MISSOULA, Mont.—Wolf-related research on elk productivity and survival in the Bitterroot Valley, plus a variety of forest, weed and habitat management efforts, headline a slate of projects selected for 2011 grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The new RMEF grants total $210,705 and affect Beaverhead, Broadwater, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Gallatin, Granite, Missoula, Lewis and Clark, Powder River, Powell, Ravalli and Sanders counties.
“We expect the Bitterroot Valley research to help build the body of science needed to effectively manage both wolves and elk in the future. We’re also pleased to providing funding again this year for prescribe burns, weed treatments, forest thinning, fence removal and other habitat projects to benefit elk and other wildlife. These projects could add over 9,400 acres to the 693,373 acres that we’ve already helped to conserve or enhance in Montana,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.
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, 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:
Beaverhead County—Remove encroaching conifers from aspen and mountain mahogany stands, and treat noxious weeds such as spotted knapweed, houndstongue and musk thistle, to improve elk habitat in the Rattlesnake Creek and Little Sheep Creek areas of Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Broadwater County—Remove juniper encroaching into native grasslands by prescribe burning 845 acres of elk and bighorn sheep habitat in the Crow Creek/Elkhorn Mountains of Helena National Forest.
Deer Lodge County—Improve native grasslands for elk and other wildlife by treating with herbicide 1,429 acres of spotted knapweed in Stucky Ridge area of Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Flathead County—Treat weed infestations in elk winter range in the Spotted Bear River, South Fork of the Flathead River and Bob Marshall Wilderness areas of Flathead National Forest (also affects Powell and Lewis and Clark counties); continue ongoing weed management program using aerial and ground herbicide applications, mechanical controls and biocontrols (insects) on 550 acres in Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge.
Gallatin County—RMEF volunteers will help remove approximately 20 miles of old barbwire fencing to improve habitat for elk in the Bozeman and Hebgen ranger districts of Gallatin National Forest.
Granite County—Prescribe burn 1,800 acres, and spot treat weeds on 100 acres, to improve elk winter range in the Rock Creek/Butte Cabin area of Lolo National Forest.
Missoula County—Prescribe burn 540 acres to remove conifers, rejuvenate brush and native grass forage for elk and other wildlife in the Cooney, Rumble and Smith creek areas of the Swan Range in Flathead National Forest.
Powder River County—Improve habitat for elk, deer and other species by prescribe burning 1,500 acres of ponderosa pine forest in Ashland Ranger District of the Custer National Forest.
Ravalli County—Thin small trees and prescribe burn to enhance forage in important elk winter range in the West Fork of the Bitterroot River/Soda Springs area of Bitterroot National Forest; conduct scientific research on elk productivity, survival and recruitment in areas where wolves are present in the Bitterroot Valley.
Sanders County—Improve elk summer range by thinning trees and prescribe burning 302 acres in the Beaver Creek area of Kootenai National Forest.
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.
Partners for 2011 projects in Montana include Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, University of Montana, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and other agencies, organizations, corporations and landowners.
Since 1985, RMEF and its partners have completed 688 different conservation and education projects in Montana with a combined value of more than $124 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.