(Photo credit: Jose Alonso)
MISSOULA, Mont. — Wyoming’s elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife populations are getting a helping hand thanks to an allocation of $10,764,859 from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners. The grant funding supports 33 projects across the Cowboy State.
“There continues to be a great need to restore aspen, fight noxious weeds, establish wildlife-friendly fencing and create public access for hunting and other recreational activities,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “This funding will help all those efforts while also bolstering scientific research and advancing Wyoming’s traditional hunting lifestyle.”
Twenty-three conservation projects will benefit 17,643 acres of habitat, including land protection and public access, while the other 10 are focused on outdoor and hunting heritage efforts.
“Despite living in the state with the smallest population in America, our volunteers in Wyoming continue to do big things,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “It is because of their passion and fundraising efforts that these dollars go on the ground to help elk and many other wildlife species.”
RMEF provided $524,910 that leveraged $10,239,949 in partner dollars. The grant funding includes financial support for two Wyoming wildfire restoration projects announced earlier this year.
Dating back to 1986, RMEF and its partners completed 950 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Wyoming with a combined value of more than $211.8 million. These projects conserved or enhanced 1,343,798 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 251,325 acres.
Below is a list of the Wyoming projects, shown by county.
- Convert seven miles of barbed wire fencing to wildlife-friendly fencing on the Tom Thorne/Beth Williams Wildlife Habitat Management Area to improve movement through migration corridors and decrease entanglements.
Big Horn County
- Remove conifers encroaching on remnant aspen stands on 35 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Worland Field Office and private lands on the western slope of the Bighorn Mountains (also benefits Campbell County).
- Provide funding to support the Gillette High School Trap League, a growing program that offers a safe environment for novice to seasoned shooters, grades 7-12, to learn and compete in shooting sports.
- Treat 72 acres of private aspen habitat under an RMEF voluntary conservation agreement within the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests to address encroaching conifers and dying or diseased aspen.
- Convert eight miles of fence to wildlife-friendly fencing on the Red Rim-Grizzly Wildlife Habitat Management Area south of Rawlins, a priority migration route for mule deer and used by elk year-round.
- Improve water distribution on private land under an RMEF voluntary conservation agreement to supply water, forage and cover for elk and other wildlife. Treat 2,295 acres of critical elk range across the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, Thunder Basin National Grassland, private and BLM land. It lies within the 2018 Ryan Wildfire footprint that supplies critical elk winter range and is part of the $7.8 million wildfire restoration effort announced by RMEF in June. RMEF supplied Torstenson Family Endowment funding for this project.
- Treat 387 acres of invasive weeds in the Laramie Ranger District on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests burned by the 2020 Mullen Wildfire. This project is also part of the wildfire restoration grants announced by RMEF last month.
- Remove encroaching conifers across 413 acres within aspen stands in the Laramie Ranger District on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and state land, an area that is important big game range (also benefits Albany County).
- Provide funding to conserve 2,600 acres of private land under a voluntary conservation agreement. Doing so protects and ensures its agricultural use and wildlife values while removing the threat of residential development.
- Implement a series of treatment methods including conifer removal, prescribed burning and beaver relocation to improve habitat for elk and mule deer across 750 acres of BLM Lander Field Office and private lands. The treatment will also reduce the risk of severe wildfire.
- Provide funding to support the Wyoming Outdoor Weekend & Expo, a free, family-friendly event centered on conservation and outdoor activities.
- Remove old barbed wire fencing in the Lander Ranger District on the Shoshone National Forest as part of a multi-year project to improve big game migration.
Hot Springs County
- Provide funding to support Hot Springs County 4-H Shooting Sports, a program with more than 80 youth that learn proper safety and handling of archery and firearms, as well as conservation.
- Improve 3,904 acres of habitat by removing old fencing and replacing other fencing, where needed, with wildlife-friendly fencing on the Ellis Wildlife Habitat Management Area (WHMA) on the southern end of the Bighorn Mountains. The WHMA serves as elk calving range as well as summer range for elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope (also benefits Washakie County).
- Provide funding for the Nocked & Loaded 4-H Shooting Sports Club in Afton. The club teaches boys and girls how to safely shoot and handle firearms and bows.
- Provide funding for a scientific study to gain more information about elk migrations along the Absaroka Front in the Bighorn Basin. Using historical records, researchers will assess changes to migration routes and consider how those may impact ranchers, hunters and outfitters (also benefits Big Horn, Hot Springs and Washakie Counties).
- Provide funding for research documenting the extensive network of fences encountered by migrating elk, mule deer and other wildlife to identify where removal/modification of fences is most needed.
- Treat invasive weeds on 6,098 acres of elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and sage grouse habitat on private land north of Cody. It supplies crucial winter and yearlong range for elk and mule deer. The land is also enlisted in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s (WGFD) Access Yes program for hunting.
- As part of a multi-year effort, remove encroaching conifers within aspen stands on BLM Worland Field Office and private lands.
- Provide funding support for the Cody Archery Club’s K Bar Z 3D Archery Shoot in Crandall. The annual event draws around 250 shooters from Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and South Dakota (also benefits Big Horn, Laramie, Teton and Yellowstone Counties).
- Provide funding for Platte County 4-H Shooting Sports. Youth develop life skills through participation in shooting sports, including marksmanship, safe and responsible use of firearms and hunting.
- Purchase a second highway messaging sign near the intersection of I-25 and Wyoming Highway 34 to reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions (also benefits Albany County).
- Plant 6,000 willows and aspen in the upper stretches of Big Willow Creek in the Tongue Ranger District on the Bighorn National Forest to increase habitat suitability for beavers and improve habitat for a variety of other wildlife species.
- Provide funding to support WGFD’s hunter education course for youth ages 10-18 at Big Horn Middle School. Participants learn about firearm safety, conservation, outdoor skills and ethical hunting.
- Provide funding to support the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt, a week-long event emphasizing hunter safety, safe use of firearms, ethical hunting and conservation of wildlife and natural resources.
- Provide funding to conserve 820 acres of private land northwest of Big Piney via a voluntary conservation agreement. Doing so protects wildlife and riparian habitat including meadows and sagebrush rangeland.
- Provide funding for Sweetwater County 4-H Shooting Sports, a club that helps youth have fun while participating in archery, air rifle and firearms shooting.
- Remove and replace 1.4 miles of dilapidated stock fencing with wildlife-friendly steel pipe fencing on private land adjacent to the Horse Creek Wildlife Habitat Management Area, used as winter range by more than 2,000 elk.
- Provide funding for a Wyoming Migration Initiative spatial analyst to evaluate and rank various properties and their value to big game, risk for potential development and to prioritize potential voluntary conservation agreement projects to benefit elk, mule deer and other wildlife.
- Provide funding for WGFD’s Access Yes program for hunting and fishing. In 2022, Access Yes supplied hunting access to 2.8 million acres of enrolled private and state lands as well as adjacent public lands.
- Provide funding to support the First Hunt Foundation, a volunteer mentoring and education organization that now includes 100 mentors and four chapters with events held across the state.
- Provide funding to support Wyoming Disabled Hunters, a nonprofit that hosts elk, deer and pronghorn antelope hunts for those with disabilities from across the country.
Partners include the Bureau of Land Management; Bighorn, Shoshone and Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests; Wyoming Game and Fish Department; private landowners; University of Wyoming; and conservation, outdoorsmen, business, civic and other groups and individuals.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 39 years ago and fueled by hunters, RMEF maintains more than 225,000 members and has conserved more than 8.6 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.