Restoring Utah mule deer habitat
Three mule deer, huddled together in a field, staring at the camera Three mule deer, huddled together in a field, staring at the camera

Restoring Utah mule deer habitat

Watershed Restoration Initiative tackles top problem facing deer herds.

The mule deer herds of the West face a number of challenges, but chief among them is habitat. Deer need to eat the right types of plants — at the right times of the year — and have access to sufficient water and cover.

Over the past four decades, many factors have reduced the quality and quantity of deer habitat. Among those factors are drought, invasive plants, widespread wildfires, land development and fragmentation, and changes in grazing practices.

With habitat loss, western mule deer populations have also declined. This issue is a top priority for Utah's wildlife managers. Over the past six years, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has invested tens of millions of dollars in a statewide, long-term effort to restore habitat and help our mule deer herds. At the forefront of that effort is Utah's Watershed Restoration Initiative.

How much habitat-restoration work has Utah completed?

Utah leads the West in habitat restoration. The Watershed Restoration Initiative is a unique partnership among state and federal agencies, private landowners, local industries, conservation groups and non-profit organizations. Spearheaded by the DWR, the initiative has achieved the following milestones over the past several years:

  • Treated more than 1.2 million acres of Utah's rangelands
  • Completed more than 700 projects
  • Contributed more than $130 million to fund this effort

The current Utah deer-management plan (effective 2008–2013) includes an objective to improve another 500,000 acres of habitat. Habitat-improvement projects often take a few years to pay off, but over the long term, this effort will result in healthier deer populations statewide.

The following links provide in-depth information about mule deer habitat, the threats to that habitat and Utah's work to restore both habitat and watersheds.

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