MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners contributed $4,661,962 in grant funding for wildlife habitat enhancement, research and other projects to improve public access and promote hunting across Wyoming. RMEF directly granted $220,700 that leveraged an additional $4,441,262 in partner dollars.
“This funding will help rejuvenate ailing aspen stands, remove encroaching conifers that overtake historic forage and help pay for other treatments to improve habitat for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “In addition to assisting with research, it also opens more private land for hunters and anglers to use and enjoy.”
Seventeen conservation projects benefit Albany, Big Horn, Campbell, Carbon, Fremont, Johnson, Lincoln, Park, Sheridan, Sweetwater and Teton Counties. There are also four projects of statewide benefit.
There are more than 8,200 members and 22 RMEF chapters in Wyoming.
“We salute our Wyoming volunteers for all the time and energy they put into supporting our mission,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “Thanks to their dedication, this funding is available to be put back on the ground to improve elk country.”
Since 1986, RMEF and its partners completed 858 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Wyoming with a combined value of more than $168.8 million. These projects protected or enhanced more than 1.2 million acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 200,595 acres.
Below is a listing of Wyoming’s 2021 projects, shown by county.
- Convert approximately 4.5 miles of old barbed wire fencing to wildlife-friendly fencing on private land protected by a RMEF-held volunteer conservation agreement in the Terry Creek drainage within the Upper Laramie River watershed.
Big Horn County
- Remove encroaching conifers, limber pine and Douglas fir from 119 acres along the riparian corridor within the Beaver and Bear Creek watersheds to improve calving and brooding areas for elk, moose, mule deer and sage grouse. It will also benefit native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The two streams flow from the Bighorn Mountains into the Bighorn River and are the only perennial water sources in about 150 square miles.
- Provide funding for the Paintrock Hunter Mentor program which encourages youth to experience a variety of outdoor activities including hunting and fishing (also benefits Hot Springs, Park and Washakie Counties).
- Provide funding for the Gillette High School Trap League which gives students grades 7-12 the chance to participate in team shooting competitions during the spring and fall seasons.
- Treat upwards of 14,680 acres on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests to prevent the spread of cheatgrass on important elk and other wildlife summer range. The Mullen Wildfire burned more than 176,000 acres in the Snowy Range west of Laramie, including this acreage identified at risk for cheatgrass invasion (also benefits Albany County).
- Convert 33 miles of fence to wildlife-friendly specifications to help elk and mule deer more effectively and safely cross the landscape within the Red Rim-Grizzly Wildlife Habitat Management Area.
- Plant 7,500 to 15,000 big sagebrush, bitterbrush and mountain mahogany seedlings across 3,000 acres annually for three years to assist restoration efforts within the 2020 Mullen Wildfire burn area, which serves as winter range and migration corridors for mule deer, bighorn sheep and elk. Volunteers and Encampment High School and Saratoga Middle/High Schools students plan to help carry out the project.
- Treat 400 acres of conifers encroaching on aspen stands and riparian areas in elk and mule deer winter habitat, year-round and transition range in the Willow Creek drainage in central Wyoming that are in degraded condition.
- Thin 355 acres of Shoshone National Forest and state lands in the Long Creek watershed to improve overall forest health by thinning overstocked stands, removing beetle kill and reducing the threat of landscape-scale wildfires. The treatment also enhances both elk habitat and hunting opportunity.
- Treat 2,290 acres on the east side of the Bighorn Mountains within the Sheridan region’s wildlife habitat management areas to control the spread of invasive grasses as part of a multi-year project (also benefits Sheridan County).
- Treat 2,930 acres in the Powder River Ranger District on the Bighorn National Forest by reducing fuel loads to reduce the risk of large-scale wildfire while also restoring aspen stands.
- Treat 350 acres within the Greys River and Salt River drainages to slow the spread of invasive weeds. The habitat within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is ideal for elk, mule deer, moose, sage grouse and other wildlife.
- Modify up to 10 miles of boundary and pasture fencing between the Shoshone National Forest and the North Fork of the Shoshone River within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to improve migration for elk and other wildlife.
- Treat 10,566 acres of state and private lands enrolled in Wyoming’s Access Yes program to reduce the spread of invasive grasses. Crews treated 12,076 acres in 2020 (also benefits Campbell County).
- Treat 3,875 acres of Bureau of Land Management and state lands in the Sage Creek and Currant Creek drainages to improve habitat across the Little Mountain landscape south of Rock Springs.
- Provide funding for the Sweetwater County 4-H Shooting Sports Program which is dedicated to teaching youth firearm, archery and air gun safety, marksmanship and ethics in a fun and supportive environment.
- Provide funding for scientific research to evaluate how wolves and other factors such as changing weather patterns affect elk numbers and winter distribution in the Gros Ventre, crucial winter range for a portion of the iconic Jackson elk herd.
- Provide funding to support Wyoming’s Access Yes program, which opens access to private land for hunters and anglers while also serving as a tool to help biologists better manage elk populations.
- Provide funding for the Wyoming Disabled Hunters program which offers affordable hunting opportunities for disabled hunters from across the country.
- Provide funding for Aspen Days, an ongoing workshop that brings together aspen researchers and managers to share perspectives and the latest science surrounding aspen ecology (cancelled for 2021).
- Provide funding for the Wyoming Hunt-Fish Mentor Camp, a program designed to train hunting mentors and help women learn to hunt.
Project partners include the Bridger-Teton, Medicine Bow-Routt and Shoshone National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Department of Fish and Game, Knobloch Family Foundation, private landowners and various other local, state and national trusts and organizations.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 37 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 231,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 8.1 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.