RMEF volunteers were treated to a surprise on the second day of their habitat improvement project on Coos County’s Seven Devils property in August of 2020. A 16-year- old girl had just found success in Oregon’s youth elk hunt. She and her dad climbed up out of the canyon where she’d shot the elk, carrying packs of meat and wearing proud grins.
“A young lady filled her cow tag while we were there. That was one of the high points of the day,” says RMEF life member and South Coast Chapter cochair Rick Gleason.
Mark Allard, an RMEF volunteer for the past 12 years, drove 200 miles to help coordinate the project, which drew 20 volunteers from RMEF’s South Coast, Yamhill County and Eugene chapters. He took a break from the habitat work to present the young hunter with an RMEF knife and hat in congratulations.
Bill Richardson saw the Seven Devils property pop up on the market three years ago. RMEF’s senior lands program manager for Oregon and Washington, he has a good working relationship with state and federal agency staff, and tipped off Coos County Forester Lance Morgan, himself an RMEF life member since 1989.
More and more private properties in Coos County have begun charging access fees. The county wanted to provide more public lands for outdoor activities including hunting, while managing the land for timber harvest revenue that will help support county services. Coos County Forestry Department moved to purchase the Seven Devils property in 2018.
Amid a sea of coastal forests, this 760-acre parcel hosts forested land, but also lush meadows. The property was cleared for cattle grazing decades ago, but now is used intensely by Roosevelt’s elk herds. “It’s been kind of an elk mecca for a long time,” says Morgan.
RMEF granted Coos County $75,000 to cement a public access and habitat improvement partnership that will continue into the future.
“We got a grant to improve the property,” says Morgan. “The fences were grown over and in total disrepair. The whole thing has been logged over and needs a lot of TLC.”
The RMEF volunteers turned out on August 8 and 9 along with members of the Oregon Hunters Association and Oregon Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Their goal-to lend some of that much-needed TLC.
South Coast Chapter cochair Gary Haga brought his tractor to mow the chest-high grass, which made it easier for volunteers to pull up run-down barbed wire fencing and replace it with new wildlife- friendly fencing no higher than 42 inches. They also set those fences farther back from the creek to help protect riparian habitat from overgrazing, and allow wildlife to jump the fences with more ease.
“We got an incredible amount of fencing and brush clearing done,” says Allard.
The volunteers plan to continue that work across the coming years to ensure many more successful youth elk hunts. So far, they’re off to a pretty good start.