapes initiative: we know where the work needs to be done, we have a growing staff capable of delivering habitat conservation and restoration projects on the ground, and we have a strong history. to work with our federal, state and private landowner partners to make a difference for wildlife,” Pedersen concluded. “We thank the Forest Service and BLM for their faith in our ability to help them achieve their land management goals that will also further our mission to ensure the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer and their habitat.”
Attached Photo: USDA Forest Service Deputy Chief Chris French, Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO Joel Pedersen, and Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning announce expanded partnerships during the Western Big Game Migration Forum at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo.
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.