Last week, Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced that through continued implementation of Secretarial Order 3362, “Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big-Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors” $1.5 million in private land habitat projects were approved. The funding and technical support is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife program.
“The important role that private lands play in conservation cannot be overstated,” said Acting Secretary Bernhardt. “Of course, our public lands play a pivotal role conserving habitat and migration corridors as well, but we must continue to be a good neighbor and all work together. The projects we are funding today will result in invaluable conservation to benefit mule deer, pronghorn, elk and other wildlife.”
Of the 11 states identified in the Order, 8 states submitted projects. The state funding breakdown is below:
- Arizona: $200,000
- Colorado: $100,000
- Idaho: $245,190
- Montana: $152,600
- Nevada: $235,000
- New Mexico: $75,000
- Washington: $194,802
- Wyoming: $293,800
Over 42 projects were submitted for consideration and 22 are funded. Each project was required to have “approval” from a respective state wildlife agency official before it was considered for funding.
These funds will allow 119 miles of fence to be either removed or replaced with “wildlife friendly” fencing. Along with fencing projects, invasive species control and management, and habitat restoration work will result in positive impacts on over 44,000 acres.
As an example of projects funded, in Montana they will use cutting-edge technology through a pilot effort to manage grazing on a 25,000 acre ranch with electronic collars on livestock. The collars use solar power and satellite positioning technology to create a “virtual fence” which contains livestock without the need for a physical barrier. If the project shows success, we could have areas free of fences. This type of approach may not be appropriate for many ranch operations, but this pilot project will test the effectiveness in north-central Montana. This project area has been identified in the state’s S.O. 3362 Action Plan as a priority for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
Another project in South Central Wyoming is associated with an underpass along Highway 789 to ensure safe passage of mule deer during their migration. The overarching project will help reduce vehicle collisions with big game caused by increasing traffic patterns through a relatively narrow portion of the Baggs mule deer herd corridor. The funding provided through Secretarial Order 3362 will assist with the overall landscape effort through the installation of wildlife-friendly fencing and upland restoration adjacent to the underpass. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has identified this as a priority area and project partners include a strong mix of federal, state, non-governmental organizations, and private landowners.
Information from US Department of Interior