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Management Plans – Managing Big Game in Balance with Available Habitat
Alan Clark, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City, UT
Since 1994, Utah State law (23-16-7) requires the Division to prepare a management plan for each deer and elk unit in the state. In developing the plan, the Division must consult with public land managers, private landowners, sportsmen, and ranchers. Management plans must have target herd size objectives. In establishing these objectives, the Division and Board must consider the carrying capacity and land ownership; and seek to balance multiple uses for the range. Once the plans are approved by the Wildlife Board the Division is required to manage each herd unit in accordance with the plan. Since the law was passed, several changes have been made to the plans and the process to improve the final product and insure participation by the public. A statewide species plan is adopted to guide the development of the unit plans. An assessment of each unit is completed that uses available habitat information to evaluate carrying capacity. Each plan also identifies opportunities for habitat projects to improve the carrying capacity and address habitat projects. Each unit plan is developed in conjunction with a local committee for public input and then the plans are presented to our regional advisory councils prior to consideration by the Wildlife Board. Once adopted, we require our management recommendations for harvest (primarily antlerless) of elk and deer to be consistent with the plans. Private landowners are provided with numerous opportunities to benefit financially from the deer and elk herds. The Division strives to make wildlife valuable to all people and this approach to managing deer and elk is consistent with that philosophy.