Deer Winter Range Re-seeding Planned

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About 3,540 acres of deer winter range on private lands burned by the Winter, Toolbox and Grizzly fires will be re-seeded with help from a $77,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Access and Habitat Program. A total of 17 landowners are involved in the project.

Of the more than 100,000 acres burned by the fires, 10,500 acres were on private lands that serve as important wintering areas for the Silver Lake mule deer herd. The herd numbers about 7,500 animals.

"When we looked at the private lands that were burned, there were about 3,500 acres that needed to be seeded or else it was going to come back as either cheatgrass or medusahead ryegrass," said ODFW district biologist Craig Foster. Cheatgrass and medusahead ryegrass are noxious weeds that are undesirable as forage for both livestock and wildlife. They will take over a recently burned area and hamper the growth of valuable forage plants.

The project is designed to replant the burned areas with a seed mixture that will restore deer winter forage and discourage the encroachment of noxious weeds. Most of the area will be seeded by helicopter. About 500 acres will be seeded manually.

The Access and Habitat Program grant is being used to purchase the seeds, while the landowners will pay for the application costs. The project is expected to be completed by mid-January.

"The area being re-seeded makes up about 10 percent of the Silver Lake mule deer herd," said Foster. "It is definitely going to provide some benefits."

The Winter, Toolbox and Grizzly fires burned 35,779 acres, 59,906 acres and 5,845 acres, respectively. All three fires were started by lighting strikes on July 12 and burned just west of Oregon Highway 31 from Summer Lake, north to the Fort Rock area.

Created by the Oregon Legislature in 1993, the A&H Program is funded by a $2 surcharge on hunting licenses. Funds raised by the program are distributed through grants to individual and corporate landowners, conservation organizations, and others for cooperative wildlife habitat improvement and hunter access projects throughout the state.

For additional information on the Winter and Grizzly Fire Rehabilitation Project, contact Craig Foster at (541) 947-2950. For more information on the Access and Habitat Program, contact program coordinator Susan Barnes at (503) 872-5260, extension 5349.