The management of fish and wildlife habitat is an important program of the Bureau of Land Management. No other federal or state agency manages more fish and wildlife habitat than does the BLM.

In Utah, the BLM manages approximately 22 million acres of land, most of which provides habitat for fish and wildlife."At some point during the year, most all of Utah's mule deer and elk populations depends on BLM administered lands for food, water and shelter," according to Jerry Goodman, district manager of the Richfield BLM.

The Richfield District, the largest of the five Utah districts, manages approximately seven million acres of public land.

Over the years the BLM and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources have cooperated on the development of projects needed to improve conditions for mule deer. However, opposition and insufficient funding levels have restricted project work to a minimum.

Utahns probably now more than ever before, realize the serious problems confronting our wildlife, especially our mule deer herds.

So why have the deer populations recently taken a nose dive? Many reasons have been identified, most of which are valid. Perhaps other reasons also exist.

"In general, healthy populations relate directly to the quantity and quality of mule deer habitat. If ample habitat exists in quality condition, mule deer can rebound from afflictions caused by `Mother Nature,' " says Curtis Warrick, wildlife program leader for the Richfield District.

Drought, severe winters, predators and disease can seldom suppress mule deer populations for long if the quantity and quality of habitat are available to "jump start" population.

Today, however, the kind of habitat that existed during the peak deer periods in the 1960s has changed. Major highways, housing subdivisions and four wheel drive roads have changed, or eliminated mule deer habitat so that it no longer provides the forage and nutrients needed to support large populations of deer, especially on critical winter ranges. Improved range conditions have also resulted in more grass species that are less valuable to deer than the more preferred brushy plants.

So what can we do? This question has probably been asked time and again by hunters and top-level agency officials across the state.

Some things the BLM intends to do this year in cooperation with the DWR and the support of the public is: 1. Identify important mule deer habitats needing changes in the vegetative composition. 2. Describe the availability of water and the potential for new water developments. and 3. Identify man made hazards to deer.

View Comments

Then with the needed support and funding levels, the agencies can take action to rectify the problems and improve conditions for mule deer.

In 1995, the BLM is planning to treat approximately 900 acres of critical sagebrush/pinion-juniper winter range along the foothills of the Monroe and Pahvant Mountains to improve the quality of forage for deer.

Two water developments will also be maintained to provide more reliable water for deer on summer and winter range. Several hundred acres of ranges that burned in wild fires in 1994 will also be reseeded with mixtures that include plants preferred by mule deer. Money contributed by the Mule Deer Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, will help fund the projects that might not have been otherwise possible.

"The need and the potential for improving our deer ranges currently exceeds our funding and man-power capabilities," said Goodman. "In the future we will need to better sell our needs in the budgeting process and encourage the public to get involved."

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.