RMEF, Partners dole out $1.3 Million for Colo. elk habitat

Elk populations have been on the decline in many parts of Colorado, raising concerns for wildlife biologists and avid sportsmen – concerned for the future of these herds.
Photo Credit: Aran Johnson | SU Wildlife

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and its partners allocated $1,311,336 of grant funding in Colorado to benefit wildlife habitat and scientific research. RMEF contributed $167,562 and leveraged an additional $1,143,774 in partner dollars. 

Ten projects will benefit Clear Creek, Costilla, Delta, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Jackson, Las Animas, Mesa, Moffat, Montrose, Ouray, Pitkin, Rio Grande, Routt, San Miguel and Saguache Counties. 

“We appreciate our state, federal and other partners who join us in seeing the importance of aspen restoration, invasive weed treatment, the installation of new wildlife water resources and other habitat enhancement work,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “There are also various important studies that will assist wildlife managers to learn more and better manage elk herds.” 

“It’s important to highlight that our volunteers spend a lot of time and are devoted to raising these funds by hosting banquets, membership drives and other activities. We are grateful for all they do,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. 

There are more than 16,000 members and 30 chapters in Colorado. 

Dating back to 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 807 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Colorado with a combined value of more than $183 million. These projects protected or enhanced 471,699 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 122,107 acres. 

Below is a sampling of Colorado’s 2021 project, listed by county. 

Delta County: Treat 100 acres of over-mature aspen habitat in the Paonia Ranger District on the Gunnison National Forest to encourage root suckering and stand regeneration. Elk, moose, mule deer and other wildlife favor aspen stands for forage (also benefits Gunnison County). 

Ouray County: Use prescribed fire and mechanical mastication treatments across 4,459 acres on Uncompahgre National Forest, Bureau of Land Management and private lands in the Baldy Mountain area to enhance wildlife habitat and reduce fuel loads and the risk of large-scale wildfires. The project also includes development of a spring to feed wildlife water resources. 

Rio Grande County: Remove encroaching pinyon-juniper across 560 acres in the Wolf Mountain area on the Rio Grande National Forest that serves as important winter range for elk and mule deer as well as prime habitat for wild turkey, moose, black bears and mountain lions. The habitat work takes place 20 years after initial treatment, also with RMEF funding assistance, to maintain a healthy grass, forb and shrub vegetation component. 

Routt County: Provide funding to continue studies assessing the health of elk herds, estimating calf survival and evaluating the influence of human recreation on elk (also benefits Costilla Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Jackson, Las Animas, Mesa, Moffat, Montrose, Ouray, Pitkin and San Miguel Counties). 

Project partners include the Arapaho & Roosevelt, and Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison, and Rio Grande National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and other federal, state and conservation agencies and groups. 

RMEF plans to allocate additional project funding later in the year. 

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