Lead CDFW biologists: Tim Taylor, Alisa Ellsworth, Troy Kelly
The Slinkard Valley Wildlife Area Browse Enhancement and Protection Project is a cooperative partnership between the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the California Deer Association (CDA). The Slinkard / Little Antelope Wildlife Area (SLAWA) is located in northwest Mono County, California, and encompasses approximately 7,000 acres of critical mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) winter range occupied by the West Walker herd. The primary objectives of the project are to: 1) protect remaining mixed stands of antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) and big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) from loss to wildfire by eliminating continuous brush and pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla) fuel conditions; and 2) increase browse production by reducing pinyon pine competition and encroachment.
DFG's area wildlife biologist for Mono County and lands manager worked closely with BLM's vegetation specialist to plan all phases of the project. All vegetation treatment was performed by a contractor hired by the BLM as part of their fuels reduction program. Work conducted in the SLAWA project area consisted of brushmowing and pinyon cutting and piling. Brush mowing was carried out to create fuel breaks to protect continuous brush stands and to create openings and edge habitat for mule deer and other wildlife. Pinyon cutting and piling consisted of the removal of thousands of pinyon trees that had encroached into brush stands. The project was conducted in two phases. During Phase I, conducted from October 15-November 24, 2009, a total of 1,330 acres were treated within the SLAWA project area. These 1,330 acres included 182 acres of brush mowing to create fuel breaks and 1,148 acres of pinyon cut and pile work. Phase II, conducted from October 5-November 19, 2010, included 80 acres of brush mowing and 897 acres of pinyon cut and pile work. In all, a total of 2,307 acres were treated on the SLAWA during the 2-year project. Of these 2,307 acres, pinyon removal and brush mowing occurred on 2,045 acres and 262 acres, respectively.
BLM provided the majority of the funding under their Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program along with a generous contribution from the CDA.