MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded $127,686 in grants to improve wildlife water supplies, enhance elk habitat, fund research and assist youth hunting heritage programs in New Mexico.
The grants directly affect 8,141 acres in Apache, Catron, De Baca, Grant, Lincoln, Otero, Rio Arriba, San Juan, Sandoval and Socorro Counties. There is also one project with statewide benefits.
“New Mexico provides some of the best elk country in the Southwest but it’s also extremely dry,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Of the 17 projects this latest round of RMEF grants cover, seven of them focus on creating or improving the water supply for elk and dozens of other species of wildlife and birds.”
Allen thanked RMEF volunteers and members in New Mexico who raised the grant funding by hosting banquets, membership drives and other activities. He also thanked members and volunteers across the nation for their dedication to conservation, elk and elk country.
The 2014 grants will help fund the following projects, listed by county:
Apache County—Provide funding for the Navajo Nation Youth Hunt where boys and girls attend two range days with their mentors to learn and practice their skills before taking part in a deer hunt in the Carizzo Mountains.
Catron County—Thin 1,370 acres of ponderosa pine and pinyon/juniper to restore historic grassland, improve watershed conditions, regain forage for grazing wildlife and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire within the Slaughter Mesa area on the Gila National Forest; and provide funding from the Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) to treat 2,311 acres with prescribed fire within the Eckelberger and Sheep Basin areas on the Gila National Forest to improve wildlife habitat and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
De Baca County—Provide funding for the De Baca County 4-H shooting sports program which offers education and experience in shooting, firearm safety, teamwork and other skills for youth ages 9-19.
Grant County—Provide TFE funding to apply broadcast burning to 420 acres in the Wilderness Ranger District on the Gila National Forest to provide follow-up treatment of thinned wildlife openings, improve forage by reducing a layer of pine litter and remove woody debris created by firewood removal.
Lincoln County—Provide funding to develop two wildlife water sites and modify three miles of fence to help the movement of elk and other wildlife that utilize the 26,000-acre Fort Stanton National Conservation Area administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); and provide funding for the Lincoln County 4-H Shooting Sports Program which offers youth ages 9-19 participation in firearm safety, training and shooting sports activities as well as sportsmanship, self-discipline and other qualities.
Otero County—Provide funding to double the water catchment surface area to four guzzlers used primarily by elk in the northern McGregor Range of Hunt Unit 28 on land managed by the BLM.
Rio Arriba County—Mechanically treat 200 acres of decadent sagebrush in the Jicarilla Ranger District on the Carson National Forest, creating a mosaic of differing age classes of big sagebrush followed by seeding of native grasses and forbs to provide critical wildlife habitat; and install one wildlife trick tank with a livestock exclusion fence to provide year-round water for elk and other wildlife in the Jicarilla Ranger District on the Carson National Forest to benefit 300 resident elk as well as migratory elk and other wildlife.
Sandoval County—Provide funding for a study to assess the responses of elk to large-scale forest restoration treatments relative to topography, vegetation characteristics and the quality and quantity of key forage resources at Valles Caldera National Preserve to help guide future vegetation treatments designed to enhance forage (also affects Rio Arriba County); and construct exclosures on the Valles Caldera National Preserve to measure the response of forage plants to forest thinning and prescribed burning to assess differences in forage production across various vegetation and treatment types in the Southwest Jemez Mountains (also affects Rio Arriba County).
San Juan County—Provide funding for the San Juan County 4-H program that includes shotgun, .22 rifle and pistol, compound archery, recurve archery, air rifle and air pistol, firearms safety and other skills for youth ages 8-19.
Socorro County—Replace an existing 2,200-gallon metal catchment and drinker with a modern 3,500-gallon galvanized metal inverted umbrella catchment/storage unit, rubber tired trough drinker and a 2.5-acre pipe rail livestock exclosure –one of seven water catchments within the East Magdalena Landscape identified for replacement; provide volunteer manpower to construct one of four new 3,500-gallon wildlife water sources planned for installation within the 27,000-acre Polvadera Mountain landscape 20 miles northwest of Socorro to benefit elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, quail and other wildlife. Volunteers also installed a second water development at another site on the same day. (New Mexico RMEF volunteers participated in five water development projects so far in 2014.)
Statewide—Provide TFE funding to supply 1,846 hunter orange safety vests for graduates of the New Mexico Game and Fish Hunter Education program.
Partners for the New Mexico projects include the Bureau of Land Management, Carson and Gila National Forests, Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Department of the Army, Navajo Nation and various business, university, sportsmen, wildlife and civic organizations.
RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies and universities use science-based criteria to select conservation projects for grant funding. RMEF volunteers and staff select hunting heritage projects to receive funding.
TFE funding is only used to further RMEF’s core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.
Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 300 different conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in New Mexico with a combined value of more than $21.7 million.