Elk NetworkSouthern Appalachian Elk Country to Receive $1.45 Million in Conservation Funding

Conservation , News Releases | October 19, 2022

MISSOULA, Mont. — Furthering more than three decades of support in the region, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners allocated more than $1.45 million dollars over the next two years to benefit elk and elk country in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.   

“RMEF always has and remains deeply invested in restoring elk to their historic range and ensuring their future success,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “This two-year commitment bolsters elk populations by supplying grant funding for habitat enhancement, land conservation and access, research and wildlife management projects across the five states.” 

RMEF supplied nearly $650,000 in funding that leveraged more than $800,000 from partner groups. 

Specific project work includes creating wildlife water sources, forest thinning, prescribed burning, invasive vegetation treatment, forage enhancement, chronic wasting disease surveillance, calf survival and genetic analysis research, and conserving two parcels for elk habitat and to improve public access for elk hunting and other recreational activities. 

“It wasn’t that long ago that there were no elk in the Southern Appalachians, but thanks to dedicated state agency partners and support from sportsmen and women, populations are thriving,” said Weaver. 

RMEF supplied funding and volunteer support to assist with the restoration of elk to Kentucky in 1997 followed by additional restorations in Tennessee (2000), North Carolina (2001), Virginia (2012) and West Virginia (2016). Each of the states, except North Carolina and West Virginia, hold annual elk hunts that raise millions of dollars for elk management. Virginia held its inaugural elk hunt in 2022. 

Below is a list of all 15 projects, their locations and details. 

A Apply herbicide and prescribed burning treatments across 5,270 acres of reclaimed mine land to control non-native invasive vegetation. The private land offers important elk habitat and is enrolled in public access programs allowing hunting.  

Plant and fertilize 20 acres of forage openings on the Beaver Creek Wildlife Management Area to enhance habitat for elk relocated there earlier in 2022 with the assistance of RMEF. 

Provide funding to expand chronic wasting disease testing and surveillance in Kentucky’s elk zone. 

Apply a combination of prescribed burning, mastication, mowing and chain saw work to maintain 100 acres of grassland and 5,000 acres of forestland in the Redbird Ranger District on the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF).  

Enhance 220 acres of habitat via edge thinning and plantings in proximity of the 2022 DBNF elk release site. 

B Provide funding to capture and outfit elk with GPS collars and VIT transmitters to monitor calf survival. Combined with additional research, the study will benefit future elk management in the Cumberland Mountains. 

C Provide funding for research to assist with the genetic analysis of the state’s elk population to assist future management. 

D Create eight wildlife water developments and apply seeding on two separate private land parcels in Buchanan County to improve elk habitat. 

Provide funding to use thermal imagery technology via drones to conduct an elk population survey in Wise County. 

Burn 5,033 acres in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests to improve wildlife habitat in proximity to the core area for the Wise County elk herd. 

Provide funding to conserve 175 acres in Virginia’s elk zone in an area where an access agreement allows public elk hunting. 

Treat 25 acres of invasive vegetation on reclaimed mine land in Wise County to establish native warm season grasses and forbs.  

Provide funding to conserve 790 acres within Virginia’s elk zone in Appalachia’s Cumberland Forest and expand public access through an access agreement.  

E Provide funding for mowing, herbicide application and prescribed burning on 16 acres of private land used by elk and other wildlife adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Provide funding to purchase GPS collars for research to monitor elk usage of pasture recently converted to native grassland.  

Project partners include the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Daniel Boone and George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Virginia Division of Wildlife Resources, Ruffed Grouse Society, The Nature Conservancy, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and private landowners. 

Dating back to 1990, RMEF and its partners completed 580 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in the five states mentioned above with a combined value of more than $37.8 million. These projects conserved or enhanced 126,619 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 113,429 acres. 

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: 

Founded more than 38 years ago and fueled by hunters, RMEF maintains more than 225,000 members and has conserved more than 8.5 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.