Without fire, forest health suffers because of overly dense limbs and leaves above that block sunshine to the forest floor below, thwarting the growth of nutritional forage needed by elk and other wildlife.
Such forests also become vulnerable to large scale insect and disease outbreaks.
That’s why, dating back to 2002, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in Oklahoma provided more than $200,000 in grant funding for extensive prescribed burn treatments, as well as other habitat enhancement projects and research
Among other things, that funding helped the state purchase a $10,000 aerial ignition system 15 years ago that has been heavily used ever since
One of the longest-running research projects evaluating vegetation response to fire frequency continues on the Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area in southeast Oklahoma.
That’s where researchers uncovered this amazing finding—closed canopy control plots that were neither thinned or burned produce a mere 200 pounds of forage per acre.
But treated savannah areas—thinned and then burned on two-year intervals—produce a whopping 4,000 pounds of forage per acre for wildlife.
RMEF-funded prescribed burns on the Pushmataha and four other WMA’s have so far benefitted more than 104,000 acres of Oklahoma wildlife habitat.Restoring elk country is core to RMEF’s Managed Lands Initiative.
Since 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners completed nearly 12,000 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects that protected or enhanced more than 7.6 million acres of wildlife habitat.