Rejuvenating elk habitat across Idaho—and re-establishing a showcase elk herd in the Clearwater Basin—headline a list of conservation projects to be funded this year by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
RMEF grants for 2012 total $134,460 and directly affect 20 counties: Adams, Bear Lake, Boise, Bonneville, Caribou, Clark, Clearwater, Custer, Elmore, Gem, Gooding, Idaho, Lemhi, Lewis, Nez Perce, Owyhee, Payette, Shoshone, Teton and Valley.
Additional projects have statewide and regional interest.
“Forest thinning, prescribe burning, weed treatments and more are expected to improve 28,993 acres of Idaho elk country,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “While these habitat enhancement efforts will help ensure the future of elk and other wildlife across much of the state, our concerns for the Clearwater Basin herd are more immediate. At one time, the Clearwater herd was the second largest in the entire country with 36,000 elk. Now it’s down to just 5,000. We’re helping to lead a collaborative of conservation groups who want that herd stabilized, re-established and growing again.”
RMEF’s mission is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Since 1985, the organization and its partners have completed 418 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Idaho with a combined value of more than $51.2 million.
Funding for RMEF grants is based on local membership drives and banquet fundraising by RMEF chapters and volunteers in Idaho. Allen thanked RMEF supporters for their dedication to conservation both in Idaho and all across elk country.
RMEF grants will help fund the following 2012 projects in Idaho, listed by county:
Bear Lake County—Enhance elk habitat by treating noxious weeds on 50 acres in the Giraffe Creek wildfire area (2010) and 100 acres in the backcountry of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest (also affects Caribou and Bonneville counties).
Boise County—Prescribe burn 2,173 acres to enhance forage for elk that winter in the Rocky Canyon area of the Boise National Forest; construct “fence wings” to funnel elk and deer into a Hwy. 21 underpass designed to increase public safety, reduce wildlife mortality and maintain habitat integrity on the Boise River Wildlife Management Area.
Bonneville County—Mechanically thin encroaching conifers on 250 acres and prescribe burn 600 acres to improve aspen stands, calving habitat for elk and fawning habitat for deer in the Red Creek area of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest (also affects Teton County); thin conifers and prescribe burn 1,550 acres in the upper basins of Fall and Bear creeks in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
Clark County—Provide sponsorship for Clark County 4-H 2012 archery class to introduce youths to traditional outdoor recreation and conservation.
Clearwater County—Provide sponsorship and RMEF representation in the Clearwater Basin Collaborative, a coalition to restore elk, other wildlife and resources, and recreational interests in the Clearwater Basin (also affects Idaho County).
Elmore County—Improve forage and browse plants for elk and deer by prescribe burning 1,500 acres in the Whiskey Camp area of the Boise National Forest; rehabilitate elk winter range damaged by 2010 wildfires by planting 100,000 bitterbrush seedlings in the Bennett Hills area of BLM lands in the Twin Falls District (also affects Gooding County).
Idaho County—Improve forage for elk by establishing bio-controls to treat invasive weeds in the MacKay Bar area, and applying herbicides to an additional 370 acres of weed infested areas, in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness (also affects Lemhi, Valley andCuster counties); prescribe burn 20,000 acres in Clearwater Basin areas of the Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests (also affects Clearwater County).
Nez Perce County—Remove three miles of old barbed-wire fencing and erect new wildlife-friendly fencing to improve elk habitat at Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area (also affects Lewis County); provide sponsorship for Boys and Girls Clubs of the Lewis Clark Valley Camp Wittman to introduce youths to traditional outdoor recreation and conservation.
Owyhee County—Continue initiative to restore 1,000 acres of sage-steppe habitat by removing encroaching juniper and re-seeding native grasses in elk habitat across southwest Idaho (also affects Adams, Idaho, Elmore, Gem and Payette counties).
Shoshone County—Aerially ignite a 1,200-acre prescribe burn to improve forage for elk in the Heller and Wisdom creek areas of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest; prescribe burn 1,000 acres of elk winter range in the Upper Coeur d’Alene River basin of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
Statewide—Provide funding for a regional research project to synthesize elk recruitment data from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming to measure broad impacts of weather, predators, habitat changes, etc.; provide sponsorship for the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus, which advises lawmakers and agencies on issues of concern to conservation and hunting.
Conservation 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 volunteers and staff select hunting heritage projects to be funded.
Partners for 2012 projects in Idaho include the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Nez Perce Tribe, U.S. Forest Service and other agencies and organizations.
Image courtesy Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation