Elk NetworkRMEF Testifies on Capitol Hill

Conservation | May 21, 2019

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently (5/15/2019) accepted an invitation to testify before lawmakers in Washington DC about the impacts of climate change on western forests and what that means for elk.

“On many western forests, a mixed-conifer habitat with openings for forage and adjacent cover has the optimum biological diversity to support elk and other wildlife species,” said Mark Lambrecht, RMEF director of government affairs. “Instead, long-term fire suppression, lack of active forest management and insects and diseases has deteriorated tens of millions of acres of habitat. This has a significant impact on elk herd distribution, nutrition and reproduction.”

Increasing temperatures contributed to outbreaks of forest insects and diseases that killed an unprecedented number of trees and caused larger, more frequent and more intense wildfires—making many western forests carbon emitters rather than the carbon sinks they should be. This situation significantly impacts elk habitat on public lands, causing them to move to private lands where they find more abundant nutritious forage—causing problems for private landowners and making them unavailable for public hunting and viewing.

Lambrecht, who was introduced to the panel by Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), and three other witnesses accepted invitations by Subcommittee Chair Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Ranking Member Rep. Don Young (R-AK) to discuss how climate change is impacting outdoor recreation.

In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Haaland said, “In my home state of New Mexico, warmer temperatures are shifting ecosystems, forcing wildlife to shift their behaviors and migration patterns, which impacts hunting.”

Lambrecht’s testimony provided evidence about increasing tree mortality and declining timber growth on western forests and the need for active management to restore forests. He said recent research in Washington, Oregon and Montana demonstrated long-term fire suppression and lack of active forest management impacts elk distribution and reproduction—especially during the critical summer months.

(Video source: House Natural Resources Committee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands)