The Arapaho National Forest west of Denver lives up to the billing of “Rocky Mountain high Colorado.”
The forest’s Sulphur Ranger District features mountain peaks with elevations higher than 13,500 feet, vast stands of trees, streams and lakes, meadows and nearly 600 miles of trails.
It is within these high mountain meadows where the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation works to maintain and enhance habitat for wildlife ranging from elk, moose, mule deer, mountain lions and black bears to beavers, otters, birds and fish.
Dating back to 2011, RMEF worked collaboratively with the Sulphur Ranger District and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Habitat Partnership Program to keep invasive weeds in check district-wide.
RMEF funds, totaling $60,000 to date, leveraged more than double that amount of partner dollars, and go specifically toward hiring a contractor to treat backcountry meadows for a slew of invasive weeds.
The contractor utilizes backpack sprayers and mule-mounted spray units to target specific weed infestations.
Canada and musk thistle, yellow toadflax, houndstongue and other invasive weeds have the nutritional value of cardboard and crowd out native vegetation beneficial for elk and other wildlife.
The program is critical because many of the locations are headwater areas so treatment prevents weeds from being carried downstream.
In addition to invasive weed treatment, RMEF volunteers stepped up annually to remove more than 15 miles of old fencing that was both a barrier and entrapment hazard to wildlife.
Restoring elk country is core to RMEF’s Managed Lands Initiative.
Since 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners completed more than 12,400 conservation and hunting heritage projects that protected or enhanced more than 8 million acres of wildlife habitat.