December 30, 2013
RMEF Opens 13,000 Acres of Oregon Elk Country,
Secures Public Access to Public Lands
MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation headed up a successful collaborative effort to permanently protect and open access to 13,082 acres in the Headwaters of the John Day River in northeast Oregon. By purchasing the land and conveying it to the United States at a bargain sale price, the transaction also secures and improves access to tens of thousands of acres of publicly-owned National Forest System lands.
"This is a victory for hunter-conservationists, anglers, hikers and anyone who wants public access to more than 13,000 acres of what was previously inaccessible private land in the heart of Oregon's elk country," said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. "We are grateful to a family that understands the importance of conserving crucial elk habitat and wildlife management while also providing a way for improved access to a landscape loaded with numerous vital resource values."
"My husband loved the outdoors and hunting," said JoAnne Johnson, wife of D.R. Johnson and co-owner of D.R. Johnson Lumber Company. "Don always felt that ultimately blocking up our sections with the Forest Service property made the most sense. It is the family's hope and desire that now this beautiful and unique area will remain accessible for hunters, fishermen, and all outdoorsmen, and that it will receive some much needed forest management as well. It is a bittersweet moment for us, but we believe Don would want the citizens of Grant County to be able to enjoy this amazing property for generations to come."
The acreage, which was a vast checkerboard ownership pattern of alternating private and public sections south of Prairie City, is now consolidated into one mass block of public ownership under management of the U.S. Forest Service (see map in link below). It is located in the Strawberry Mountains on the Malheur National Forest.
"This is wonderful news," said Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Kent Connaughton. "It's a huge present for the people of Oregon and the nation. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to be congratulated for inspiring and leading this key project."
"The project area covers a 40-mile landscape around the origin and main stem of the John Day River as it flows north to the Columbia River and provides crucial linkage with existing public lands and all-important wildlife corridors," said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation.
The Headwaters not only provide first-class habitat for elk but also for mule deer, black bears, pronghorn, mountain goats, grouse, quail and a host of other wildlife. Four federally listed birds and four federally listed mammal species of concern inhabit the property. The area is also of critical importance to salmon, steelhead, bull trout, redband and westslope cutthroat trout due to the cold water inputs the headwater tributaries provide to the John Day River.
"The most important aspect of this transaction is the entire project area is no longer threatened by development," said Allen. "And not only is new land available to the public, but public access to existing federal land will be improved and new links can be made to existing trails."
RMEF partners include the D.R. Johnson family, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
For a look at a detailed map of the acquisition, go here.