Mule deer in Colorado

NFWF Announces $3.1 Million in Grants to Support Big Game Migration Corridors in the West

Public-private partnership benefits elk, mule deer and pronghorn in 11 western states

Mule deer, Colorado

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 30, 2020) – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $3.1 million in grant funding for state and local organizations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming to conserve migration corridors and winter ranges for elk, mule deer, pronghorn and other iconic wildlife. The grants will generate $20.3 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $23.4 million.

The grants were awarded through the Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game and Migration Corridors Program (Western Big Game Migration Program), a public-private partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s  Natural Resources Conservation Service, ConocoPhillips and BNSF Railways. The announcement comes as U.S. Secretary of the Interior Secretarial Order 3362 is implemented to maintain and conserve migration route corridors.

“As we continue to approach conservation of migration corridors and winter range for mule deer, elk and pronghorn in a non-regulatory and voluntary manner, we are showing how conservation succeeds in the 21st century,” said Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt. “Working together with government and non-government partners, along with private landowners, we are protecting, enhancing and restoring habitat for big game and countless other species of wildlife.”

The projects supported by the 15 grants announced today will enhance and improve habitats on winter ranges, stopover areas and migration corridors used by big game species, both on federal lands and private lands whose owners volunteer to participate in conservation efforts. These projects fund state-identified migratory bottlenecks and places that must be secured and improved to ensure healthy populations of these iconic animals.

“Elk, mule deer and pronghorn face increasing obstacles from highway traffic, development, and habitat degradation as they navigate migration corridors that connect vast stretches of our western landscapes,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Working with the Department of the Interior, and other partners, such as ConocoPhillips and BNSF Railways, these NFWF awards support the work of local organizations as they implement projects that will reduce vehicle collisions and help to ensure healthy populations of these iconic animals.” 

Examples of projects that will received grants include:

  • Arizona Game and Fish Department ($200,000) will use mechanical and hand-thinning treatments to remove juniper trees that have invaded historical grassland on Bureau of Land Management lands within Coconino County in northern Arizona. The project will restore 1,480 acres of critical winter habitat for a migratory herd of mule deer that makes an annual long-distance migration from the mountains of southern Utah to their winter range near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife ($187,069) will install exclusionary structures to direct mule deer and elk to newly constructed wildlife underpass along U.S. Highway 97 in central Oregon. The project will improve public safety and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by installing 10 miles of fencing, reconnecting 75 miles of a migration corridor.
  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation ($100,000) will permanently protect more than 12,000 acres of ungulate winter range habitat on the Buffalo Horn Ranch in northwestern Colorado. The project will secure habitat connectivity across public and private lands for wildlife movement and migration.

This is the second round of grants funded through this partnership. The first round of grants announced in April, 2019 awarded $2.1 million across nine projects, leveraging more than $8.6 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of more than $10.7 million. The projects collectively will: 

  • Protect 46,113 acres of private land from fragmentation through conservation easements 
  • Restore 48,429 acres of public and private land through efforts like invasive weed and conifer removal treatments 
  • Improved management on 524,346 acres of public and private land through efforts like grazing and wildlife management plans 
  • Remove or improve 201 miles of fencing to be more wildlife friendly, reducing direct mortality and increasing landscape connectivity 

A complete list of the 2020 grants made through the Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors Program is available here.

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.1 billion. Learn more at

About the U.S. Department of the Interior
The Department of the Interior conserves and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people, provides scientific and other information about natural resources and natural hazards to address societal challenges and create opportunities for the American people, and honors the Nation’s trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities to help them prosper.


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