January 27, 2023

Elk Habitat Conserved in Washington’s Lewis River Watershed

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Nearly 4,500 acres of prime wildlife habitat in southwestern Washington are permanently protected and opened to public access thanks to ongoing collaborative efforts by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and PacifiCorp, an electric utility company.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “This forestland is crucial habitat for Roosevelt elk. It’s now forever protected and conserved in a region where designation of the Mount St. Helens National Monument restricts management options.”

“Conserving and managing this habitat on the southwest slopes of Mount St. Helens, where elk are threatened by forage loss from forest succession and habitat loss to development is a just part of PacifiCorp’s ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Todd Olson, the company’s compliance director. “We highly value the partnership with the RMEF and the other parties that makes this possible.”

The just-completed 1,880-acre acquisition is the third phase of a project that previously protected an additional 2,590 acres of habitat in the upper Lewis River basin north of Swift Reservoir.

The combined 4,470-acre property was originally in a checkerboard ownership pattern. It is now blocked up and provides connectivity with state and federal lands to the north and is part of a 15,000-acre landscape managed as wildlife habitat by PacifiCorp. This management is conducted with input from RMEF, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and resource agencies.

“Federal forests near Mount St. Helens are overgrown and contributed to the decline of what was once one of Washington’s most productive elk herds. This project greatly improves forest management which is a huge benefit for elk and other wildlife,” added Henning.

The landscape provides vital elk migratory corridors and is home to blacktail deer, black bear, mountain lions and a wide array of bird and other animal life.

With few exceptions to provide public safety, PacifiCorp wildlife lands are open to non-motorized public access including hunting and other recreation.


RMEF Salutes Backers of Access Elk Country

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation wants to recognize and show appreciation for its 2014 Access Elk Country initiative charter sponsors Sitka, Sportsman’s Guide, Kimber and Bushnell.

“Opening and securing public access is a key component of RMEF’s mission,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Hunters need a place to hunt and our conservation partners assist us in efforts to create, maintain and improve access.”

Since 1984, RMEF has opened, secured or improved public access to more than 758,000 acres of elk habitat in 21 states.

2014 Highlights:

?• Road easements secured permanent public access to 41,000 acres in southwest Montana

?• Protected and secured access to 2,893 acres of elk habitat in south-central Washington

?• $50,000 grant opened access to approximately 40,000 acres of land in Idaho

?• $45,000 grant opened access to about 180,000 acres of land in Wyoming

?• Protected and secured access to 988 acres in south-central Montana

?• Protected and secured access to 81 acres of Pennsylvania elk country

?• Protected and opened access to 4,010 acres in central Washington

“There is perhaps no greater threat to the future of wildlife and our hunting heritage in North America than the loss of access to places that provide quality hunting experiences for today’s hunter as well as those of the next generation,” said Steve Decker, RMEF vice president of Marketing. “RMEF’s Access Elk Country program sponsors are helping us meet this challenge head-on by creating new and improved access to some of the best of elk country. We can’t thank them enough for their continued commitment to RMEF and our mission.”


RMEF Permanently Protects, Secures Access to Prime Montana Elk Country

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation acquired 988 acres of private elk habitat in south-central Montana which it conveyed to the Helena National Forest. The transaction also improved existing access to thousands of acres of Forest Service lands.

“This is another ‘win’ for sportsmen and women who want improved access to some great Montana elk country,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “The acquisition breaks up a pattern of private and public land by opening land never before accessible to the public and securing a new entry point into adjacent public land for hunting and other recreational outings.”

Located in the upper Missouri River watershed on the west slope of the Big Belt Mountains, the parcel contains rich, diverse habitat for native wildlife and features large groves of aspen, Douglas fir, grasslands and sagebrush. It is home to large numbers of elk year-round, provides habitat for deer, black bear, mountain lion and other wildlife, and is a migration corridor for grizzlies, lynx and other species.

“This is much more than just vital elk habitat. The property contains a stretch of Ray Creek covering more than two miles,” said Mike Mueller, RMEF land program manager. “The riparian areas are a prime source of cold water habitat for spawning and rearing of westslope cutthroat trout, a native fish currently listed as a Montana Species of Concern.”

The project is a collaborative effort between RMEF, the Helena National Forest and the Neild Family Partnership consisting of four sisters. It received broad support from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, various other state and local government organizations, and numerous conservation and sportsmen groups.

“I am incredibly pleased to share in this moment—a moment that relied heavily on our partnership with RMEF and the support from the Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund—of celebration with all who have spent countless hours working on this incredibly important project that brought 988 acres of land, within the Canyon Ferry Lake watershed, into public access and ownership,” Forest Supervisor Bill Avey said. “Through this partnership and all the hard work put into the acquisition, these lands will provide excellent elk habitat, aspen groves and pure-strain Westslope cutthroat trout habitat for many generations to come.”

“We are grateful for the Neild family and their recognition of the importance of conserving a vital piece of land that plays such an important role for elk and so many other different species,” added Henning.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Trust, RMEF and the Land and Water Conservation Fund provided funding for the project along with other funding partners, all with the same goal of conserving valuable fish and wildlife habitat, open space and productive forest and grasslands.