Central Oregon Daily▶️ Mule deer protection proposal could restrict development in Deschutes Co.

▶️ Mule deer protection proposal could restrict development in Deschutes Co.

▶️ Mule deer protection proposal could restrict development in Deschutes Co.

▶️ Mule deer protection proposal could restrict development in parts of county

A proposal to protect large areas of Deschutes County for mule deer is drawing a range of comments, both for and against.

The proposed mule deer winter range combining zone could restrict some types of development on more than 100,000 acres of land.

The mule deer population is declining.

“The adult female survival rate is 70%. That is a downward trend. That’s not enough to sustain current population levels,” said Steven Hagan, President of the Oregon Hunters Association.

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Deschutes County has been asked by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to adopt a map and regulate additional areas of the County to protect mule deer habitat. New studies show the deer use or could use parts of the county that are not currently protected.

Factors for declining numbers of deer include drought, predation, highway crossings and unfriendly fencing.

“It’s sad seeing fawns get caught on fences that the does can jump over,” Hagan said

A public process to balance Economic, Social, Environmental and Energy (ESEE) values is now underway to consider rules that could limit the development of property in mule deer habitat to protect the deer.

“They show up expecting to feed on a stand of bitterbrush that was here last year, because they are doing the same thing that they did last year, and now there’s a sea of solar panels,” said Gary Lewis, a Deschutes County landowner who is restoring bitterbrush on his his property to feed the deer. “They’ve got to go immediately find some other food. Now they may not be welcome in the places they show up.”

For properties under 20 acres with an existing home, generally no changes are being considered. For vacant properties, rules on new fences and the location of new homes are being considered. On larger properties, rules requiring new subdivisions to leave open space areas are being considered.

Limits are also being considered for commercial uses, such as veterinary clinics, golf courses, and solar farms.

“The worst possible thing would be to put a block of solar farms in a migration corridor,” Hagan said.  “We now know where those migration corridors are. We didn’t know where they were 30 years ago. We also weren’t sighting solar farms and wind energy projects 30 years ago. That’s why its become, in our mind, the most significant piece.”

Informational meetings on the proposed mule deer combining zone have drawn crowds of passionate people, loads of testimony and written comments.

Follow this link to view the proposal and the schedule for upcoming public hearings.

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