The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded grants to fund more than 50 projects that will improve more than 51,000 acres of habitat for elk and other wildlife in 22 counties across Utah.
The grants, awarded in 2014, total $226,500 and will directly benefit Beaver, Box Elder, Cache, Carbon, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, Garfield, Grand, Iron, Juab, Kane, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Summit, Tooele, Uintah, Washington and Wayne Counties. There are also two projects with statewide benefits.
“It’s vital for elk to have access to the nutrition they need to survive in this arid, high desert region. This funding will help clear encroaching pinyon and juniper trees in many areas that stifle forage for elk, deer and other wildlife,” said David Allen. “The grants will also restore ailing water sources and assist with the construction of new guzzlers.”
Allen thanked Utah volunteers who raised the grant funding through banquets, membership drives and other events. He also thanked volunteers and members from around the country for their dedication to elk, elk country and conservation.
Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 451 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Utah with a combined value of more than $51.3 million. These projects have protected and enhanced 999,138 acres and opened or secured public access to 27,192 acres of land.
RMEF grants will help fund the following projects, many of which carry over into 2015, listed by county:
Beaver County—Improve up to 2,850 acres of elk and mule deer winter range and reduce hazardous fuels on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands near Beaver and North Creek by broadcast seeding and then mechanically treating encroaching pinyon-juniper; and aerially seed 500 acres of low elevation pinyon-juniper woodland habitat that was treated by prescribed fire in 2012-2013 to combat potential cheatgrass invasion and reduce soil erosion in a steep, inaccessible canyon east of Sulphurdale on the Fishlake National Forest.
Box Elder County—Improve 950 acres of BLM sagebrush habitat in the Etna area by thinning juniper and then seeding with desirable forage species; and capture and transplant up to 50 bighorn sheep from the Newfoundland Mountains to meet population management objectives for the area and relocate the animals to the Oak Creek Mountains.
Cache County—Remove 21 acres of subalpine fir at the top of Green Canyon east of Paradise and Hyrum where the fir trees are outcompeting mature aspen stands due to fire suppression; and treat approximately 600 acres of sagebrush habitat in Elk Valley in the Saddle Creek drainage on the Cache National Forest to reintroduce disturbance and create a more varied structure and reduce wildfire hazards to the north of the Hardware Ranch.
Carbon County—Implement a hazardous fuels reduction/habitat restoration/forest health project on 566 acres within an approximately 2,000-acre project area that includes the Ford Creek and Diamanti Canyon areas on BLM lands; remove encroaching conifer trees on 68 acres of the Cold Springs Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to promote aspen and desirable forbs for big game and grouse 12 miles northeast of Sunnyside; and apply two-way chain treatment to 308 acres of pinyon-juniper followed by seeding to improve winter range conditions for deer and elk and reinvigorate sagebrush communities southwest of Helper.
Daggett County—Replace two old guzzlers on Bare Top Mountain which is home to the largest bighorn sheep herd in northeast Utah while also benefitting elk, mule deer and pronghorn; seed 300 acres of thinned pinyon-juniper encroachment to increase grass and browse cover on crucial big game winter range in Browns Park at the mouth of Birch Creek Canyon on Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) and private lands; and apply pre-commercial thinning of young lodgepole pine and conifer removal from riparian areas and sagebrush communities to improve 1,482 acres of habitat in the Cart Creek watershed on the Ashley National Forest.
Duchesne County—Improve 584 acres of winter range through removal of pinyon-juniper trees encroaching into sagebrush habitat at the top of Gate Canyon on BLM lands southwest of Myton; lop and scatter encroaching pinyon-juniper on 1,150 acres of elk, deer and potential sage grouse Wyoming big sagebrush winter habitat at the top of Gates Canyon; install two wildlife guzzler tanks and aprons in the Big Wash area of the Ninemile-Anthro Wildlife Management Unit in an area where numerous pinyon-juniper management projects have been completed; and lop and scatter encroaching pinyon-juniper and Douglas fir trees on 1,272 acres of sagebrush and mountain brush communities on the Jeep Trail and Nutters Ridge areas of Anthro Mountain on Ashley National Forest southeast of Duchesne; and seed 240 acres to improve winter range for elk, mule deer and sage grouse on the Tabby Mountain WMA.
Garfield County—Improve 2,000 acres of elk, sage grouse, mule deer and pronghorn habitat and reduce hazardous fuels on BLM lands near Hatch by broadcast seeding and then mulching pinyon-juniper encroachment; develop trailheads on the Mt. Dutton/Sevier Plateau area on the Dixie National Forest as a continuation of Dedicated Hunter projects which have developed trailheads into roadless areas for hunter access by foot and horseback; and construct a 10,200-gallon wildlife guzzler to benefit elk, mule deer and pronghorn in the Sage Hen Hollow area approximately nine miles southwest of Panguitch on SITLA land while also installing a fence to exclude livestock.
Grand County—Improve big game winter range northeast of the Green River in the Floy area of the Book Cliffs by lopping and scattering 642 acres of pinyon-juniper, and also apply bullhog treatment to an additional 660 acres on BLM, SITLA and private lands; install three new big game guzzlers on the Little Creek Ridge WMA in the Book Cliffs; and install three new water guzzlers, two at Hatch Point and one in Hell Roaring Canyon, as part of a multi-year effort to restore wildlife water developments across BLM lands in the Moab area (also affects San Juan and Wayne Counties).
Iron County—Perform lop and scatter maintenance treatments in previously chained areas in the northwest corner of the Cedar City Ranger District on the Dixie National Forest to improve winter range for elk and mule deer while also applying bitterbrush seeding.
Juab County—Improve sagebrush habitat on the south end of the East Tintic Mountains on BLM lands by thinning pinyon-juniper on approximately 855 acres and then seeding where necessary; and improve winter forage opportunities on 836 acres in the Salt Creek drainage on the Uinta National Forest to avoid supplemental feeding and depredation issues on adjacent private lands by establishing natural winter forage plots through seeding and transplants.
Millard County—Conduct two-way chain treatments of pinyon-juniper on 682 acres of the North Fillmore WMA, install a new pipeline and two watering troughs for wildlife, and apply supplemental seeding with grasses and forbs; and apply two-way chain pinyon and juniper and one-way chain treatments to older sagebrush stands to reduce fuel loads, improve critical wildlife habitat, improve rangeland and watershed health, and increase the understory of grasses, forbs, and shrub species on private land on the east side of the Phavant Management Unit.
Piute County—Remove encroaching pinyon-juniper trees from mature tree stands on 946 acres within the Cedar Grove areas on SITLA and BLM lands on the northwest portion of Parker Mountain; clean up and remove old debris from five water source ponds and upgrade them to catch water from winter runoff and seasonal rainfall on Parker Mountain; lop and scatter encroaching pinyon-juniper from 1,500 acres of BLM lands while applying two-way chained treatment and seeding to an additional 730 acres between Parker Mountain and Grass Valley (also affects Sevier and Wayne Counties); and apply harrow treatment to 1,200 acres of elk and mule deer habitat on the Fishlake National Forest to reduce decadent big sagebrush and enhance browse (also affects Wayne and Sevier Counties).
Sanpete County—Improve 1,393 acres of winter range by hand-cutting pinyon-juniper encroaching into a previously chained area, seeding three shrub islands and cleaning out and sealing three storage ponds on BLM lands in Antelope Valley; and use hand and mechanical treatments to remove pinyon-juniper from approximately 629 acres in the eastern portion of the Ferron/Price Ranger District on the Manti National Forest. Up to 40 percent of the project area may be treated with prescribed fire (also affects Emery County).
Sevier County—Lop and scatter pinyon-juniper trees encroaching on 1,847 acres of important wintering sagebrush communities within the Sand Ledges Recreation Area on SITLA and BLM lands east of Richfield; mechanically treat more than 700 acres of wildlife habitat as part of an ecosystem restoration and hazardous fuels reduction project focusing on improving native species diversity adjacent to the mountain community of Acord Lakes on the Fishlake National Forest; conduct two-way chaining treatment with seeding between passes to remove encroaching pinyon-juniper on 897 acres approximately 15 miles east of Richfield on SITLA land; and lop and scatter encroaching pinyon-juniper on 2,507 acres of elk and mule deer winter range on BLM lands within the Monroe Mountain area and also install two 1,500-gallon capacity guzzlers and repair one existing guzzler in the treatment area.
Summit County—Lop and scatter encroaching conifers on 332 acres of critical elk, moose and mule deer habitat, as well as potential bighorn sheep habitat on the north slope of the Uinta Mountains on the Wasatch National Forest eight miles northeast of Hoop Lake.
Tooele County—Thin pinyon-juniper on approximately 1,070 acres of BLM land on the south and west side of the East Tintic Mountains and aerially seed areas lacking perennial grasses and forbs; and improve sagebrush habitat on 1,050 acres by thinning encroaching juniper and seeding where necessary on the east facing slopes of the Onaqui Mountains.
Uintah County—Install four wildlife guzzlers in pinyon and juniper treatment areas on Atchee Ridge in the Book Cliffs to better distribute wildlife, including elk and bison, throughout treated areas in an effort to reduce pressure on regenerating aspen stands; install an additional water well with a solar-powered water pump to distribute water to a nearby trough at the Mail Draw WMA and also clean out 11 existing small ponds in the Rye Grass, Sears Canyon and Mail Draw areas (also affects Daggett County); and remove encroaching pinyon-juniper that are actively competing with sagebrush, grasses and forbs on SITLA and BLM lands in the Diamond Mountain area
Washington County—Aerially seed approximately 1,939 acres of existing fuel breaks around New Harmony to improve their effectiveness and enhance forage for elk, mule deer and Rio Grande wild turkey on the Dixie National Forest; build a 10,200-gallon wildlife guzzler, and the fencing to exclude livestock, in the Beaver Dam Mountains in southern Utah to support wildlife, particularly desert bighorn sheep; provide funding to capture up to 70 bighorn sheep on BLM lands and potentially within Zion National Park and transplant them to Nokai Dome on the San Juan River (also affects Kane County); and apply RMEF volunteer manpower to install a new water guzzler on a non-working guzzler site and build an exclosure fence in the Pine Valley Mountains north of St. George on the Dixie National Forest.
Wayne County—Clean and remove debris from established pond structures on BLM lands on Parker Mountain to increase water storage of winter runoff and seasonal rainfall, and to support wildlife and livestock grazing management systems.
Statewide—Apply funding for a study to develop an explicit understanding of elk spatial ecology in northern Utah in order to enable the identification of high-risk areas for the transmission of elk-borne brucellosis and provide the basis for a novel strategic adaptive management approach to controlling the spread of the disease in elk at the landscape scale, thereby mitigating the risk of spillover to livestock; and provide funding for a study placing radio collars on 300 elk throughout the state to better understand elk movements, help inform management decisions and allow managers to better manage population objectives.
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 Utah projects include the Ashley, Dixie, Fishlake, Manti and Unita-Wasatch-Cache National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, local businesses, universities, private landowners, and various sportsmen, wildlife, civic and government organizations.