RMEF Grants Improve Elk Habitat, Expand Public Access in South Dakota

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and our partners awarded $632,071 of grant funding in South Dakota to benefit elk-related research, habitat stewardship work and hunting heritage projects. RMEF directly granted $118,599 and leveraged an additional $513,472 in partner funding.

“There are portions of South Dakota where noxious weeds take a toll on natural vegetation while obtaining water in other locations is a real challenge for elk and other wildlife. This grant funding will greatly help out on both fronts,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Additionally, the grants expand public access onto private lands and support a dozen conservation, outdoor and youth educational programs.”

Twenty-one projects benefit nearly 8,000 acres of wildlife habitat in Aurora, Beadle, Bennett, Buffalo, Butte, Charles Mix, Codington, Custer, Fall River, Hand, Jerauld, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Sanborn, Tripp and Yankton Counties. There is also one project of statewide benefit.

South Dakota is home to 18 RMEF chapters and nearly 4,500 members.

“This funding goes on the ground in South Dakota for only one reason and that’s because of our dedicated volunteers who held banquets and other events to generate it,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We appreciate their time and talents in helping further our mission.”

Since 1990, RMEF and its partners completed 343 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in South Dakota that protected or enhanced 102,957 acres with a combined value of $37.4 million and opened or improved public access to 11,472 acres.

Below is a sample of South Dakota’s 2019 projects, listed by county.

Custer County

  • Provide funding to assist an ongoing study monitoring cow elk survival and mortality in the Black Hills. Researchers plan to replace 30 to 35 collars in order to maintain an adequate sample size of 150 animals. Scientists will also evaluate calf-rearing areas, habitat use and migration patterns (also benefits Lawrence and Pennington Counties).

Fall River County

  • Provide funding to expand the Controlled Hunting Access Program by an additional 27,000 acres of privately-owned land in the Southern Black Hills for the 2019 hunting season (also benefits Bennett, Custer, Lawrence, Meade and Pennington Counties).

Lawrence County

  • Construct a water system including nine miles of pipeline, 10 stock tanks, three water storage tanks and two wildlife guzzlers across two grazing allotments on the Black Hills National Forest. The project improves rangeland vegetation across more than 7,600 acres while encouraging wildlife to occupy public lands.

Go here to view a full listing of the 2019 projects.

South Dakota project partners include South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Black Hills and Nebraska National Forests, Rocky Mountain Research Station and various other conservation, sportsmen and civic organizations.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

Founded 35 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.5 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, elknetwork.com or 800-CALL ELK.