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Infrastructure Bill Includes Mule Deer Foundation Priorities for Forest Management and Wildlife Crossings
Salt Lake City, UT: The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) thanked the U.S. Senate for today’s strong, bipartisan vote to pass an infrastructure bill that includes several key policy priorities to improve forest management and build highway wildlife crossings. Thanks to the efforts of Senators Joe Manchin, John Barrasso, and Steve Daines, the infrastructure bill includes more than $8 billion to improve forest resiliency through active forest management projects. In addition, a new program will provide $350 million to create wildlife crossings on highways to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and reconnect traditional migratory corridors for mule deer and other wildlife species.
“Our federal forests have deteriorated due to lack of active management projects and increasingly hot, dry weather patterns; too often the end results are the terrible fire seasons like we have been seeing for too many years,” commented MDF President/CEO Joel Pedersen. “The infrastructure package passed today will provide critical funding for forest restoration projects like the ones the Mule Deer Foundation leads to thin the overgrowth of trees and reduce the understory brush, both of which provide the fuels that can feed these devastating, stand-replacing fires. Not only is this good for forest health, but it also provides the necessary habitat structure that is so important for mule deer, black-tailed deer, and other wildlife species.”
Through agreements with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, MDF has been actively working in the West to improve forest and rangeland health through stewardship projects. These projects include timber thinning, removal of dead and dying trees, as well as mastication of understory brush. Replicating natural disturbances through active forest management reduces the threat of catastrophic fire and also provides many benefits to native wildlife species. Forest restoration projects help reset the ecological succession in an area, encouraging regrowth of the grasses and forbs that mule deer and many other wildlife species depend on, as well as regenerating aspen stands. The investment in forest resiliency projects through the new infrastructure bill will provide critical funding to address the thousands of acres of federal forestland most at risk for wildfire, improving the habitat and protecting the communities on the wildland/urban interface.
“The Mule Deer Foundation also appreciates the inclusion of funding for wildlife crossings that is included in the infrastructure package,” Pedersen continued. “Through the cooperative efforts on big game migration corridors, we have learned a tremendous amount about where deer are moving and we know that highways often add a significant barrier for their traditional migration pathways. Using this science, new highway overpasses and underpasses are being built where they are needed most and in some places we are seeing more than 90% reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions. The federal investment in wildlife crossings will allow us to add these structures in even more critical corridors, helping our wildlife but also reducing the human costs associated with collisions.”
Since the signing of Department of the Interior Secretary’s Order 3362, MDF and many other partners have been engaged in research and habitat projects to improve big game migration corridors and seasonal ranges. One critical component of that has been reconnecting corridors that are blocked by highways. Projects like funnel fencing that guide wildlife to safe places for them to cross highways is proving extremely effective at reducing collisions. The investment in more wildlife over- and underpasses will allow these animals to move between their seasonal ranges without the risk of navigating busy roadways.
The Mule Deer Foundation is the only conservation group in North America dedicated to restoring, improving and conserving 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 men, women and youth into the shooting sports and conservation. Get involved in your state or become a member at www.muledeer.org or call 801-973-3940.
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