Mule Deer Foundation celebrates fifth anniversary of SO 3362 at Hunting Expo
Earlier this month, the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) lauded the efforts of Interior Secretarial Order 3362 (SO 3362), which was passed in 2018, during a forum held at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo. The forum, which brought together over 50 leaders from federal, state, nonprofit and industry partners celebrated the improvements made to big game migration corridors and seasonal ranges over the past five years, but noted that there is still more work that needs to be done.
“Secretarial Order 3362 was signed on February 9, 2018, at the Mule Deer Foundation booth during the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo, and it was fitting that we were able to celebrate its 5-year anniversary at our booth at this year’s Hunt Expo,” said Joel Pedersen, MDF President/CEO.
“SO 3362 marked a turning point to drive coordinated efforts, focus funding, and encourage collaboration on something we all hold dear: our great western landscapes that are home to mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and hundreds of other wildlife species. The Western Big Game Migration Forum provided the opportunity for us to meet with a wide range of partners and talk about our successes but also focus on the tremendous amount of work and funding still needed to truly make a long-lasting impact.”
Those participating in the forum were far-reaching and included U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie, Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning, USDA Forest Service Deputy Chief Chris French, directors or senior leaders from 11 western state fish and wildlife agencies, leadership from eight outdoor industry companies, and high level staff from nine different hunting-conservation organizations, according to a press release.
“When we planned the Forum, we hoped to bring together all the high-level individuals who are working on this issue from federal land management agencies to researchers to state wildlife agencies to private sector partners—and all of those partners were in the room and contributed to an outstanding conversation,” said Steve Belinda, MDF Chief Conservation Officer. “A key theme for the session was recognizing we need to do even more to engage the public on this critical issue and increase funding opportunities so all partners can expand the pace and scale of work being done on the ground. We have had many successes, but we are just getting started and there is so much more we can accomplish working together.”
SO 3362 brought in $6.4 million in research funding, $2.5 million for mapping support for state and wildlife agencies and $20 million for habitat conservation and management through a grant program coordinated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation over the past five years, according to SO336 coordinator Casey Stemler.
However, the work is not over. Human encroachment and development continue to impact habitat – not to mention an increasing human population. Migration corridors that are currently mapped out with the help of Matt Kauffman, a wildlife researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, show that there’s not enough funding available for all projects.
“From the last five years of focused attention, we have a better handle on understanding western big game migrations and how the work we do for these species benefits hundreds of other species,” said Pedersen. “We celebrated the SO 3362 anniversary at Hunt Expo, but all our partners agreed that we must commit to even more collaboration so that we don’t lose the migrations—and subsequently our big game populations—that define our amazing western landscapes.”