The Mule Deer Foundation and Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) announced that they had recently completed projects to improve mule deer conservation.

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The projects were implemented using over $900,000 in funding provided by the Bureau of Land Management in a grant administered through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s "Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridor Program."

That program has run from 2019 to 2021, includes projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, and has funds totaling $59.7 million.

The grant focused on the Sublette and Platte Valley mule deer herds and included 56.5 miles of fencing modifications, 20,573 acres treated for invasive plants, and removing encroaching junipers on 1,285 acres, with the majority of funding prioritized for the Sublette mule deer herd.

Steve Belinda, director of conservation for the Mule Deer Foundation, said that they're glad to have been able to accomplish such a large project, but that there are many more areas in Wyoming and across the west that could be addressed.

Belinda said some people may be against some of the changes needed to preserve migration paths, most people understand the importance of supporting these animal populations.

"Do people think it's important, absolutely, because the consequences of losing a migration range or movement, it could be exponential in the loses," Belinda said. "We've seen that in many place throughout the west where we've cut off migratory routes, Jackson Hole is a good one. Put a town right in the middle of a winter range, what happens. Well you've gotta feed elk, you've gotta have a refuge, you see these barriers to movement, and over time those populations blank out."

Through the projects, the WGFD treated 10,000 acres of cheatgrass through aerial application, while 280 acres in the Horse Creek wildfire and Soapholes project were treated manually with backpack sprayers targeting pepperweed and a variety of noxious thistles.

Doug Brimeyer, Wildlife Division Deputy Chief for WGFD, said:

"Wyoming Game and Fish Department appreciates the opportunity to work with partners to implement these important projects in mule deer migratory habitat," Brimeyer said.  "Completing additional conservation work on the ground continues to be one of the success stories from Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3362 and other similar initiatives that prioritize vital wildlife habitats."

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