Missoula, Mont.–By tracking radio-collared elk, researchers in Michigan hope to better understand the animals’ habitat preferences, movement patterns and responses to human recreation such as hiking, biking and hunting.

The study tops a list of Michigan projects slated to receive 2011 grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

RMEF grants also will help sponsor a variety of events designed to introduce youths to outdoor recreation and conservation.

All together, the grants total $27,601 and affect 11 counties: Allegan, Cheboygan, Delta, Genesee, Iosco, Kent, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Otsego, Ottawa and Presque Isle.

“The research project is being led by Michigan State University and is focused on the Pigeon River Country State Forest in northern lower Michigan,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “This project will help us understand more about the existing and potential elk habitat in Michigan, as well as how public recreation might influence elk behavior throughout the year.”

Allen thanked RMEF volunteers and fundraiser attendees for building the organization’s conservation impact in Michigan and across elk country.

“Because of their amazing passion and generous support, we’re doing some great things locally and a national conservation milestone is within reach–our organization this year expects to reach 6 million acres of habitat protection and improvement,” he said.

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

Cheboygan County–Quantify elk range and habitat potential in the core regions of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, the number, relative frequence and geographic scope of recreational users, temporal elk movement and habitat selection patterns (also affects Montmorency, Otsego and Presque Isle counties).

Delta County–Provide sponsorship for Great Lakes Sports Club 2011 Youth Shooting Program to introduce students to outdoor recreation and conservation.

Genesee County–Provide sponsorship for Passing Along the Heritage Foundation 2011 initiatives to offer hunting opportunities to physically challenged individuals, at-risk youth and disabled veterans.

Iosco County–Provide sponsorship for Iosco County 4-H Youth Sharp Shooters Club to introduce students to outdoor recreation and conservation (also affects Ogemaw County).

Ottawa County–Provide sponsorship for Macatawa River Greenway Outdoor Naturalist Program to introduce youth to outdoor recreation and conservation (also affects Allegan County); sponsor Michigan Mobile Marksmanship Training Unit, an archery program of the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway (also affects Allegan and Kent counties).

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 Michigan include Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University and many conservation and sporting organizations.

Since 1984, RMEF and its partners have completed 90 different conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Michigan with a combined value of more than $4.9 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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