MISSOULA, Mont.—Shortly before the ball dropped to ring in 2015, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation closed the deal on seven different land projects in four states that permanently protect and conserve 10,565 acres of vital elk habitat. Three of the projects, two in Montana and one in North Dakota, create 3,601 acres of new public access and enhance access to thousands of more acres of public lands.
“We appreciate these conservation-minded landowners and our conservation partners who worked with the RMEF to protect and maintain this crucial habitat for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation.
Four of the projects are voluntary conservation easement agreements between landowners and the RMEF to permanently protect habitat on private acreage for the benefit of wildlife. The other three are land acquisitions. RMEF purchased ownership of two Montana properties which will be conveyed to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and contributed funds toward a North Dakota Game and Fish Department acquisition.
“These Montana and North Dakota projects are a win-win for wildlife and those who enjoy the outdoors. What was once private land that benefits a wide array of species is now permanently protected and will be added to expand three existing wildlife management areas,” added Henning.
RMEF land projects (listed by state):
Morellini Creek Conservation Easement, California
The Philip S. Berry estate donated a conservation easement to the RMEF on approximately 2,500 acres of Tule elk habitat south of California’s Pinnacles National Park (previously National Monument). The easement will protect the property’s natural oak, grass, and scrub ecosystem and continue to provide habitat for its small resident Tule elk herd as well as black-tailed deer and a wide variety of wildlife.
Little Shasta – Fogg Gulch Conservation Easement, California
RMEF teamed up with the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Wildlife Conservation Board and a committed landowner to permanently protect 640 acres of prime elk habitat in north-central California. The ranch is located on rolling foothills with seasonal drainages in Little Shasta Valley. The easement will protect important Roosevelt elk habitat, including riparian areas, that is also used by antelope, black-tailed deer, mule deer and other wildlife.
Telegraph Gulch Conservation Easement, Montana
The First Citizens Bank of Butte, Montana, donated this conservation easement to RMEF to protect 708 acres of elk and wildlife habitat adjacent to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The property’s wildlife habitat consists of a good mixture of forests, aspen groves and grassland meadows. According to FWP, resident elk utilize this land on a year-round basis for its winter, spring, summer and fall forage, plus some wet springs and possibly calving areas. It also provides habitat for deer, black bear, grouse, mountain lion, turkey and many other species.
Wall Creek Acquisition, Montana
RMEF acquired 631 acres of vital elk winter range in the Madison Valley of southwestern Montana adjacent to the 7,067-acre Madison-Wall Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The entire southern edge of this property borders the existing WMA, which provides crucial winter range for 2,000 elk as well as hundreds of mule deer and pronghorn antelope. The east edge borders Bureau of Land Management land that runs clear to the Madison River. RMEF plans to convey the land to FWP this coming summer.
Whitetail Prairie Acquisition, Montana
The Voegele Family and FWP partnered with RMEF to help conserve 2,810 acres of important wildlife habitat adjacent to the 31,947-acre Beartooth Wildlife Management Area in western Montana. The land is valuable year-round habitat for elk, antelope, mule deer and whitetail deer, bear, mountain lion and numerous non-game species. The project was made possible through funding from RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) and additional financial support from the Cinnabar Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation and Safari Club International.
Chavez Creek II Phase II Conservation Easement, New Mexico
This donated conservation easement protects 3,116 acres of private land south of Chama, New Mexico. Adjacent to other existing RMEF easements protecting approximately 1,300 acres, this property contains elk winter and summer range, calving habitat and transitional range. It also provides habitat for the Mexican spotted owl, peregrine falcon, northern goshawk and lynx.
Pembina Hills Acquisition, North Dakota
RMEF contributed funds for the acquisition of 160 acres adjacent to Pembina Hills Wildlife Management Area by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. This transaction provides new public access and will protect key habitat for North Dakota's north eastern elk herd and many other species that rely on these native woodlands.
In 2014, RMEF permanently protected 24,383 acres in nine different states and opened or improved public access to 61,817 acres across six states.
RMEF uses TFE funding solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.