Habitat enhancement, land protection, elk population research, wolf management and numerous other conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects are the focus of 2013 grants provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in Wyoming.
The RMEF grants total $502,423 and positively affect 28,135 acres in 16 Wyoming counties: Albany, Big Horn, Carbon, Converse, Fremont, Hot Springs, Laramie, Lincoln, Park, Platte, Sheridan, Sublette, Sweetwater, Teton, Washakie and Weston. There are also projects of statewide and national interest.
“Wyoming may have the least number of residents in the nation but these grants are strong evidence that our RMEF volunteers and members there are among the most passionate in the nation and dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Thanks to their efforts through banquets and membership drives, funds raised are directed toward on the ground projects to benefit elk and elk country in their home state.”
Allen also thanked RMEF chapters and volunteers around the nation for their dedication to conservation all across elk country.
Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 541 different conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Wyoming with a combined value of more than $116.2 million.
RMEF grants fund the following projects, listed by county:
Big Horn County—Improve elk forage with a mixture of aerial and hand ignition for 3,000 acres of controlled burning on the Bighorn National Forest (also affects Washakie and Sheridan Counties); prescribe burning and/or mechanical treatment of 625 acres of juniper, mountain sagebrush and aspen along with herbicide spraying of 200 acres of cheatgrass to improve habitat for elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer and sage grouse on the west slope of the Big Horn Mountains; burn 275 acres on the west slope of the Big Horn Mountains to reduce ladder fuels and improve aspen and forage (also affects Washakie County); and co-sponsor the Paintrock Hunter Mentor Program’s Outdoor Day at Medicine Lodge State Archeological site offering education and skills to youth about air rifle, archery, spin cast fishing, .22 rifle, wildlife identification, ATV safety and other activities (also affects Hot Springs, Park and Washakie Counties).
Carbon County—Remove 1/4 mile of woven wire fence and replace it with wildlife friendly fence across a riparian area that is a wildlife travel corridor as well as install one mile of new wildlife friendly fence and one or two cattle guards on private land between the Pennock Wildlife Management Area and the Medicine Bow National Forest to benefit elk and other species; provide funding to monitor radio-collared elk as they access habitat use in relation to beetle kill in the Sierra Madre Range on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest to aide wildlife managers in decisions impacting elk and hunting; remove encroaching conifers from 650 acres of aspen habitat by using prescribed burning as part of a 10-year collaborative effort within the Little Snake River watershed involving 12,000 acres; use prescribed burning, herbicide application, mowing and intensified livestock grazing management to achieve improved herbaceous species production and forage values on 6,100 acres near Elk Mountain as part of the Platte Valley Habitat Partnership; carry out herbicide treatment on 920 acres, mechanical and prescribed fire on 30 acres, and rangeland restoration and seeding on 200 acres of private land as part of the Platte Valley Habitat Partnership; construct fence exclosures around five natural springs on BLM lands to protect water sources from cattle use thereby enhancing habitat for a variety of wildlife including elk, mule deer sage grouse, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and songbirds; and conduct noxious weed treatment on 270 acres of the Medicine Bow National Forest to improve winter range for elk and sage grouse.
Converse County—Provide funding for the Wyoming 4-H Shooting Sports Extravaganza and volunteer recognition and training as a means to reach out to 3,800 4-H youth members across the state to increase their knowledge and skills.
Fremont County—Install four miles of wildlife-friendly fence along the northern boundary of the Spence/Moriarity Wildlife Habitat Management Area (WHMA) to prevent cattle from trespassing on this important year-round habitat for the East Fork elk herd; and provide manpower to remove two miles of unneeded barbed wire fencing from a wildlife travel corridor at the WHMA.
Hot Springs County—Carry out prescribed burning treatment of pine and juniper encroachment to improve aspen and grasslands for elk, other species and livestock on 450 acres within the foothills of the Absaroka Mountains in the upper reaches of Cottonwood Creek about 25 miles southwest of Meeteetse; and provide funding to assist Hot Springs County establish a 4-H archery program for youth between the ages of 8 and 18 to learn about the safe handling and knowledge of archery equipment, shooting skills, ethics, and an opportunity to compete in local, regional and statewide competitions.
Laramie County—Prescribed burning of 3,040 acres to improve shrub health and winter range conditions for elk, deer and bighorn sheep on private and public lands in the southern Laramie Range (also affects Albany County).
Lincoln County—Conduct noxious weed treatment on 405 acres of the Teton National Forest to restore native grass communities on transitional range for elk, mule deer, moose and other wildlife.
Park County—Evaluate the use of remote cameras to monitor elk population dynamics and migration patterns in the Shoshone National Forest in northwest Wyoming to determine if aerial classifications can be reduced without losing accuracy and sample sizes; treat at least 25 acres of conifer-dominated aspen stands to enhance habitat as part of a multi-year program to treat 800-1,000 acres in the Breteche Creek watershed on the west slope of the Absaroka Mountains west of Cody; use chainsaws to enhance 25 acres of habitat by removing encroaching conifers on aspen in the Absaroka Front drainages of Enos and Middle Creeks; remove encroaching conifers from 40 acres of aspen on The Nature Conservancy’s Heart Mountain Ranch which provides important wildlife habitat and access for sportsmen and women north of Cody, as well as remove 3 1/2 miles of woven and barbed wire fence and replace with wildlife-friendly fencing; and restore 62 acres of aspen/riparian habitat in the Sunlight Basin area to improve forage and habitat for approximately 1,800 elk that summer in Yellowstone Park.
Platte County—Add four tire tanks (each 850-1,000 gallon capacity) to four existing developed spring locations to provide a more reliable water source for elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife in the Cow Creek drainage northwest of Wheatland.
Sheridan County—Co-sponsor the Wyoming Women’s Foundation first annual Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt, an event that used hunting and other outdoor activities as a platform for mentoring, with an emphasis on safety, hunting ethics and camaraderie.
Sublette County—Prescribed burning of 700 acres to stimulate aspen growth, remove hazardous fuel loading and improve forage for elk, moose and other wildlife as part of a 10-year effort to treat 9,000 acres of aspen on Bureau of Land Management lands along the Wyoming Front Range in western Wyoming; treat 3,000 acres for Canada thistle, musk thistle and cheatgrass that exploded after the 64,000-acre Fontenelle Wildlife of 2012 in the vicinity of the Piney Creeks in the Wyoming Range; provide funding for the Boulder Big Draw 3D Archery Shoot for 4-H youth members to increase their knowledge and skills; and remove encroaching conifer and over-mature aspen on 350 acres of summer and transitional ranges in the Upper Hoback River drainage about ten miles southeast of Bondurant as part of a larger project on 1,500 acres of the Rolling Thunder Ranch.
Sweetwater County—Contributed funds for the purchase of a conservation easement on 4,500 acres of year-round habitat at the base of Pine Mountain south of Green River that also has high value for mule deer, antelope, moose and riparian areas that support a genetically pure population of Colorado River cutthroat trout; and use prescribed burning to treat 850 acres of aspen and sagebrush habitats in the upper Little Red Creek watershed to increase forage on crucial winter range and increase perennial flows that positively affect cutthroat trout.
Teton County—Provide funding to monitor radio-collared elk to determine migration timing and vulnerability to hunter harvest as a means to evaluate management decisions regarding antlerless harvest in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. During 2012, elk in Yellowstone Park had a calf to cow ration of 23:100 compared to a 60:100 cow to calf ratio 60 miles south near Jackson; provide funding to remove deteriorating control structures, reduce sediment inputs to the stream channel, enhance the stream’s ability to distribute and remove excess sediment, provide new habitat for native fish and make stream crossings safer for elk, other wildlife and anglers at Flat Creek on the National Elk Refuge; provide funding and volunteer manpower for a disabled Wyoming veteran to take part in a big game hunt; and provide funding for a comprehensive, permanent exhibit and public program series highlighting the history of elk and elk management issues in Jackson Hole at the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum.
Weston County—Aerially treatment 2,418 acres of cheatgrass with herbicides on BLM, state and private lands in the southern Black Hills near Newcastle to restore native grass and forbs to support elk, mule deer, whitetail deer and turkey where the 2012 Oil Creek Wildfire burned approximately 62,000 acres.
Statewide—Contribute funds to compile comprehensive current information on Wyoming’s ungulate migrations to be used in a large format book and in an online database as a means to advance conservation and management efforts; provide funding for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s (WFGD) Private Lands Public Wildlife Access program that works to secure access for hunters and anglers to private land; provide funding to purchase equipment for two sessions of the youth-run Cedar Badge National Youth Leadership Training program –one at Treasure Mountain Scout Camp near Alta, Wyoming, and the other at Island Park Scout Camp in Idaho– that offers hands-on instruction in leadership, teamwork, goal-setting, planning, decision-making and communications for 337 Boy Scouts from Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Utah; provide a $50,000 grant to assist the WFGD with its wolf management efforts; provide funding for the Leopold Conservation Award 2013 Wyoming Stewardship Project Tour that recognizes and celebrates extraordinary achievements in voluntary conservation by private landowners such as 2012 honorees Wayne and Judi Fahsholtz who showcase excellent land, water and wildlife management efforts while operating the 500,000-acre Padlock Ranch along the Wyoming-Montana border; and provide funding for the non-profit Wyoming Disabled Hunters organization which offers hunts to 17 disabled hunters from across the country including reigning Ms. Wheelchair USA Ashlee Lundvall of Cody.
Nationwide—Provide funding for four veterans to take part in an elk hunt through the Honoring Our Veterans 2013 Wounded Veterans Hunt, a program established in 2008.
Conservation projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies. RMEF staff and volunteers select education projects to receive grants and hunting heritage projects to receive funding.
Partners for RMEF’s 2013 Wyoming projects include the Bighorn, Bridger-Teton, Medicine-Routt, Shoshone National Forests, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, University of Wyoming, private landowners, and various government, state, wildlife, business and volunteer organizations.
Logo courtesy Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation