MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners awarded $7,256,274 of grant funding in Wyoming to enhance wildlife habitat, scientific research and hunting opportunities. RMEF directly granted $340,471 and leveraged an additional $6,915,803 in partner funding.
“This is a monumental amount of funding that will help Wyoming’s elk as well as a myriad of other species,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We are grateful for our partners in standing beside us to carry out this vital conservation work. And we especially recognize and thank our RMEF volunteers who freely give of their time and talents to raise funds to put back on the ground in Wyoming. We could not do what we do without them.”
There are 22 RMEF chapters and nearly 9,000 members in Wyoming.
In all, 33 projects benefit 46,465 acres of habitat across Albany, Big Horn, Campbell, Carbon, Converse, Johnson, Laramie, Lincoln, Fremont, Hot Springs, Natrona, Park, Sheridan, Sublette, Sweetwater, Teton, Uinta and Washakie Counties. One of the projects is of statewide benefit.
“These projects address everything from combating invasive weeds and helping rejuvenate shrubs, aspen and riparian areas to erecting wildlife-friendly fencing, carrying out prescribed burns, thinning forests and providing funding to increase public access, assist with four research projects and permanently protect habitat,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.
Since 1990, RMEF and its partners completed 826 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Wyoming with a combined value of more than $163.4 million. These projects protected or enhanced 1,198,010 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 164,168 acres.
Below is a list of the projects, shown by county.
- Remove and replace 10 miles of six-strand and woven wire fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing along the Laramie Peak Wildlife Habitat Management Area (WHMA). The project allows a neighboring ranch to continue its livestock operation while facilitating big game movement across the ranch. The area provides year-round habitat for elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer and pronghorn antelope.
- Remove encroaching juniper across 500 acres of aspen and riparian habitat within the Mule Creek Public Access Area in the Laramie Range. Water tables have been lowered in springs, seeps and perennial and ephemeral stream courses as junipers dominate the sites. The project aims to improve hydrologic flows, species diversity and calving and fawning areas for elk and mule deer.
- Remove and replace 10,400 feet of woven and barbed wire fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing to allow for safe passage of wildlife across private land on Sheep Mountain.
Big Horn County
- Treat 10,000 acres for invasive weeds in the Medicine Wheel and Tongue River Ranger Districts on the Bighorn National Forest. Backpack and horseback spraying units will pay particular attention to difficult-to-access backcountry areas including elk winter range and calving grounds (also benefits Sheridan County).
- Mechanically remove conifers encroaching on 184 acres of riparian and meadow habitat on private land within the Beaver and Bear Creek floodplains of the Bighorn Mountains. The project will enhance birthing grounds for elk, moose, mule deer and sage grouse while also improving bank stability to benefit native Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
- Burn 3,250 acres of sagebrush and grassland habitat to improve forage for wildlife and permitted livestock grazing in the Medicine Wheel Ranger District on the Bighorn National Forest (also benefits Washakie County).
- Provide funding for research to identify and quantify the impacts of development on elk on winter and traditional ranges. The study takes place on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and will provide wildlife managers with recommendations to minimize the effects of surface disturbance on wildlife.
- Treat 1,520 acres of mixed mountain shrub and grassland habitats through a combination of prescribed fire and brush mowing on the Wick WHMA west of Arlington. The treatment is designed to aid winter elk survival and lessen damage to neighboring private agricultural lands.
- Help rejuvenate mountain mahogany, an important browse species for elk and mule deer, by using brush saws to mow 233 acres in Converse County Park. Many mountain mahogany stands are decadent due to a lack of disturbance.
- Remove competing conifers to improve the health and condition of aspen communities on 369 acres of state and private land within the northern portion of the Laramie Range.
- Treat 1,100 acres of crucial winter range for elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep for non-native, invasive cheatgrass near Dubois on the Whiskey Basin, Inberg/Roy and Spence Moriarity WHMAs. Aerial spraying will take place across 800 acres with hand spraying along roads.
- Continue using a combination of thinning, prescribed burning and commercial logging to restore aspen stands and early seral habitat across 200 acres in the Wind River Ranger District of the Shoshone National Forest. Vegetation management projects began in 2015 and are designed to support elk populations, habitat and hunting opportunities in the Long Creek Watershed.
- Remove encroaching conifers within aspen stands across 500 acres of riparian and wildlife habitat on public land managed by the BLM and Shoshone National Forest. South Pass, on the southern end of the Wind River Range provides crucial winter, parturition and transitional range for elk, deer, pronghorn antelope, moose, sage grouse and aquatic wildlife.
Hot Springs County
- Apply a combination of aerial and ground treatment to combat cheatgrass across 2,000 acres within the Grass Creek, Enos Creek and Gooseberry drainages in the Big Horn Basin. The treatments occur within the Absaroka Front Hunter Management Area, one of the most popular elk hunting areas in the Cody Region, and will benefit elk, mule deer and sage grouse range.
- Mechanically treat 100 acres and burn 400 more to improve aspen and sagebrush steppe habitat on elk winter range and yearlong habitat in the Greybull Ranger District of the Shoshone National Forest.
- Treat cheatgrass across 1,100 acres to improve aspen, mountain mahogany and bitterbrush vegetation at Curt Gowdy State Park. The first phase includes helicopter herbicide spraying and also hand spraying along each side of Crow Creek as well as informational signage to help reduce invasive seed dispersal.
- Treat invasive weeds across 350 acres in the Greys River Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
- Remove encroaching pine and juniper across 700 acres while also building fencing to protect riparian areas along Sanchez Creek in the southern Bighorns on BLM and private land.
- Provide funding for a study to improve the understanding of elk calving in the Cody herd. Researchers map calving areas to determine whether they are consistent or variable between years and validate new methods for identifying calving areas based on GPS movement data. The findings will help wildlife and land managers better protect habitat.
- Provide funding for the Wyoming Migration Initiative’s continuing multi-year effort to map migration corridors of elk and other wildlife. Findings help wildlife managers learn more about big game herds and how to best manage them (also benefits Fremont, Lincoln, Sublette, Sweetwater and Teton Counties).
- Treat 6,081 acres of a highly invasive grass species across BLM, state and private lands enrolled in Wyoming’s Walk-In Hunting program. Ventanata reproduces quickly, decreases rangeland productivity and increases the risk of wildfire. This is the first phase of a three-year project that aims to treat 18,243 acres.
- As part of a multi-year project, treat 2,695 acres for various invasive weeds across the Sheridan Region WHMAs and private land. The area features key winter range for elk and mule deer (also benefits Johnson County).
- Provide funding for a conservation easement to permanently protect approximately 2,700 acres of elk habitat west of Big Piney. The property is also important to moose and contains a portion of Fish Creek, a tributary to the Upper Green River.
- As part of ongoing wildfire restoration efforts, provide funding for ground crews and horseback sprayers to treat invasive weeds across 180 acres of burn areas in the Big Piney Ranger District on the Bridger-Teton National Forest (also benefits Teton County).
- Treat cheatgrass across 8,000 acres of primarily public lands via helicopter spraying in the Jackson Ranger District on the Bridger-Teton National Forest as well as the National Elk Refuge and portions of Jackson Hole. Invasive weeds outcompete native plants that provide important forage for elk and other wildlife.
- Replace dilapidated woven wire fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing on the Horse Creek and South Park WHMAs. The project will enhance migration routes for elk and mule deer that use this crucial winter range and better manage livestock grazing on adjacent lands.
- Burn 677 acres to remove encroaching conifers and reinvigorate aspen stands that provide important habitat for the approximately 2,500 elk in the Jackson Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
- Provide funding for a study that examines the behavior of elk in areas where human and wolf activity takes place. Researchers use GPS collar data from elk and wolves and information about human land uses and supplemental elk feeding practices, to better understand why elk are increasingly found in human-dominated areas. The study will help identify effective means to mitigate management and conservation challenges.
- Burn 1,491 acres and mechanically treat 80 additional acres to rejuvenate important aspen and mountain brush wildlife habitat while reducing the risk of severe wildfire in the Hill Creek and Teton Canyon areas within the Teton Basin.
- Burn 150 acres in the Blackrock Ranger District on the Bridger-Teton National Forest to stimulate aspen regeneration. The central Buffalo Valley project area is crucial winter and transition range for the Jackson elk herd.
- Burn up to 1,825 acres to reduce fuel loads and improve wildlife habitat in the Jackson Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
- Repair and replace old fencing on private land enrolled in Wyoming’s Walk-In Hunter Access Program in the Yellow Creek drainage that serves as fall, winter and late spring range for up to 400 elk. It also provides habitat for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, sage grouse and aquatic wildlife.
- Provide funding to support and expand Access Yes, a program that allows public access to private land in Wyoming. RMEF’s contribution equates to approximately 46,500 acres of access. In 2019, Access Yes opened access to 2.8 million acres for hunters and anglers.
Wyoming project partners include the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee and Shoshone National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, private landowners and universities as well as conservation, sportsmen, business 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.