Citing the importance of a healthy deer herd to Maine’s economy and heritage, Gov. Paul LePage and the state’s top game official on Thursday unveiled a multi-point strategy to replenish white tail numbers in hardest-hit areas.

LePage said a string of severe winters, attacks by coyotes and human causes including poaching and highway collisions are behind the loss of deer, particularly in northern, eastern and western Maine. Deer are abundant in the southern and central parts of the state.

The plan announced by LePage and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock would require substantial funding, and where it would come from was a concern of some of those attending the announcement.

“The press conference did not announce a new pile of money they found,” said Matt Dunlap, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine executive director. “It announced a plan they want to take forward and legislation that would secure funding. But we won’t know for three to four more months if we come out of this with funding.”

The plan stresses the importance of recognizing and protecting deer yards — cedar or fir stands that provide cover and food for wintering herds.

The plan also includes landowner outreach to manage more of those deer-wintering areas, more coyote control in targeted areas and more deer crossing warnings along highways.

State wildlife planner Sandy Ritchie said protecting deer yards is the most important piece of the plan, but that costs money.

Currently, 300,000 acres of private land in Maine are in cooperative agreements, such as protective easements. But Maine’s herd needs about a million acres to improve survival rates in winter, Ritchie said.

“The herd has been declining for 40 years. It will take decades to bring it back to desirable levels,” she said.

Deer bring in an estimated $280 million to Maine through activities related to hunting and wildlife watching, according to the state. Maine registers about 146,000 resident hunters and nearly 30,000 from out of state.

But fall deer harvests in Maine have dropped in recent years to some of the lowest levels ever recorded, said Senate President Kevin Raye. That leaves Maine, long known for its big bucks, in the position of becoming less desirable to hunters.

Dunlap said the part of the plan that would help most would be creating a policy for managing deer yards that is embraced by private landowners.

Tom Doak, executive director of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine — which represents some 750,000 acres of private land — said the interest among landowners is there.

“There has always been a focus in the department on deer. What I sense is a little change in the attitude, how this is really complicated and will take a lot of people to help with it,” Doak said.

Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, plans to introduce a bill that will put greater emphasis on helping to fund deer yard management.

Woodcock recently earmarked $20,000 from a discretionary department fund to help pay for predator control efforts by coyote hunters in remote deer yards, Ritchie said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming and the Associated Press contributed to this report.