The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation took part in a successful collaboration to acquire and open 560 acres of key elk habitat in the South Fork of the John Day River in east-central Oregon. The purchase also opens access beyond the property to thousands of acres of land managed by Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
“This transaction is vital because it not only protects crucial winter range, aspen stands and scarce water resources for elk and other wildlife, but it increases the availability of public access for hunting and other types of recreation,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “It also fends off the possibility of development which could have led to new construction, creating habitat loss, fragmentation and the permanent loss of access.”
The property hosts up to 400 head of elk in the winter and is also home to mule deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, bear, mountain lion, raptors and other birds. It supports the Columbian spotted frog, a species of concern under the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Oregon Conservation Strategy. In addition to aspen stands, abundant native bunchgrass exists along with sage-steppe, juniper and ponderosa pine.
The South Basin Springs project is located south of Dayville in the ODFW’s Ochoco Game Management Unit. The property is an inholding on the ODFW Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area where RMEF previously contributed 2,479 acres in 1997.
“We are grateful for conservation-minded landowners like long-time RMEF members Don Moss, Mike Brown, and our partners at ODFW. Their vision helps ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat in Oregon’s Blue Mountains,” added Henning.
Since 1997, RMEF worked to protect more than 31,000 acres of habitat in the Dayville area. Looking at the bigger picture, RMEF enhanced more than 325,000 acres of prime elk country in the Blue Mountains stretching from Oregon into southern Washington since 1987.
Logo courtesy Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation