On April 30, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced the 2020 round of funding for the Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors program. To conserve migration corridors and winter range for elk, mule deer and pronghorn, 15 new grants totaling $3.1 million were awarded, with more than $300,000 going to Idaho.
The recipient of the grant earmarked for the state is the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), but Fish and Game will also benefit. The money will go toward hiring a coordinator to identify, plan, coordinate, and complete projects identified in the Idaho State Action Plan. The coordinator position will be shared between Fish and Game and the Mule Deer Foundation.
The two entities will match the NFWF funding with a total of more than $500,000 of cash and in-kind volunteer work. Goals include improvement of fencing and wildlife passages, and enhancement or restoration of habitat on thousands of acres of public and private land, according to a press release from the Mule Deer Foundation.
“The grant through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will allow us to expand our partnership with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and make a difference for important mule deer habitat,” Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO Miles Moretti said in a statement. “Idaho has a rich history of mule deer hunting and the habitat improvements that are made under this grant will go a long way to preserving this tradition.”
“We’re excited to be working with MDF to collaboratively implement strategies we’ve identified in our State Action Plan,” stated Matt Pieron Fish and Game's Mule Deer Initiative Coordinator. “This position will enable us to continue to work with partner agencies like the BLM, USFS, USFWS, and Idaho Transportation Department to do good things for Idaho’s mule deer and other migratory big game.”
The grant is part of NFWF’s Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors program that is administered in collaboration with the Department of the Interior, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and ConocoPhillips. The program was established two years ago to conserve critical winter range and migration corridors that maintain healthy populations of pronghorn, elk, and mule deer, and the phenomenon of big game migration. The shared coordinator position will be focused on making sure that projects are completed on the ground that will improve some of Idaho’s most important mule deer and big game migration corridors and seasonal habitats.
“We greatly appreciate the Department of the Interior, NRCS, and ConocoPhillips for stepping up and providing substantial funding through NFWF for migration corridor habitat improvements,” Steve Belinda, MDF’s director of conservation programs, stated in the press release. “MDF is looking forward to hiring the Idaho State Action Plan Coordinator so that we can work with Fish and Game to fully implement the habitat projects that they have identified in their action plan and beyond.”
For more information about mule deer conservation in Idaho, listen to Season 3, Episode 8 of the MDF Talking Mule Deer Podcast, which was released in early May and features Fish and Game's Daryl Meints, Deer and Elk Program coordinator, and Matt Pieron, Mule Deer Initiative Coordinator.