The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded almost half a million dollars in grants to 14 states in the East and Midwest that fund nearly three dozen habitat enhancement projects that will benefit not only elk, but numerous other species native to these states.
The grants, awarded in 2014, total $467,756 and directly affect about 31,000 combined acres in Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
“Thanks to this latest batch of grants, RMEF has now awarded 2014 grants to all 28 states with wild, free-ranging elk populations,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Funding from the Torstenson Family Endowment helped pay for 17 these projects. We are also grateful to our hard-working RMEF volunteers who helped raise additional funds through membership drives, banquet activities and other events.”
Allen also thanked RMEF volunteers and members from around their country for their support of conservation.
RMEF grants fund the following 2014 projects, some of which carry over into 2015, listed by state and county:
Newton County—Maintain early successional vegetation on 376 acres with brush hog/fertilizer treatments to restore mixed open and woodland habitat on the Ozark National Forest.
Searcy County—Provide Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) funding to continue work on the Buffalo National River and surrounding Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) to develop new and improve existing elk habitat with field improvements, forage plantings, noxious weed treatment and prescribed burning positively affecting 5,440 acres (also affects Newton County).
Riley County—Seed 300 acres of wheat, 110 acres of corn and 59 acres of sunflower followed by fertilizer and herbicide treatments on existing elk forage plots on the Fort Riley Military Reservation to also benefit turkey, bobwhite quail, ring necked pheasant, whitetail deer and many non-game species (also affects Geary and Clay Counties); and use TFE funds to convert cool season grasses to more beneficial early successional plant species and aid in the control of noxious weeds with aerial herbicide application in order to benefit about 2,500 acres of grassland on Fort Riley (also affects Geary and Clay Counties).
Breathitt County—Improve 40 acres on the Paul van Booven WMA through invasive species control of autumn olive, establishment of mixed hard and soft wood stands, forage seeding and thinning white pine.
Cheboygan County—Provide TFE funding to plant buckwheat and clover on 63 acres that have been cleared of brush, and hydro-ax another 62 acres to facilitate future prescribed burning on the Pigeon River State Forest to improve elk habitat.
Beltrami County—Brush sheer 250 acres where prescribed burning cannot be effectively used to regenerate new growth within the Grygla, Moose River and Wapiti WMAs (also affects Marshall County).
Kittson County—Implement prescribed burn operations and treat noxious weeds that threaten elk habitat on 2,000 acres in the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands (also affects Marshall, Roseau and Beltrami Counties); establish high quality forage plots on 156 acres of state and private lands to draw elk away from agricultural crops and increase acceptance of elk while also benefitting bear, deer, moose, sharp-tailed grouse and sandhill cranes (also affects Marshall County); and provide funding for treatment of buckthorn infestations and to conduct prescribed burns on 200 acres in various WMAs (also affectsMarshall and Roseau Counties).
Marshall County— Conduct prescribed fire and aspen girdling and removal operations on 2,895 acres of the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge where the lack of disturbance over more than 70 years has allowed aspen and willow to encroach on historically open grasslands and oak savannah habitat.
Carter County—Use TFE funding for fire line construction, prescribed fire, woodland thinning, cedar removal, and creation and seeding of forage openings to improve 520 acres of habitat within the core area of Missouri's elk herd (also affects Shannon and Reynolds Counties);
Dawes County—Provide TFE funding to replace three non-functioning wildlife water developments on the Pine Ridge Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest that were destroyed or heavily damaged by high intensity wildfires in 2006 and 2012.
Lincoln County—Provide TFE funding to mechanically thin up to 70 acres of Eastern Red Cedar to enhance the deciduous component and open the understory to increase browse forage for elk on the Wapiti WMA.
Scotts Bluff County—Use TFE funding to install a 1,000-gallon capacity wildlife water catchment on the Montz Point State WMA benefitting elk, bighorn sheep and mule deer.
Sheridan County—Provide TFE funding to install three water catchments and a well water system to replace structures damaged by a 2012 wildfire on the Metcalf WMA.
Haywood County—Provide TFE funding for a series of low intensity controlled burns over a number of years –affecting 2,200 acres this time around– to restore the composition and open structure of the oak and pine woodlands within the 4,000+ acre Canadian Top project area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Cataloochee Valley; and create 22 acres of forage openings with mechanical manipulation in the Appalachian Ranger District on the Pisgah National Forest to restore 285 acres of quality elk habitat over the next 2-3 years in four phases.
Swain County—Use TFE funding to clear, mow, seed and fertilize 11 acres to maintain forage openings on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Reserve that have demonstrated to be an important stopping points for elk to rest and feed during seasonal migrations into and out of the neighboring Great Smoky Mountains National Park (also affects Jackson, Graham and Haywood Counties).
Cherokee County—Provide TFE funding to maintain 10 miles of firebreaks and road access, prepping for future prescribed burns and renovate 60 acres of forage openings encroached by larger woody species in the Cherokee WMA; and use TFE funding to prepare five miles of fireguard for future burning by pushing timber 15 feet off 3.5 miles of road used for fireguard and creating 1.5 miles of new fire line in the Cookson WMA.
Leflore County—Use TFE funding to restore 11 miles of old roads and fire lines to increase burnable acres on the Wister WMA that hasn't seen fire in more than 15 years (also affects Latimer County).
Pushmataha County—Provide TFE funding to burn 5,000 acres of forest and use brush control on an additional 480 acres to improve abundance and quality of year-round forage for elk in the Pushmataha WMA.
Cameron County—Continue 20+ years of work on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northcentral Region by applying appropriate treatments of herbicide, lime, seed and fertilizer to maintain 2,050 acres of existing herbaceous openings to enhance elk habitat (also affects Elk, Clearfield, Clinton andCentre Counties).
McKean County—Plant new clovers on 16 acres of reclaimed surface mines on State Game Lands #311 with high alkaline soil amendments to improve elk viewing and hunting opportunities.
Morgan County—Provide funding for a project to investigate the effectiveness of prescribed fire with and without selective herbicides in converting understory canopy to early succession and enhancing forage availability and quality for elk and other wildlife on 340 acres in the Cumberland Mountains (also affects Anderson and Scott Counties).
Campbell County—Brush hog, fertilize and drill seed 83 acres to provide high quality forage on soils that have been strip-mined for coal on the only elk viewing area in the state in the North Cumberland WMA; and provide TFE funding to create and enhance 42 acres of foraging habitat on Gunsight Mountain and in Bear Wallow Hollow of the North Cumberland WMA for Tennessee's growing elk herd through mechanical clearing and seeding, reducing elk pressure on adjacent private lands.
Wise County—Clear non-native invasive autumn olive and other woody shrub species from 28 acres of existing forest openings adjacent to the North Fork of Pound Reservoir on the Jefferson National Forest to improve forage conditions for elk coming over the ridge of Pine Mountain from Kentucky while also improving trail access to the Laurel Fork primitive campground, perhaps providing visitors with an opportunity to view elk and other wildlife.
Buchanan County—Provide TFE funding to create and enhance natural and man-made habitat on 160 acres in Virginia's Elk Restoration Zone to encourage elk to use this designated area and provide the forage and water needed for the herd to grow to a sustainable population.
McDowell County—Provide TFE funding to clear and seed 10 acres, apply border edge cuts to 12 additional acres and create two water hole developments to improve forage conditions on the Panther WMA within West Virginia’s Elk Management Zone.
Ashland County—Maintain spring and summer forage sites and accelerate restoration of aspen habitat on 318 acres on the Chequamegon National Forest within the Clam Lake Elk Range via mowing, hand clearing and prescribed fire.
Jackson County—Improve early successional grassland habitat by treating and then seeding 30 acres adjacent to potential release sites for the Black River elk reintroduction thus maintaining high quality habitat near the core of the Black River elk herd range.
Sawyer County—Enhance 450 acres through a variety of treatments including prescribed fire, mowing, fertilizing and planting on the Flambeau River State Forest, the Sawyer County Forest and Kimberly Clark Wildlife Area within the Clam Lake elk herd range (also affects Price County).
Conservation projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies and universities.
Partners for the projects include state and federal agencies, tribal organizations, conservation groups, businesses, private landowners, universities and other organizations.
RMEF uses TFE funding solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.