Mule deer

New conservation easements in southeast Idaho are intended to help the mule deer population.

The state Department of Fish and Game has signed voluntary conservation easements on two private properties to protect big-game migration areas on more than 1,800 acres in southeast Idaho.

The easements are for property on both sides of U.S. 30 at Rocky Point, south of Montpelier. IDFG said that without the easements, future development could obstruct the migration of mule deer, elk, pronghorn and moose.

Population growth in the West has prompted efforts to preserve wildlife-migration corridors, which can impact local economies.

At Rocky Point, the easement terms state the properties will remain undeveloped to ensure the land remains a big-game migration area, and that access to winter range is protected.

The owners will also continue to use the properties for livestock grazing. IDFG has no intention of changing this use, Matt Pieron, department wildlife biologist and Mule Deer Initiative Coordinator, said in a statement.

“The current use of this sagebrush-steppe habitat is perfectly compatible with our conservation goals,” he said.

The sites will connect public lands on both sides of the highway and will be opened to the public for hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife viewing.

Acquiring the easements cost $1.275 million including $576,500 in fish and game license fees. The balance came from trusts, foundations and coalitions.

IDFG said the mule deer using the migration corridor belong to one of the state’s largest herds. The herd of about 20,000 deer spends summers in the Caribou Mountains. It winters in various areas, but about one-third of the herd migrates though a three- to four-mile stretch of the highway.

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