IN 2015 THE CALIFORNIA DEER ASSOCIATION PROJECT COMMITTEE and Board of Directors approved a very important deer bitterbrush rehabilitation project located in Mono County, California (Round Valley/Swall Meadows area). This project was a joint effort between the California Deer Association and BLM. The total funds approved for this project was $63,000 with $15,000 coming from the CDA Project Account and $48,000 coming from BLM. The affected area size of the project is 600 acres. The nature of this project is one that will play a huge role in benefiting the Round Valley Mule Deer herd by providing additional feed for the wintering deer herdand provide a future seed source for the surrounding area. Antelope bitterbrush typically does not re-spout following fire and this project will help jump start the re-vegetation process of the burned area. Following is a status report on this very important project and shows CDA’s continued commitment to putting money on the ground in all parts of California to improve the deer herds and other wildlife in California.Background The Round Fire occurred in February 2015 and burned over 6,000 acres. Nearly all of the burned area is identified by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as critical mule deer winter range for the Round Valley Herd. Prior to the area being burned, a majority of the area was dominated by bitterbrush scrub plant community. During winter months’ hundreds of mule deer gather in the area to forage on essential winter browse. Although unburned winter range habitat remains, its’ quality has suffered in recent years due to the ongoing drought and historic fires in the same winter range. The goal of this project is to work towards restoring the natural plant community by planting islands of bitterbrush and other native vegetation. This work will benefit deer by helping to jump start the re-establishment of bitterbrush which is typically slow to regrow following fire. Accomplishments In August of 2015 the project funding notification was received and in the winter of 2016 contract services were secured to grow 4,000 bitterbrush at the Nevada Department of Forestry Washoe State Nursery. The 4,000 plants grown at the Washoe State Tree Nursery will be paid for by the California Deer Association (CDA). One thousand of these plants were grown for one season (ready for planting in the fall of 2016), the remaining 3,000 will be grown for 2 growing seasonsand will be ready for planting in the fall of 2017. In April of 2016 the Bishop Field Office began planting bitterbrush and other native plants in the Round Fire. The plants planted at this time were paid for with BLM funding and grown at local BLM administered greenhouse. Between October and December of 2016 approximately 1,000 plants were planted in the Round Fire project area. Of the 1,000 plants planted, approximately half of the plants were plants purchased with California Deer Association project funding. The remaining were plants grown using BLM funding. Planting was accomplished during a National Public Lands Day volunteer work day, a day with local California Deer Association members and friends and numerous workdays by Bishop Field Office staff.
The Next Step: The approximately 500 bitterbrush (of the 1,000 purchased by CDA in the fall of 2016) that were not planted in the fall of 2016 will be planted in the spring of 2017. Periodic watering of planted seedlings (paid with BLM funding) will occur during the late spring and summer of 2017. In October or November of 2017 the 3,000 remaining bitterbrush seedlings being grown at Washoe State Nursery will be planted. The planting work will be done by a contact crew paid for with BLM funding. The California Deer Association in an attempt to always fund great projects and better the deer herds in California will monitor this project over the coming years to ensure the completion of the project and to learn from the success and failures of the project. Many thanks much go to all the CDA members for your donations and efforts in raising funds that make projects like this get off the ground and do good for all wildlife in California.