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OHA will restore Interstate Unit wildlife habitat

By Tyler Dungannon, Conservation Coordinator

State OHA is leading a new project to restore mule deer habitat recently impacted by wildfires in the Interstate Unit. Over a half-million acres burned in this unit in 2021, including the colossal Bootleg Fire of more than 400,000 acres. As a result, mule deer and other wildlife are in need of habitat restoration.

Extensive acreage of two key plant species, antelope bitterbrush and mountain big sagebrush, burned in these fires. Though they are a vital component of these ecosystems, these plants are tremendously slow to regenerate naturally. However, planting and caging seedlings will considerably expedite their reestablishment.

This project is set to provide Adults in Custody at Warner Creek Correctional Facility sagebrush and bitterbrush seed in Winter 2022, and those seeds will be cleaned and sowed in spring 2022. In late fall 2022, a strong force of volunteers and OHA staff will plant and cage seedlings into previously burned areas for the benefit of wildlife. In 2022, we will plant a minimum combined total of 14,000 sagebrush and bitterbrush plugs in critical mule deer winter range identified by local wildlife biologists.

If all goes according to plan, we will duplicate our restoration effort and output in 2023 within fire perimeters.

State OHA and OHA’s Klamath and Lake County chapters each contributed $3,000 to the project. OHA conservation staff secured grant funding from project partners as follows:

Conservation & Recreation Fund    $23,000

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation    $10,000

OHA                                                           $9,000

Pending – Mule Deer Foundation     $5,000

Funds used for this project will benefit the Warner Creek Correctional Facility’s Sagebrush and Prisons Program to ensure its longevity and increase its capacity to assist in habitat restoration projects in Oregon.

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