MISSOULA, Mont. — Colorado’s wildlife is receiving a $2,571,838 boost thanks to funding provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners. RMEF directly granted $611,000 and leveraged an additional $1,960,838 in partner dollars.
“These funds assist three research projects including one that helps biologists learn more about why elk recruitment is ailing and another focusing on how elk are impacted by human recreational activity,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Habitat enhancement projects include forest thinning, prescribed burning and repairing water developments, all to help elk, deer and many other species of wildlife.”
Fourteen projects will benefit 18,911 acres across Archuleta, Costilla, Custer, Delta, Eagle, El Paso, Fremont, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Jackson, Las Animas, Mesa, Moffat, Montrose, Ouray, Pitkin, Pueblo, Rio Blanco, Routt, Saguache and San Miguel Counties. There are two additional projects of statewide benefit.
There are 29 chapters and nearly 17,000 RMEF members in Colorado.
“This funding is only available because of the passion and dedication of our hard-working volunteers,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We thank them for giving their time and efforts to benefit elk and elk habitat in Colorado and across the nation.”
Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 790 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Colorado with a combined value of more than $178.2 million. These projects protected or enhanced 469,886 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 122,107 acres.
Below is a list of the projects, shown by county.
- Burn 6,264 acres in the Pagosa Ranger District on the San Juan National Forest to improve two major migration corridors and portions of the San Juan Basin elk herd’s winter range.
- Treat 60 acres of juniper woodlands across seven units on the Gunnison National Forest and BLM managed lands south of Paonia in the McDonald Mesa area. The treatment will enhance forage for big game and increase forage and cover for ground nesting birds and small mammals while also reducing hazardous fuels.
- Thin 223 acres on land managed by the BLM in the Waugh Mountain area. A popular area for hunters, treatments will address tree stands that are overly thick, diseased and/or infected by insects. Improved post-thinning forage conditions will benefit both wildlife and livestock, reduce wildlife use of adjacent private agricultural fields and will also assist biologists with herd management objectives thanks to improved hunting opportunities.
- Utilize mules with saddle-mounted spray units to treat invasive weeds across 475 acres in the Sulphur Ranger District on the Arapaho National Forest. The project is critical because the areas are inaccessible to motorized treatments and near headwaters where weeds are more prone to spread downstream.
- Provide funding for Canon City’s Ash Street Archery Range improvements including purchasing supplies to construct a covered shooting platform and additional targets (also benefits Cuter, El Paso and Pueblo Counties).
- Provide funding for a study to monitor and track the amount of human recreation in the Gunnison Basin. Scientists will incorporate trail data into an analysis of elk movement and home ranges to determine the impacts on elk behavior and to inform future land and wildlife management actions (also benefits Delta, Hinsdale, Montrose and Saguache Counties).
Las Animas County
- Rework four historic windmill-powered water wells on the Bosque del Oso State Wildlife Area. The project will convert the pumps to solar power accompanied by hard poly tanks to hold water on the surface for wildlife.
- Thin 200 acres on the Spanish Peaks State Wildlife Area which is primarily managed for elk, mule deer, black bear and wild turkey. The project is part of a long-term strategy to improve forest health by reducing forest canopy, timber density and stimulating understory forb and shrub responses.
- Provide funding for a scientific study seeking to identify the primary factors related to declining elk calf recruitment. Crews will capture and collar cows and calves to assess the health of herds, estimate survival rates and identify major sources of calf mortality (also benefits Costilla, Eagle, Garfield, Gunnison, Las Animas, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, Pitkin, Routt and San Miguel Counties).
- Remove four miles of old six-strand fencing in poor condition and replace it with a section of four-strand, wildlife-friendly fencing on BLM-managed land on the Blue Mountain plateau. The new section will serve as a boundary between two large federal grazing allotments and incorporates 11 permanent big game crossing structures.
- Burn 1,712 acres and thin 827 acres across several BLM-managed sites including the Douglas Mountain and Radium Valley areas to improve habitat for elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and greater sage grouse (also benefits Eagle and Grand Counties).
Rio Blanco County
- Burn and mechanically treat 5,800 acres within the Blanco Ranger District on the White River National Forest. Treatment will promote the growth of native grasses, forbs and shrubs for elk and other wildlife (also benefits Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin Counties).
- Provide funding for a study to determine how cow elk respond to human recreational activity near Steamboat Springs. Information gathered will assist wildlife managers in making future game management decisions (also benefits Grand and Jackson Counties).
- Apply prescribed burning and thinning treatments to approximately 790 acres in the Bears Ears and Hahns Peak Ranger Districts on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest to help create age class diversity and forage availability for wildlife. The project will also help reduce risk of high-impact wildfires in the future (also benefits Jackson County).
- Provide funding for Explore the Outdoors Expo, an event showcasing western Colorado business and clubs involved with outdoor activities that assists others to learn more about conservation and the outdoors.
- Provide funding for messaging and outreach to counter Proposition 114, an initiative seeking to forcibly introduce wolves into Colorado.
Project partners include the Bureau of Land Management, Arapaho, Gunnison, Medicine Bow–Routt, San Juan and White River National Forests, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, universities and other groups and organizations.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 36 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.9 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 or 800-CALL ELK.