Salt Lake City, Utah: The Mule Deer Foundation thanks Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow for inclusion of a sagebrush habitat restoration provision as part of the Senate Farm Bill. The provision, based on the Sage-Grouse and Mule Deer Habitat Conservation and Restoration Act (S. 1417) led by Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Martin Heinrich will help expedite the removal of encroaching piñon pine and juniper trees in sagebrush rangelands across the West. These types of habitat stewardship projects, which the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) has coordinated or actively participated in, have benefited deer and elk populations while also improving opportunities for hunters. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Farm Bill today advancing it for consideration on the Senate floor.
“The Mule Deer Foundation greatly appreciates Senators Roberts and Stabenow for including this provision within their bipartisan Farm Bill, and we thank Senators Hatch and Heinrich for their leadership in working to move the issue forward,” said MDF President/CEO Miles Moretti. “If enacted, this provision will allow conservation partners to move quickly on landscape habitat restoration projects that are proving to have a tremendous impact for mule deer, sage-grouse and other species dependent on sagebrush rangelands. This is good for wildlife conservation as well as western big game hunters.”
The provision directs the Bureau of Land Management to conserve and restore important sagebrush habitat from the encroachment of invasive piñon pine and juniper trees by creating a categorical exclusion, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, for these projects. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that invasive piñon pine and juniper trees pose an ongoing and increasing threat to sagebrush habitat. Encroachment of piñon pine and juniper trees results in altered habitats that are not preferred by either sage-grouse or mule deer. In addition, invasion by the trees can alter the fire regime resulting in hotter fires which can aid the introduction of non-native plant species that threaten sage-grouse and mule deer populations throughout the western United States. Piñon pine and juniper encroachment has altered millions of acres of sage-grouse and mule deer habitat over the past century requiring aggressive habitat restoration and rehabilitation efforts.
“MDF has been actively involved in many habitat stewardship projects in recent years that have shown dramatic improvements for mule deer and other wildlife. By removing encroaching junipers or replanting native grasses, shrubs, and forbs we can make a difference on restoring our native western rangelands, which is beneficial for hunters and other public land users,” Moretti continued. “With this provision, we can move more quickly after natural disasters or in other habitat restoration efforts providing even greater benefits for these important landscapes. We hope that the Farm Bill can move forward with this language intact so that we can get to work for other large-scale habitat restoration efforts in the West.”
The Mule Deer Foundation is the only conservation group in North America dedicated to restoring, improving and protecting 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 youth into the shooting sports and conservation. Get involved in your state or become a member at www.muledeer.org or call 1-888-375-3337.