MISSOULA, Mont.–Elk and other wildlife in New Mexico need water and foraging areas, and newly announced 2011 grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will help provide both in areas across the state.

Also receiving RMEF funding is a research project measuring impacts of wolf restoration on elk populations in the Gila National Forest.

Combined, the new RMEF grants total $75,503 and affect nine counties: Catron, Cibola, Lincoln, Mora, Otero, Sandoval, San Juan, Socorro and Taos counties.

“It’s a never-ending battle to knock back the pinyon and juniper encroaching into areas where elk used to graze, but it’s still one of the most important habitat issues in New Mexico today,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Providing adequate water is another concern, and we’re sending significant dollars toward replacing and repairing guzzlers for elk and other wildlife.”

He added, “All together, the habitat improvement projects that RMEF is funding this year could add at least 6,600 acres to the 455,023 acres that we’ve previously helped to conserve or enhance for wildlife in New Mexico.”

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 New Mexico, 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:

  • Catron County–Research elk habitat use and mortality from predation in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of the Gila National Forest. Wildlife managers will use results to develop elk harvest quotas.
  • Cibola County–Begin first phase of the new Bluewater Ecosystem Management Project to restore habitat in the Zuni Mountains west of Grants, N.M. First-year projects include thinning 2,123 acres of pinyon, juniper and other encroaching shrubs and trees, and prescribe burning 2,720 acres in the Cibola National Forest.
  • Lincoln County–Deepen two existing wetlands and create six additional wetlands to improve water availability for elk in 16-acre Blue Lake meadow in Lincoln National Forest.
  • Mora County–Restore riparian zones to improve wetland forage, provide water and improve habitat for elk and other wildlife east of Wagon Mound, N.M.
  • Otero County–Replace a nonfunctioning guzzler while increasing capacity to 4,500 gallons to improve habitat for elk and other wildlife on the Sacramento Escarpment on BLM lands east of Tularosa, N.M.; prescribe burn 450 acres to improve forage in the Southern Sacramento Mountains Restoration Project Area of Lincoln National Forest.
  • Sandoval County–Install two large water tanks on Santa Fe National Forest, one in the Cuba Ranger District and one in the Jemez Ranger District, to enhance habitat for elk and minimize conflicts with elk on adjacent Bandelier National Monument.
  • San Juan County–Thin encroaching pinyon and juniper on 126 acres and install a new “inverted umbrella” wildlife-watering device to improve habitat for elk, deer, turkey, bear and other species in the Rattlesnake Canyon Wildlife Specially Designated Area.
  • Socorro County–Improve forage for elk by mechanically treating 267 acres of pinyon-juniper encroachment on BLM lands in the East Magdalena area.
  • Taos County–Repair guzzler to improve water availability for elk and other wildlife on BLM lands near Cerro del Aire; construct exclosure fencing around young aspen stands to protect from over-browsing on BLM lands on Taos Plateau.

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 New Mexico include Bureau of Land Management (BLM), New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Texas Tech University, U.S. Forest Service, other agencies, organizations and landowners.

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners have completed 256 different conservation and education projects in New Mexico with a combined value of more than $19.3 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.

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