On February 3, during the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo, the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) hosted a forum to discuss the progress made to implement Secretary of the Department of Interior Order 3362 (SO 3362) and the work that remains to be done. needs to improve big game migration corridors and ranges MDF’s Western Big Game Migration Forum brought together more than 50 senior leaders from federal, state, nonprofit and industry partners who are active in game connectivity wild life. On the same day, the organizations celebrated the 5thhe anniversary of the signing of SO 3362 which has served as a catalyst for collaborative conservation efforts on the issue.
“Secretary Order 3362 was signed on February 9, 2018 at the Mule Deer Foundation booth during the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo, and it was fitting that we were able to celebrate its fifth anniversary at our booth at this year’s Hunt Expo. said Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO Joel Pedersen. “SO 3362 marked a turning point to drive coordinated efforts, focus funding, and encourage collaboration on something we all hold dear: our great western landscapes that are home to mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and hundreds of other wildlife. The Western Big Game Migration Forum gave us the opportunity to meet with a wide range of partners and talk about our successes, but also to focus on the enormous amount of work and funding that is still needed to make a lasting impact.”
Forum participants included US Department of the Interior Under Secretary Tommy Beaudreau, US Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Agricultural Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie, Director of the Bureau of Land Management Tracy Stone-Manning, USDA Forest Service Deputy Chief Chris French, lead directors from 11 western state fish and wildlife agencies, leadership from eight outdoor industry companies, and senior staff from nine different conservation organizations Of hunting. The various perspectives led to active discussions in a two-hour session before the speakers outlined the topic to the public and the media in a well-attended afternoon session. Closing remarks for the public session were delivered by MeatEater’s Ryan Callaghan, a leading voice in mainstream media on game and wildlife conservation.
“When we planned the Forum, we hoped to bring together all the high-level people who are working on this issue, from federal land management agencies to researchers to state wildlife agencies to private sector partners, and all of those partners were at the room and contributed to some exceptional conversation,” said Steve Belinda, Director of Curation for MDF. “A key theme of the session was recognizing that we need to do even more to engage the public on this critical issue and increase funding opportunities so that all partners can expand the pace and scale of work being done on the ground. We have had many successes, but we are just getting started and there is much more we can achieve by working together.”
According to Casey Stemler, SO 3362 coordinator for the Department of the Interior, direct funding to implement the order over the past five years included $6.4 million for research and $2.5 million for mapping to support state fish and wildlife agencies. In addition, $20 million went toward habitat conservation and management through a grant program coordinated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. However, she acknowledged that this is only a fraction of the investments as significant work has been accomplished through funding from partner organizations and agencies. He also noted that dramatic changes to the West in recent years due to population increases, human development, and habitat loss continue to add to the challenges facing these species.
Research funding is beginning to show even more clearly where work needs to be done. Matt Kauffman, a wildlife researcher with the US Geological Survey’s Wyoming Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit, helped coordinate a corridor mapping team with states and where there were only a handful of corridors before. mapped in Wyoming, there are now over 150 mapped throughout the West. This information allows agencies and partners to clearly identify migration barriers or areas where habitat restoration is needed, and the number of projects far exceeds currently available funding.
“Since the last five years of focused attention, we have a better understanding of western big game migrations and how the work we do for these species benefits hundreds of other species,” Pedersen concluded. “We celebrated the anniversary of SO 3362 at Hunt Expo, but all of our partners agreed that we must commit to even greater collaboration so that we don’t lose the migrations, and subsequently our big game populations, that define our incredible western landscapes.”
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.