August 18, 2015
Elk Habitat Protected, Public Access Expanded in Montana
MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked with a conservation-minded family and a group of partners to permanently protect and conserve 2,810 acres of elk habitat in the Big Belt Mountains of west-central Montana. RMEF conveyed the land to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) which added it to the adjacent Beartooth Wildlife Management Area (WMA), expanding the game range by nearly nine percent.
“This Whitetail Prairie acreage is valuable year-round habitat for elk, antelope, mule deer and whitetail deer, mountain lion and a variety of other game and non-game species,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “It is also a vital fishery since it contains three tributaries of the Missouri River.”
"Today, anywhere you look, the currency of successful wildlife habitat conservation is trust," said Jeff Hagener, FWP director. “It took cooperation among landowners, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, sportsmen and women and others to again demonstrate the power of working toward a common goal. The result will last longer than a lifetime and continue Montana's commitment to long-term conservation of special places that address the still critical need for healthy wildlife habitat."
“We hope the future users enjoy and appreciate the Whitetail [land] as much as we did,” said Del, Jim, Lee and Merlin Voegele. “You initiated a project that apparently ignited a fire under a whole lot of like-minded folks including a number of behind-the-scenes volunteers who seemingly never quit working.”
RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE), the Mule Deer Foundation, Safari Club International and the Cinnabar Foundation provided funding for the project as well as Habitat Montana funds derived from Montana hunting licenses plus Pittman-Robertson funds provided through the taxation of firearm and ammunition sales.
“It’s important to understand that Habitat Montana funds, the value of which the Montana legislature continues to debate, are absolutely critical to conservation efforts like this one. They are crucial for conservation organizations like RMEF to carry out this work and they’re crucial for hunters, anglers, hikers and other recreationists so they can reap the benefits of it,” added Henning.
"After more than 25 years, Habitat Montana has proven that wildlife and agriculture can benefit each other. By working with willing landowners who sold or placed their lands in conservation easements, FWP has found productive ways to work with others to ensure the long-term conservation of natural and agricultural values while providing new places for the public to recreate, especially for hunting. Habitat Montana has been and remains a critical component in maintaining what is best about Montana," added Hagener.
TFE funding is only used to further RMEF’s core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.