MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners awarded Montana $2,197,843 in grant funding for wildlife habitat improvement, elk-related research and hunting heritage projects. RMEF directly granted $496,930 and leveraged an additional $1,700,013 in partner dollars.
“This significant amount of funding allows so much quality on-the-ground habitat work to take place all across Montana including active forest management, noxious weed treatment, aspen and watershed restoration, beneficial burns and much more,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “We are grateful for the active support of our partners in joining us to make such a difference for elk and other wildlife.”
Twenty-eight projects benefit 32,763 acres of habitat across Beaverhead, Broadwater, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Granite, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, Mineral, Missoula, Park, Petroleum, Powder River, Powell, Ravalli, Rosebud and Silver Bow Counties. There is also one project of statewide benefit.
“We salute our RMEF volunteers for their hard work and dedication,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “They generated this funding by hosting various events across Montana and elk and other species will benefit because of them.”
Montana is home to nearly 14,000 RMEF members and 20 chapters.
Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 1,120 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Montana, with a combined value of more than $200.8 million. These projects protected or enhanced 881,941 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 347,180 acres.
Here is a list of the projects, shown by county:
- Aspen growth declined more than 80 percent over the last century on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest so as part of a large-scale restoration project, crews will remove encroaching conifers within 451 acres of aspen stands in the Madison and Wisdom Ranger Districts. Additionally, crews will burn slash piles across 85 more acres.
- Treat 350 acres of noxious weeds across several drainages in the East Pioneer Mountains southeast of Wise River.
- Treat 180 acres of spotted knapweed in the Bender Creek watershed northwest of Wisdom on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
- Remove densely encroaching juniper and fir on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed land in the Elkhorn Mountains referred to as the “Iron Mask” area to benefit wildlife habitat.
Deer Lodge County
- Remove encroaching conifers across 1,192 acres within the Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area to positively impact aspen, grassland, sagebrush and riparian areas (also benefits Silver Bow County).
- Treat noxious weeds and re-seed native vegetation on 60 acres within a series of elk winter range sagebrush meadows along the North Fork Flathead River on the Flathead National Forest.
- Treat 310 acres of heavily infested spotted knapweed and other noxious weeds on habitat for elk, moose and mule deer in the Flint Creek Range in the Pintler Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
- Slow the spread of noxious weeds across 1,200 acres within the Boulder River landscape in the Butte Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest as the first part of a three-year project.
- Treat invasive weeds across 1,300 acres on the east face of Fleecer Mountain within the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. This second phase of a three-year project takes place in an area with critical winter range and year-round habitat for elk and mule deer.
- Remove encroaching conifers within 100 feet of aspen clones on 300 acres north of Whitehall to improve elk, moose and mule deer winter range in the Butte Ranger District on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
- Remove encroaching conifers within 560 acres of winter range on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest to benefit aspen stands and sagebrush growth within the Boulder River landscape
- Remove invasive vegetation, plant native seed and remove encroaching conifers across 341 acres of grasslands on the north end of the Tobacco Valley within the Kootenai National Forest.
- Remove juniper and Douglas-fir within 66 acres of riparian and meadow habitat along the Ruby River on the Lolo National Forest to enhance moose winter range as well as summer and fall habitat for migrating elk herds.
- Remove encroaching conifers across 600 acres of sagebrush grasslands on the Robb-Ledford Wildlife Management Area, RMEF’s first major land protection project dating back to 1987. The WMA offers important habitat for thousands of elk and other wildlife species.
- Slash 100 acres of heavy Douglas-fir within a ponderosa pine stand in preparation for future understory burning to improve elk winter range and decrease the risk of catastrophic wildfire west of St. Regis on the Lolo National Forest.
- Burn 1,000 acres in the Ninemile Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest to restore habitat for elk, deer, moose, turkey, upland birds and other wildlife as well as to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
- Burn 500 acres as part of a multi-year project to reduce conifer encroachment, stimulate browse and grass species, and restore the presence of fire in the Seeley Lake Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest.
- Provide funding for wildlife-friendly, drop-down fencing on private land where elk and other wildlife travel regularly in the Frenchtown-Huson area west of Missoula.
- Thin 200 acres of dense forestland in the Blackfoot Valley’s Blackfoot Block Management Area to enhance elk winter range and improve overall forest health.
- Provide funding for an ongoing study to evaluate the prevalence of brucellosis exposure in elk populations, document elk movement overlapping with livestock and evaluate the effects of brucellosis management actions such as hazing and lethal removal (also benefits Madison County).
- Treat noxious weeds across 15 acres of private land protected by a RMEF-held conservation easement in the Paradise Valley. Hundreds of elk from the Northern Yellowstone herd gather in the area every year from late winter to spring. It also offers prime habitat for mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, moose, black bears mountain lions and other animals.
- Treat noxious weeds across 4,000 acres of private land bordering the Dome Mountain Game Range to improve forage for wintering elk and deer as well as livestock.
- Burn 3,867 acres to restore vegetation and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire on BLM-managed lands. The project is part of a continuing multi-year, landscape-scale effort.
Powder River County
- Burn 3,500 acres in the Ashland Ranger District on the Custer Gallatin National Forest to improve wildlife habitat while increasing the forest’s resiliency to withstand catastrophic wildfire. The area supports a robust elk population with a high cow to calf ratio. It is also home to the world record archery elk and Montana’s new state non-typical record (also benefits Rosebud County).
- Provide funding for research to evaluate the effects of large-scale wildfire on elk forage and distribution on summer range within the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area and surrounding national forests. The study will also evaluate the impact of wildfire on elk reproductive performance and will inform land managers about the effectiveness of wildfire for improving elk forage (also benefits Missoula County).
- Remove conifers on 425 acres of the Pintler Ranger District on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest as part of a landscape-scale project to restore the watershed across the Deer Lodge Valley.
- Burn 6,204 acres in the West Fork and Sula Ranger Districts of the Bitterroot National Forest to manage vegetation and fuels to improve wildlife habitat and create forest conditions more resistant and resilient to wildfire.
Silver Bow County
- Provide funding to assist with the treatment of noxious weeds on 460 acres across the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest as well as the Mount Haggin and Fleecer Mountain Wildlife Management Areas. The project area provides critical winter range for approximately 600 elk and 80-100 mule deer.
- Provide Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) funding to support the Montana Master Hunter Program, a course designed to place more ethical, educated and effective hunters in the field.
Montana Project partners include the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bitterroot, Custer Gallatin, Flathead, Kootenai and Lolo National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and private landowners as well as other conservation and sportsmen groups and organizations.
RMEF uses proceeds from the TFE solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 36 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 8 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.