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Habitat projects are an important way to help mule deer in the Upper Powder River. For many years Game and Fish, alongside the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Wyoming State Forestry and private landowners, has been working to improve crucial winter and summer ranges.

conifer before and afterOn winter range, protecting and enhancing curl-leaf mountain mahogany stands is a priority. Curl-leaf mountain mahogany is an important winter forage plant due to its high protein content and easy digestibility. We work to protect curl-leaf mountain mahogany from catastrophic wildfires by reducing both fine fuels, such as cheatgrass, and large fuels such as conifers. Curl-leaf does not grow well in the shade of conifers and is slow to reestablish following wildfires. This cooperative work ensures healthy and productive mahogany stands remain on the landscape. To date Game and Fish and BLM have reduced fuel loading on 3,542 acres of mahogany stands with another 857 acres planned for treatment this summer.

On summer range,  the Game and Fish works with private landowners and Wyoming State Forestry to improve important aspen habitats in the Bighorn Mountains. Aspen stands provide excellent habitat for mule deer due to the high-quality forage found within the stands. Long term survival of many of these aspen stands is threatened by shading from encroaching conifers and browsing wildlife like elk.  To help, Game and Fish works to improve long term survivability of aspen forests on private and state land in the Bighorn Mountains. The projects improve health and vigor of aspen forests by removing competing conifers and creating obstacles with the slash from removed conifers to limit browsing by wildlife, called coarse slash treatment. Removing conifers allows more sunlight to reach aspen saplings, and the coarse slash treatments protect saplings from getting eaten. These treatments give saplings a greater chance to grow into an adult trees, which ensures that these aspen forests will  provide quality mule deer habitat for years to come. Around 500 acres of aspen work will be completed over the next two years.

 

Todd Caltrider
Northeast Wyoming Terrestrial Habitat Biologist

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