Elk Foundation to fund wildlife projects in 14 counties

Elk herds and other wildlife in Mesa County and 13 other western Colorado counties are expected to benefit from a variety of conservation projects funded for this year by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The Foundation has announced it will spend $146,250 on projects ranging from prescribed burns in over-mature forests, restoring riparian habitat and research into the reasons behind Sudden Aspen Decline.

The projects will be done in Archuleta, Chaffee, Delta, Fremont, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Las Animas, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, Park, Rio Blanco and San Miguel counties.

In Mesa County, RMEF funds will be used to improve winter forage for elk and deer on the Grand Mesa National Forest by burning 2,167 acres of decadent shrubs and juniper in the Kannah Creek Basin and another 2,317 acres in the Mud Hill and Reservoir Gulch areas.

Research into the possible causes of Sudden Aspen Decline will include building exclosure fencing around 10 aspen stands in Montrose, Mesa, Ouray, San Miguel and Delta counties. The project aims to assess regional impacts of ungulate browsing and conifer encroachment.

Eighty acres of noxious weeds in in the Tabeguache area of Uncompahgre National Forest will be treated and re-seeded with native grasses.

“These grants are possible because of the successful banquets and fundraisers staged over the past year by our Colorado volunteers—most of whom are elk hunters as well as devoted conservationists,” said David Allen, CEO and president of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “Since 1984, our annual grants have helped complete 502 different projects in Colorado with a combined value of more than $115 million.”

In addition to the above projects, the RMEF will fund:

– Archuleta County—Prescribe burn 1,500-2,000 acres of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest to improve forage for elk and other wildlife in the Sheep and Davis creeks areas of San Juan National Forest;

– Fremont County—Hydro-axe 400 acres of pinion-juniper to improve forage and distribution of elk in the upper Arkansas River basin on BLM lands (also affects Chaffee County);

– Gunnison County—Restore 765 acres of riparian habitat and improve water table on elk winter range by installing check dams and re-establishing a single creek channel in the Graflin Gulch area of BLM lands;

– Las Animas County—Use a hydro-axe to clear 200 acres of oak brush and conifer to improve habitat for elk in the Bosque del Oso State Wildlife Area;

– Park County—Thin 60 acres and prescribe burn 2,167 acres to improve mixed conifer and aspen habitat utilized by elk and deer in the James Mark Jones State Wildlife Area;

– Rio Blanco County—Enhance forage conditions for elk and deer by prescribe burning 250 acres of shrub-choked lands in the Oak Ridge State Wildlife Area; treat 300 acres of noxious weeds in the Flat Tops area of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest (also affects Routt, Grand and Garfield counties), use hydro-axe to clear 150 acres, prescribe burn 880 acres, and treat noxious weeds on 100 acres in the White River National Forest.

Projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies and universities.

Partners for 2010 projects in Colorado include Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Colorado Division of Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, other agencies, corporations and landowners.


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