Agriculture giant Cargill donated $19,725 to the West Desert Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) in Tooele, Utah to support the third and final stage of the Onaqui East Bench Sagebrush Enhancement project. The donation will support the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) efforts to remove juniper and replant perennial grasses and forbs on more than 1,000 acres of prime sagebrush habitat. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has identified the eastern slopes of the Onaqui Mountains as crucial mule deer habitat making the project a priority for both mule deer and sage-grouse conservation. The West Desert Chapter will be working with the BLM and UDWR to complete the restoration through a stewardship contract later this fall.
“We are proud to support this important wildlife habitat project and the quality work of the Mule Deer Foundation and Bureau of Land Management,” commented Matthew Potter, Cargill’s Maintenance Superintendent in Grantsville, Utah. “Taking a proactive approach to sagebrush restoration will reduce the risk of wildfire and invasion by cheatgrass, but it also will make a big difference for Utah’s mule deer populations.”
The Onaqui project will focus on the removal of juniper in the project area and then reseeding with native perennial grasses. Junipers have taken over many sagebrush habitats in the West and are outcompeting understory species, eventually resulting in the nearly complete loss of these plants and their native seeds. When this happens the site becomes susceptible to soil erosion and invasion by cheatgrass, and native wildlife species lose important forage. Up to 90 percent of junipers in the project area will be removed by a bullhog to leave a mosaic pattern and travel corridors for wildlife. Areas where there is not enough understory to provide the seed bank for natural revegetation will be reseeded.
“Healthy sagebrush ecosystems are essential for healthy mule deer populations, but many of these areas need some help to reestablish good forage and remove the junipers that are outcompeting native vegetation,” said Miles Moretti, president of the Mule Deer Foundation. “We greatly appreciate the support of companies like Cargill that recognize the important work that needs to be done and that the partnerships MDF is involved in can make a difference for sagebrush and mule deer.”
Logo courtesy Mule Deer Foundation