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U.S. Department of the Interior

10/05/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/05/2018 11:42

Secretary Zinke Announces $265,000 in Research Grants for Arizona Big Game Migration Corridors

Date: October 5, 2018
Contact: [email protected]

Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced over $265,000 is awarded in grant funding for three state-identified research priority projects into big game migration corridors in Arizona. The funding comes as a result of Secretarial Order 3362, which aims to improve the Federal government's collaboration with the states to enhance and improve the quality of big-game winter range and migration corridor habitat.

Secretary Zinke asked States to submit their top priorities to advance big game habitat conservation. The number one research need identified by Arizona is for data on mule deer movement corridors in the area planned for the new Interstate 11 (I-11). Additionally, their two other research priorities are associated with highways.

'Earlier this year, I tagged and collared mule deer in a neighborhood south of Salt Lake City which didn't exist 10 years ago. This rapid expansion and development makes it all the more important that we fund important research projects, like these with the state of Arizona, to identify migration corridors,' said Secretary Ryan Zinke. 'These grants will allow the state to conduct research to understand how deer move and migrate within Arizona and 10 other western states. Once we can scientifically establish the migration routes, it will allow us to work in partnership and use the best science and innovation to conserve the important corridors on which mule deer populations rely.'

'This partnership to identify movement corridors will help us intensify our efforts to conserve these important corridors in a state that is undergoing tremendous growth,' said Ty Gray, Director, Arizona Game and Fish Department. 'Without this collaboration, these corridors might be lost.'

The number one research priority identified by Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) involves gathering data on mule deer movement so these data can help influence design decisions on a new Interstate 11 (I-11) in Arizona. The grant money provided by the Bureau of Land Management through the implementation of Secretarial Order 3362 will allow the AZGFD to work proactively with the Department of Transportation during the planning process, rather than the historic approach of reactive retrofit actions once a highway is constructed. The grant funding will be used to collar 20 mule deer (60 total) in three identified study areas to map their migration habits. Acquiring this migration route information will allow developers the opportunity to influence the design of the interstate to maximize the protection of the migration corridor.

The remaining two Arizona priority research projects are focused on the SR77 Overpass between Catalina Mountains and Tortolita Mountains and the San Francisco Peaks area. In 2014 a highway overpass was built across SR77, however a thorough evaluation of how mule deer are moving through the whole corridor and between mountain ranges has not yet been conducted. Grant funding will help conduct this evaluation by using funds to collar 20 mule deer to track their movements in this area. Additionally, the information they acquire will better inform future decisions about installing overpasses and necessary conservation on associated surrounding landscapes. Their third priority research focuses on gaining a better understanding of migration corridors in relation to a high volume of annual road kills on SR89 east of the San Francisco Peaks and on movement corridors related to exurban development.