Conservation is at the core of our brand. A while back, Kenton and Scott realized that without wildlife and wild places our customer would have little need for technical hunting apparel. In this light, we are staunch supporters of the groups that work to protect game, their habitats and our access to them. We do our best to educate our customers around events and issues that effects these concepts and, when necessary, advocate for specific legislation we feel benefits wildlife and wild places.
But conservation ultimately does not happen in Washington, D.C. or on Instagram. It happens in the mountains, forests, deserts and swamps. It happens where the critters are so First Lite jumps at the opportunity to help with on-the-ground projects. After all, as a 2% for Conservation member, we contribute 1% of our company’s time to these efforts.
So we were stoked to help Idaho Fish and Game with a recent project to rehabilitate winter range in the southern part of our home state. Though the area winters thousands of mule deer, fire and invasive species have severely degraded the forage quality on the range. IDFG has found many dead deer that have starved despite having full stomachs. Invasive species such as medusahead rye and cheat grass are often not enough to maintain deer that arrive on winter range in less than perfect condition.
In an effort to support the nutritional needs of the herd, IDFG has been planting sagebrush and bitterbrush in the area. Over the past 9 years, 300,000 seedlings have been placed throughout the region, largely by volunteers. Restoring native shrub communities also benefits a host of wildlife beyond mule deer. Elk, pronghorn, sage grouse, small mammals and songbirds all benefit from healthy sagebrush steppe habitat at lower elevations.
So, on a Saturday in March, five First Lite employees (and three dogs) made the drive south to help with this important effort. Climbing into the hills with dibble bars for planting and bags of seedlings, the group was quickly reminded of why they were out there. On the near horizon, dozens of deer grazed across the barren hillside. Encouraged, the assembled group of volunteers planted 1,300 sage brush seedlings in several short hours.
Customer Service Rep (and mule deer fanatic), Duke “Big Bucks” Wasteny particularly enjoyed helping out his favorite game species. “It was so neat to be a part of the solution, building up the winter range, because we sure like seeing them higher up in the fall.” He also enjoyed talking with IDFG range ecologists in the field. “It was cool to learn more about deer forage from biologists out there on the ground.”
As an added bonus, Customer Service Rep and southern Idaho native, Marcus Emerson, found a tiny, fork-horn shed. And so, the day was a success by all accounts. First Lite Conservation Manager, Ford Van Fossan, summed up the team’s feelings for the day: “With all of the talk about conservation in our world, it was fantastic to actually get out there, get our hands dirty and help out wildlife.”