Colorado Elk Country, Research Gets a Boost

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MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded $213,625 in grant funding to enhance wildlife habitat and assist with elk research in Colorado.

The grants benefit 6,481 acres across Delta, Eagle, Fremont, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Las Animas, Mesa, Moffat, Montrose, Park, Saguache and Teller Counties. There is also one project of statewide benefit.

“Colorado is home to the most elk in any state,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “This funding pays for various treatments that will improve habitat for elk, deer and a wide range of other wildlife species.”

RMEF volunteers in Colorado raised funding for the 15 projects at banquets, membership drives and other events.

Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 703 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects with a combined value of more than $161.2 million. These projects conserved or enhanced 437,923 acres of habitat and opened or secured public access to 108,179 acres.

Here is a sampling of the 2017 projects, listed by county:

Grand County—Thin encroaching pinyon-juniper growth on 1,842 acres and prescribe burn an additional 1,031 acres previously treated in 2015 with assistance from RMEF on Bureau of Land Management land in the Radium Valley area (also benefits Eagle County).

Mesa County—Masticate 894 acres including mixed mountain shrub understory within 519 acres of ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper encroaching on 262 acres of sagebrush parks and seed  375 acres of the sagebrush habitat to enhance year-round elk habitat on the Uncompahgre National Forest.

Moffat County—Provide funding for a study to gain a better understanding of elk and livestock distribution and movement and grazing impacts to rangeland condition on the Dinosaur National Monument to help guide management practices that minimize elk and livestock conflicts, identify future habitat projects, and meet elk harvest objectives.

Montrose County—Provide funding for a two-year pilot study to determine pregnancy rates and fetal counts to assist biologists in determining the potential causes of low elk recruitment in southwest Colorado (also benefits Las Animas County).

Colorado project partners include the Arapaho, Gunnison, Pike, San Isabel and Uncompahgre National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, private landowners, sportsmen and other organizations.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 220,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.1 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 www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK. Take action: join and/or donate.

Delta County—Provide funding and volunteer manpower for Delta’s Annual Outdoor Heritage Day for youth ages 16 and under to learn about state parks, forests, waterways, wildlife. RMEF volunteers host a booth to demonstrate turkey and elk calling, oversee an inflatable BB gun range and offer education on RMEF’s mission and the role hunting plays in conservation (also benefits Montrose County).

Garfield County—Remove encroaching pinyon and juniper to reduce hazardous fuels and rejuvenate mountain shrubs to benefit winter range and wildlife forage on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land on Cedar Mountain north of Rifle; and provide funding to offset the cost of maintaining ditches, flumes, headgates and the daily operation of water management in the Horse Creek watershed on BLM land in a revitalized area that benefits wildlife, other wildlife, brook trout and livestock.

Grand County—Thin encroaching pinyon and juniper growth on 1,842 acres and prescribe burn an additional 1,031 acres previously treated in 2015 with assistance from RMEF on BLM land in the Radium Valley area (also benefits Eagle County); and apply noxious weed treatment across 480 acres in the backcountry of the Sulphur Ranger District on the Arapaho National Forest to benefit habitat for elk, mule deer and a wide range of mammal and bird species.

Gunnison County—Prescribe burn 1,000 acres across three game management units in the Gunnison Ranger District on the Gunnison National Forest to benefit aspen habitat and meadows  (also benefit Saguache County); and apply noxious weed treatment across 270 acres of backcountry in the Paonia Ranger District on the Gunnison National Forest.

Mesa County—Masticate 894 acres including mixed mountain shrub understory within 519 acres of ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper encroaching on 262 acres of sagebrush parks and seed  375 acres of the sagebrush habitat to enhance year-round elk habitat on the Uncompahgre National Forest.

Moffat County—Provide funding for a study to gain a better understanding of elk and livestock distribution and movement and grazing impacts to rangeland condition on the Dinosaur National Monument to help guide management practices that minimize elk and livestock conflicts, identify future habitat projects, and meet elk harvest objectives; and remove 20 miles of obsolete fencing to assist elk and other wildlife in a highly migratory area on BLM land in the Great Divide Area northwest of Craig.

Montrose County—Provide funding for a two-year pilot study to determine pregnancy rates and fetal counts to assist biologists in determining the potential causes of low elk recruitment in southwest Colorado (also benefits Las Animas County).

Park County—Thin and prescribe burn 500 acres of elk winter range in the Salida Ranger District on the San Isabel National Forest as well as develop a spring to improve elk distribution (also benefits Fremont County); and remove five miles of old barbed wire fence in the Buffalo Peaks/McQuaid Area of the South Park Ranger District on the Pike National Forest to allow free movement for wildlife across a 4,000 acre area of public land.

Teller County—Remove overgrowth of trees to restore open grass meadows across 60 acres on the Dome Rock State Wildlife area to improve wildlife forage.

Statewide—Co-sponsor the 4th Annual Partners in the Outdoor Conference in Breckenridge designed to promote responsible recreation, stewardship and conservation leadership in Colorado.