Elk NetworkRestoring Elk Country – Colorado San Juan National Forest

Conservation | December 20, 2019

Fire is essential to forest health.

When carefully applied to the landscape and monitored, fire triggers a rebirth of explosive, fresh, diverse growth in the form of grasses, forbs and other vegetation that benefit many species of mammals and birds.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently teamed up with the San Juan National Forest about 25 miles east of Durango, Colorado, to successfully implement and complete ground and aerial prescribed burning operations on nearly 7,000 acres in both the Pargin Mountain and Beaver Meadows/First Notch areas.

The prescribed burns benefit migration corridors and calving areas as well as summer, winter and transition range for elk, plus habitat for mule deer, moose and other wildlife.

The treatment reduced woody debris on the forest floor and greatly improves the forage-cover ratio where stands are overly dense.

Doing so improves overall forest health and helps minimize the risk of catastrophic wildfire which can decimate soil nutrients for several years.

The treatment marks RMEF’s first burn on the San Juan in more than a decade, however it continues a long-standing relationship there.

Dating back to 1987, RMEF and the San Juan National Forest collaborated on 14 projects across four ranger districts that benefitted nearly 21,00 acres of wildlife habitat.

RMEF provided nearly $167,000 in grant funding that leveraged an additional $1.3 million in partner dollars.

And more beneficial prescribed burning is planned for 2020.

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 7.6 million acres of wildlife habitat.