MISSOULA, Mont.-Over a million acres worth of conservation impact in Wyoming alone. That's the historic milestone that Wyoming volunteers of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hope to reach this year with plenty of hard work and new grants for wildlife habitat projects across the state.
The RMEF funding commitment for 2012 projects in Wyoming totals $338,006 and affects 10 counties: Albany, Big Horn, Carbon, Converse, Fremont, Lincoln, Natrona, Park, Sublette and Teton.
Additional research and hunting heritage projects have statewide interest.
"We're currently about 13,000 acres shy of the 1 million-acre mark in Wyoming, and this year's grants should impact a bit over 19,000 acres. So if all the prescribe burning, forest thinning, weed treatment and other projects go as expected, we should reach a significant organizational milestone later this year," said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.
Wyoming would become the first state to conserve a million acres with help from RMEF.
Nationally, RMEF passed the 6 million-acre mark in 2011.
RMEF's mission is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. Since 1985, the organization and its partners have completed 439 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Wyoming with a combined value of more than $100 million.
Funding for RMEF grants is based on local membership drives and banquet fundraising by RMEF chapters and volunteers in Wyoming. Allen thanked RMEF supporters for their dedication to conservation both in Wyoming and all across elk country.
RMEF volunteers also contribute labor for on-the-ground projects such as removing old fences, building guzzlers and more.
Allen added, "In addition to the various habitat stewardship and protection efforts planned for 2012, we're also funding research to further document impacts of wolves and other predators on local elk herds. Resulting data will help biologists manage for more balanced populations in the future."
RMEF grants will help fund the following 2012 projects in Wyoming, listed by county:
Albany County-Replace 3-1/4 miles of old woven-wire fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing to improve passage for elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep in the Johnson Creek area of the Thorne/Williams Wildlife Management Area; prescribe burn 190 acres in the Bald Mountain area of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.
Big Horn County-Improve forage for elk by treating cheatgrass and mechanically thinning and/or prescribe burning 715 acres in the Devil's Canyon area of BLM land; provide sponsorship for the Paintrock Hunter Mentor Program to introduce youths to traditional outdoor recreation and conservation.
Carbon County-Rejuvenate sagebrush, serviceberry and other forage shrubs for elk by prescribe burning 2,775 acres in the Big Sandstone Creek area of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest; prescribe burn 250 acres to restore aspen stands in the Little Snake River watershed; treat 200 acres of noxious weeds in the Savage Run and Platte River wilderness areas of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest (also affects Albany County); replace three miles of woven- and barbed-wire fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing in the Pole Canyon area of BLM land; install a wildlife drinking station (guzzler) in the Bennett Mountain area.
Converse County-Provide sponsorship for the Wyoming 2012 4-H Shooting Sports Extravaganza to introduce and encourage youth to get involved in traditional outdoor sports and conservation.
Fremont County-Prescribe burn 551 acres to enhance quality, quantity and palatability of elk forage in the upper Wind River area of the Shoshone National Forest; assist with purchased conservation easement to permanently protect 5,130 acres of vital elk habitat between the Thorofare and Wind River drainages; remove encroaching conifers to restore meadow habitats on 457 acres in the Freak Mountain area of the Shoshone National Forest; treat 100 acres of noxious weeds, purchase irrigation materials and install four miles of fencing in the Spence-Moriarity Wildlife Habitat Management Area; contribute to a purchased conservation easement to permanently protect 1,225 acres of elk habitat in the Lander Foothills.
Lincoln County-Rejuvenate decadent forage for elk by prescribe burning 1,665 acres in the North Murphy and Weiner Creek areas of the Bridger-Teton National Forest; assist with a purchased conservation easement to permanently protect 1,907 acres of elk winter range near Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Lost Creek Wildlife Habitat Management Area; treat 405 acres of noxious weeds using herbicides and bio-controls (knapweed weevils) in the Greys River area of Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Natrona County-Thin encroaching conifers to restore mountain mahogany stands on 200 acres of elk habitat in the Lost Creek area of the southern Bighorn Mountains on BLM land.
Park County-Prescribe burn 70 acres to improve diversity of sagebrush, grassland and aspen habitat for elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, sage grouse and other wildlife in the Breteche Creek area of BLM land; replace 6-2/3 miles of old woven- and barbed-wire fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing on two ranches which provide important wildlife habitat and access for hunters near Cody.
Statewide-Provide support for University of Wyoming research on elk population variances related to habitat loss, land use changes, diseases, weather patterns, predators and other factors; support additional research by University of Wyoming on factors influencing elk pregnancy rates; provide sponsorship for Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Outdoor Recreation Education Opportunities to provide training for teachers, as well as the agency's Hunter Education program.
Sublette County-Provide support for research on elk migration patterns, habitat selection and foraging habits associated with feedgrounds (also affects Teton and Lincoln counties); treat noxious weeds to improve forage on 400 acres in the Horse Creek, New Fork and Divide wildfire areas of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Teton County-Provide support for research on short- and long-term effects of fire on elk forage and nutrition in the Red Rock wildfire area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest; provide sponsorship for "Don't Poach the Powder" education campaign to highlight importance of seasonal public closure areas to wintering wildlife near Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Habitat and research projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies and universities. RMEF staff and volunteers select education and hunting heritage projects to receive grants.
Partners for 2012 projects in Wyoming include the Bureau of Land Management, University of Wyoming, U.S. Forest Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other agencies, organizations, corporations and landowners.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
RMEF is leading a conservation initiative that has protected or enhanced habitat on over 6 million acres-an area larger than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains national parks combined. RMEF also is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. RMEF members, partners and volunteers, working together as Team Elk, are making a difference all across elk country. Join us at www.rmef.org
or 800-CALL ELK.