MISSOULA, Mont.-Helping Oregon biologists better predict habitat nutrition levels and elk population responses, and restoring shrinking aspen and meadow areas, are the key themes in a list of 2011 grants for Oregon from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.The new RMEF funding totals $150,000 and affects 17 counties: Baker, Benton, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Grant, Jefferson, Harney, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa.

One project has statewide interest with implications also extending into California.

“Wildlife habitat is changing all across Oregon. Fire suppression and noxious weed infestations are slowly altering the composition of the forestlands as well as shrinking the grasslands. Elk and other species are losing forage areas,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “The habitat projects that we’re funding this year could add well over 13,700 acres to the 693,081 acres that we’ve previously helped to conserve or enhance for wildlife in Oregon.”

Nationally, RMEF hopes to impact about 100,000 acres in 2011 to reach the 6 million-acre lifetime mark in lands conserved or enhanced for elk and other wildlife.

Allen thanked RMEF volunteers and fundraiser attendees for building the organization’s grant coffers in Oregon, saying, “Because of their amazing passion and generous support, a major conservation milestone is within reach.”

RMEF grants will help fund the following 2011 projects, listed by county:

Baker County-Improve winter range used by approximately 150 elk by applying herbicide to 360 acres of noxious weeds such as leafy spurge in the Alder Creek area of Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Crook County-Hand-thin juniper on 697 acres to improve forage for elk, brood rearing habitat for sage grouse, groundwater recharge and stream flows, and risk of catastrophic wildfire in the Maury Mountains of Ochoco National Forest.

Curry County-Thin encroaching vegetation and re-seed native grasses to improve coastal meadow habitat for elk and other wildlife in the Gold Beach Ranger District of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Deschutes County-RMEF volunteers will assist with removing encroaching conifer and using prescribed fire to enhance forage for elk on 170 acres in Cow Meadow area of Deschutes National Forest.

Douglas County-Create 21 acres of forage openings, fertilize 37 acres, re-seed native grasses on nine acres and prescribe burn 362 acres to improve forage for elk in Diamond Lake Ranger District of the Umpqua National Forest.

Grant County-Rehabilitate 100 acres of meadow habitat used as winter range by a regional herd of 600-800 elk, mule deer and other wildlife in Rudio Mountain area; improve hardwood forest habitat by thinning, prescribe burning and treating weeds in the Hardscrabble Ridge area of Ochoco National Forest; remove conifers and construct exclosure fencing to improve aspen and meadow habitat to enhance 91 acres in Malheur National Forest; treat 800 acres of weeds and invasive plants in Monument area of Umatilla National Forest; remove encroaching juniper on 1,235 acres of forage habitat in Murderer’s Creek Wildlife Management Unit of Malheur National Forest; use a variety of methods to restore understory browse and shrubs in the Willow-Pine area of Ochoco National Forest.

Jefferson County-Remove juniper and ponderosa pine to restore forage for elk on 300 acres on the west side of Crooked River National Grassland.

Harney County-Slash and burn to remove encroaching juniper and promote recovery of mountain mahogany, aspen and native grasses used by elk and other wildlife in the Otis Mountain-Moffit Table area of BLM lands; perform maintenance on seven guzzlers used regularly as wildlife watering sources in the Silvies and Wagontire areas of BLM lands (also affects Lake County).

Lake County-Thin conifers encroaching into 65 acres identified as aspen-priority habitat in the West Drews Creek area of Fremont-Winema National Forest.

Lane County-Apply herbicide to control noxious weeds, re-seed native grasses, conduct a test burn and other treatments to improve elk habitat in Foley Ridge area of Willamette National Forest; thin, prescribe burn and/or re-seed native grasses to improve 91 acres of meadow habitat in Chucksney and Grasshopper meadows of Willamette National Forest; mechanically treat 500 acres to remove invasive weeds such as Scotch broom, Canada thistle and evergreen and Himalayan blackberries in Siuslaw National Forest (also affected Lincoln, Douglas andBenton counties); remove noxious weeds and re-seed grasses and legumes on 123 acres of powerline corridors in Willamette National Forest, Buckhorn Wildlife Area and former seed orchards.

Linn County-Remove conifers encroaching into 200 acres of subalpine meadow habitat used by elk and other wildlife in the Echo Mountain area of Willamette National Forest.

Statewide-Activate the first of three phases in a project to develop elk habitat models for use by wildlife managers concerned with nutritional limitations of habitat in southwest Oregon and northern California. The first phase involves collecting vegetation and nutrition data to develop a prediction model using confined elk.

Umatilla County-Treat noxious weeds on 3,000 acres of elk winter range on federal, state and private lands in the Blue Mountains (also affects Grant and Morrow counties).

Union County-Thin 500 acres of overstocked conifer stands to improve forage for elk in the Chicken Hill area of the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit.

Wallowa County-Treat 730 acres of noxious weeds and re-vegetate 150 acres of grassland habitat used by elk and other wildlife along the Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers.

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.

This year, RMEF received $366,450 in funding requests-far more than available funds could accommodate.

Partners for 2011 projects in Oregon include Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Hunters Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, other agencies, tribes, organizations, corporations and landowners.

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners have completed 662 different conservation and education projects in Oregon with a combined value of more than $39.4 million.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.9 million acres-a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

Steve Wagner, Blue Heron Communications, 800-654-3766, steve@blueheroncomm.com.

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