The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded grants to fund more than 50 on-the-ground projects that will enhance habitat for elk and other wildlife around the state of Utah.
The grants, awarded in 2013, total $156,300 and will directly benefit Beaver, Cache, Carbon, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, Garfield, Grand, Kane, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Summit, Tooele, Uintah, and Wayne counties. Four other projects have statewide benefits.
“Pinyon pine trees and juniper shrubs have a tendency to choke out forage that is vital for elk, mule deer and other wildlife. This funding will allow for thinning, removal and seeding projects to do the work that Mother Nature is not,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Funding will also help restore aspen stands and refurbish water supplies in an area of the country that often lacks water.”
Allen also thanked dedicated RMEF volunteers in Utah who conducted fundraising projects at their banquets, through membership drives and other events to generate the funding. He also thanked volunteers and members around the nation for their dedication to conservation.
“Our volunteers make the RMEF motor run. We thank them for their passion and dedication to elk and elk country,” added Allen.
RMEF grants will help fund the following 2013 projects, listed by county:
Beaver County— Remove encroaching pinyon-juniper on about 1,000 acres on the Southwest Desert to increase vegetative diversity on sage-brush steppe habitat; and replace existing small capacity water guzzler with new 10,200-gallon big game guzzler at the south end of Antelope Valley west of Milford.
Cache County—Treat 4,850 acres with prescribed fire to restore and maintain aspen on Cache National Forest lands south of the Temple Fork of the Logan River and north of Left Hand Fork of the Blacksmith Fork Canyon; treat 1,500 acres with prescribed fire to restore and maintain aspen in the Curtis Ridge area; and treat 1,960 acres of juniper in Cache Valley to improve declining mule deer winter habitat followed by seeding of a sagebrush/forb/grass mix to enhance disturbed areas.
Carbon County—Treat 395 acres of pinyon-juniper woodlands to reduce vegetative fuels and restore sagebrush and grassland-steppe habitat on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in portions of the Fish Creek and Dugout Creek drainages on the toe-slopes of the Book Cliffs near Price; and create small clearcuts within aspen stands to regenerate aspen on 69 acres on the Cold Springs Wildlife Management Area and 65 acres of adjacent private land.
Daggett County—Remove encroaching pinyon-juniper on 856 acres of summer range along Crouse Creek in the Marshall Draw Wildlife Management Area and in Mail Draw and Warren Draw on Diamond Mountain. The project will also benefit Colorado cutthroat trout and sage grouse brood rearing and nesting habitat; and the removal and replacement of two old guzzlers (Lightning Point and The Thumb) with two new ones using a new design that is more bighorn sheep-friendly.
Duchesne County—Remove pinyon-juniper encroachment on 400 acres of sagebrush habitat to improve winter range for elk, deer and sage grouse at the top of Gate Canyon about 45 miles southwest of Myton. The project will also create fuel breaks to prevent unplanned wildfires from removing large amounts of sagebrush; remove pinyon-juniper on 2,200 acres previously chained in 2006-2008 on the Tabby Mountain Wildlife Management Area and adjacent private land near Tabiona; lop and scatter encroaching pinyon, juniper and Douglas fir trees on 720 acres of sagebrush and mountain brush communities on Jeep Trail and Nutters Ridge areas of Anthro Mountain southeast of Duchesne to improve wildlife habitat; and the application of herbicide to improve 113 acres of mainly abandoned agricultural lands in Sowers Canyon along with drill seeding of more acres; scalp and drill seed 160 acres of winter range and sage grouse brood rearing habitat along the southern border of Tabby Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
Emery County—Remove encroaching pinyon-juniper on 1,393 acres using a combination of hand and mechanical treatments, with some seeding, in sagebrush communities north of Huntington Canyon that supports elk, mule deer, black-tailed rabbit and high density of golden eagles. Some of the funding comes from nearby oil and gas development to mitigate habitat loss and fragmentation; and remove pinyon-juniper from 460 acres of sagebrush habitat and apply seeding where understory is lacking.
Garfield County—Implement prescribed burning on 181 acres of pinyon-juniper slash piles and apply 587 acres of lop and scatter treatments in Deep Creek, Pine Creek and surrounding uplands to help increase the cover and density of grasses, forbs and shrubs and improve habitat for elk, mule deer, turkey, Greater sage-grouse and Bonneville cutthroat trout; lop and scatter, chain harrow and seed approximately 92 acres of pinyon-juniper dominated habitat on the Panguitch Creek Wildlife Management Area; apply seed and then mechanically mulch encroaching pinyon-juniper in a mosaic pattern to improve 1,485 acres of winter range and sage grouse brooding habitat immediately south of Panguitch; and remove two old underground storage tanks that no longer hold water and replace them with a new 1,500-gallon thick-walled poly tank to provide water for the Mt. Dutton elk herd and other wildlife in the Marshall Basin.
Grand County—Remove encroaching pinyon-juniper from Wyoming sagebrush communities on 500 acres in the South Book Cliffs at the mouth of Thompson and Sego Canyons and apply seeding where necessary.
Kane County—Continuation of a project started in 2012 to restore sagebrush habitat with removal of pinyon-juniper in the Upper Kanab Creek Watershed by treating 959 acres with a bullhog and utilizing a chain harrow within 286 acres of sage grouse winter range followed by aerially seeding; and return 959-acre area to early seral stage by removing pinyon-juniper and seeding to improve elk and mule deer habitat and reduce erosion in the middle portions of the Upper Kanab Creek Watershed and within the Thompson Creek drainage.
Millard County— Aerially seed 187 acres and then remove encroaching pinyon juniper in a mosaic pattern to restore sagebrush-steppe habitat on the Pioneeer Wildlife Management Area near Holden.
Piute County—Treat 90 percent of pinyon-juniper from 756 acres following seed application on elk and mule deer winter range five miles south of Greenwich plus an additional 244 acres of pinyon-juniper with seed application between chaining passes. Fuels reduction will benefit the communities of Angle, Antimony, Burrville, Greenwich, Koosharem and Little Meadows. (includes Sevier and Wayne Counties); and treat approximately 460 acres of pinyon-juniper encroachment and apply aerially seeding to increase vegetative diversity and decrease risk of catastrophic wildfire in the Horse Valley area south of Circleville.
San Juan County—Implement a combination of mechanical and hand cutting treatments on 637 acres to reduce pinyon-juniper encroachment and restore sagebrush meadows on Black Ridge Mesa 10 miles south of Moab; and prescribe burn 3,250 acres of aspen, mixed conifer and ponderosa pine forest to stimulate aspen regeneration on the southwest side of the La Sal Mountains 20 miles southeast of Moab.
Sanpete County—Install one 1,500-gallon subsurface tank guzzler in the Hayes Canyon area at the north end of Japanesse Valley seven miles west of Fayette in the Valley Mountains to provide a water supply for elk and deer along with a wildlife-friendly fence around it; lop and scatter encroaching pinyon and juniper on 140 acres of elk and deer winter range within the Little Valley five miles west of Fayette; install two 1,500-gallon guzzlers and treat 850 acres of winter range west of Manti; treatment to reduce pinyon-juniper on 285 acres of elk and mule deer winter range followed by aerial seeding on private lands along the west slope of the Wasatch plateau; remove pinyon-juniper from 1,021 acres of BLM and private land winter range protected with a conservation easement two miles north of Fairview; and remove pinyon-juniper on 519 acres of transitional range on Manti National Forest lands bordered by the Reeder, Sportsman’s and Swasey subdivisions (also affects Emery County).
Sevier County— Install a wildlife guzzler surrounded by wildlife-friendly fencing on the northwest portion of Triangle Mountain, where previous mechanical and seeding treatments resulted in productive forage, in an effort to keep elk and deer away from traffic on I-70 and agricultural lands near Salina; and restore 1,100 acres of elk and deer winter range along the east slope of the Pahvant Range by mechanically removing pinyon-juniper to stimulate existing browse.
Summit County—Thin encroaching juniper on 550 acres to regenerate browse and forb species; and lop and scatter approximately 290 acres of mixed conifer encroachment to regenerate browse and forb species, including aspen habitat, on critical winter range for elk, bighorn sheep and deer in the Hoop Lake area.
Tooele County—Remove up to 80 percent of existing juniper followed by seeding on 680 acres to improve sagebrush habitat on the western foothills of the Oquirrh Mountains six miles southeast of Stockton; and implement the fourth phase of a project to improve 485 acres of sagebrush habitat on the western foothills of the Oquirrh Mountains by removing cheatgrass followed by the application of herbicide and drill seeding to increase perennial grasses, forbs and sagebrush.
Unitah County—Remove encroaching pinyon and juniper trees from sagebrush habitat to improve 520 acres on Little Mountain between Vernal and Lapoin; remove pinyon-juniper trees on 470 acres of elk and mule deer winter range on Park Ridge in the Book Cliffs previously treated in 2010; treat 605 acres of pinyon-juniper to improve 605 acres of crucial elk and mule deer winter range and Greater sage-grouse nesting and rearing brood habitat on Little Mountain; remove encroaching pinyon-juniper from about 355 acres of sagebrush habitat in the Atchee Ridge area of the Book Cliffs; remove encroaching pinyon-juniper on 534 acres on Monument Ridge in the Book Cliffs; improve sagebrush habitat by removing encroaching pinyon-juniper across 634 acres in the Indian Springs Ridge area of the Book Cliffs; improve aspen stand condition along the Bookcliff Divide in the upper portion of the Book Cliffs by constructing exclosures around seven aspen stands to deter browsing on regenerating sprouts; build seven water guzzlers, each consisting of a 250-gallon buried tank and a 40′ x 20′ metal catchment apron, in the eastern portion of the Book Cliffs; and measure and quantify the overall health and condition of aspen stands in the western portion of the Book Cliffs and compare the findings with a similar data collection completed in 2012 on aspen stands in the eastern portion.
Wayne County—Create new and improve old fences, combined with water distribution to enable the Richfield Ranger District to give ample rest to pastures on three allotments in the central portion of Monroe Mountain that are planned for future habitat improvement projects.
Southern Utah— Utilize hand-seeders and Conservation Corps to seed browse species such as bitterbrush, four-wing saltbush, chokecherry, and serviceberry on elk and mule deer habitat that burned in 2012 wildfires.
Statewide—Provide funding for project to characterize ungulate impacts on aspen forests and quantify the relationships between disturbance size, aspen abundance, and ecological conditions on aspen regeneration success in areas with high ungulate use; and provide funding for an additional year of work to facilitate continued analysis of vast photo database, further work with quail, and website development as part of a project to improve the effectiveness of wildlife water developments.
Conservation 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. RMEF volunteers and staff select hunting heritage projects to receive funding.
Partners for the Utah projects include the Ashley, Dixie, Fishlake, La Sal, Manti, and Unita-Wasatch-Cache National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, local businesses, universities, private landowners, and various sportsmen, wildlife, civic and government organizations.
Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 411 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Utah with a combined value of more than $45 million that enhanced or protected more than 997,000 acres and opened or secured public access to 27,192 acres.
Logo courtesy Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation