BLM continues efforts for mule deer and other wildlife
BLM doing a variety of habitat improvement and protection efforts as well as gas field mitigation
by Bureau of Land Management
February 18, 2012
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Pinedale Field Office (PFO) continues to plan and implement a number of wildlife habitat improvement projects and winter range protection measures with increasing emphasis on mule deer habitat enhancement in 2012 and beyond.
Currently, 500,000 acres of big game winter ranges are closed to all motorized travel annually from Jan. 1 to April 30. These closures have been in effect since 2008 and protect elk, moose, pronghorn, and mule deer from disruptive human activities which, during the difficult winter months, can increase the mortality rate for these animals.
Since 2009, the BLM has patrolled these same winter closure areas with two-person teams and the PFO law enforcement ranger. This year, two additional BLM law enforcement rangers were brought in to help cover more ground. The patrols are intended to educate the public, distribute maps, answer questions, deter violators and encourage the public to report violations; however, citations may be issued to blatant or repeat offenders.
The PFO plans to conduct an approved 300 acre spike treatment for crucial mule deer winter range south of LaBarge in the fall of 2012. This aerially applied pelleted herbicide treatment will reduce the amount of mountain big sagebrush in the project area by 50 percent over a period of one to five years. This treatment will increase forage variety, quantity and quality and improve the big sagebrush and mountain shrub age-class structure. The resultant vegetative diversity will benefit wildlife and livestock and improve winter and transitional habitat for mule deer.
To help mitigate the effects of gas development in the Jonah and Pinedale Anticline project areas, the Jonah Interagency Office (JIO) and the Pinedale Anticline Project Office (PAPO) were created to develop and fund on-site and off-site wildlife habitat improvement projects.
One project includes fertilizing more than 1,400 acres of sagebrush in mule deer crucial winter range with aerially applied nitrogen. Fertilization is designed to help offset direct and indirect habitat losses on and adjacent to natural gas development sites by increasing sagebrush production, enhancing available winter forage and potentially increasing palatability and nutrient quality for wintering mule deer. If this treatment is proven successful, more than 30,000 acres of sagebrush in mule deer crucial winter range could be treated over a 10-year period.
Other JIO and PAPO mitigation projects include the protection of more than 48,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat in perpetuity in western Wyoming through the purchase of conservation easements; 121 miles of wildlife-friendly modifications to fencing in key wildlife migration corridors and winter range areas of 379 miles planned; construction of three raptor nesting platforms; completion of prescribed fire treatment and other vegetative treatments on 21,600 acres to improve wildlife habitat; and conservation plan development on more than 100,000 acres that will also benefit wildlife.
Additionally, the PFO and the PAPO have partnered with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on two landscape-scale 10-year mule deer habitat improvement projects for the Sublette and Wyoming Range mule deer herds in western Wyoming. Both projects will begin the National Environmental Policy Act process in the near future with initial public scoping.
Pinedale Field Manager, Shane DeForest, is enthusiastic about the PFO’s overall habitat improvement and protection efforts as well as gas field mitigation. "While the BLM continues to explore and implement innovative approaches in addressing complex and ever-changing wildlife issues, we are optimistic for the short and long-term positive effects they will have."