September 25, 2015
Conservation Funding to Place Elk Habitat in Public’s Hands
MISSOULA, Mont.—A recent distribution from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will allow the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to carry out the planned transfer of three properties to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The U.S. Department of Interior announced the distribution of $42 million in LWCF funding to all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia to promote outdoor recreation and conservation. Of that amount, $2 million was allocated to the BLM for Sportsman/Recreational Access projects which then selected the RMEF projects as well as a few others.
“We are thrilled over the release of this vital and much-needed LWCF funding,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “RMEF already worked with our partners to permanently protect two of the three tracts of important elk habitat in three different states and now we are able to convey them to the public for hunters and others to access and enjoy.”
One of the projects is in southeast Idaho and is surrounded by BLM and Idaho Department of Fish and Game lands. It will expand the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) by 398 acres and improve access to the north end of the WMA.
Another project features 160 acres of prime elk habitat in southwest Wyoming at the confluence of Miller and La Barge Creeks. Linking the Lake Mountain Wilderness Study Area and the Miller Mountain Management Area with this parcel will secure year-round public access and parking for the public who enjoy camping, hunting, angling and other recreation.
The third project covers 351 acres in the Cache Creek Natural Area of north-central California which contains vital wildlife and riparian habitat. The project secures legal access to recreational opportunities and resource protection.
The properties total 909 acres but together they open or secure public access to approximately 55,000 acres of public land.
“The Bureau’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation is very appreciative of all the hard work and resources contributed by our partners at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to help improve public access to BLM lands,” said Stephen Small, BLM Chief, Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. “RMEF's assistance with three of the six recently-awarded LWCF projects highlights the importance of hunting and fishing access to the successful conservation and management of fish and wildlife resources on federal lands.”
To date, RMEF utilized more than $85 million in LWCF funding across 62 projects in ten different states in partnership with federal agencies to protect, conserve and open access to some of the most vital elk country in the United States.
“We are grateful for our partners at the BLM for their persistence in making this happen. This funding source is crucial for wildlife, our landscape and for all Americans,” added Henning.
Established in 1965, LWCF funding is derived from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. Since its inception, more than $4 billion in LWCF funding has been made available to state and local governments to fund more than 40,000 projects located in nearly every county throughout the nation.
Without action from Congress, the LWCF will expire September 30. The BLM’s request of Sportsman/Recreational Access funding for the 2016 budget is $4 million.