Sagebrush ecosystems provide crucial habitat for many species of wildlife.
But in some areas, like the often arid Modoc National Forest in northeastern California, an invasion of juniper trees and shrubs combined with decades of fire suppression not only choked out historic stretches of sagebrush but greatly inhibits the growth of perennial grasses and forbs.
And that’s bad news for elk, mule deer, pronghorn and other forms of bird and mammal life.
So in 2018, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided $50,000 in funding that leveraged an additional $162,000 in partner funding for sagebrush steppe habitat restoration work.
Specifically, crews armed with chainsaws reduced or removed encroaching junipers across more than 2,400 acres on the Doublehead Ranger District about 40 miles southwest of Tulelake, an area providing year-round range for antelope as well as critical winter and transitional habitat for elk and deer that migrate out of Oregon to spend the winter.
Plus, it’s critical range for greater sage-grouse in a region where the birds were successfully relocated and populations are growing.
The treated area is open to elk hunting and is part of a working landscape where sheep and cattle graze during the summer months.
Livestock permittees are active members of the partnership that made the restoration work possible.
It’s all part of an ongoing 10-year sagebrush restoration project around the Clear Lake National Wildlife Refuge that already enhanced more than 28,000 acres of wildlife habitat, with more work planned to follow.
Restoring elk country is core to RMEF’s Managed Lands Initiative.
Since 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners completed more than 12,000 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects that protected or enhanced more than 7.5 million acres of wildlife habitat.