April 27, 2017

Wildlife Habitat Protected, Access Improved in Nevada

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked with a conservation-minded landowner, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to protect 4,500 acres of key wildlife habitat in northeast Nevada via a voluntary conservation easement agreement. The project also improves access to nearly 19,000 acres of adjacent public land.

“We appreciate Bryan Masini and his partner owners of the Wildhorse Ranch in recognizing the importance of protecting and conserving the wildlife values of their land,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

Located approximately 70 miles north of Elko, the property lies within the Owyhee River watershed just east of the Independence Mountain Range.

As part of the transaction, the NDOW holds an access agreement that allows public access for hunting and other recreational activities to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands which border the ranch.

“We are grateful for all the partners in this effort and find great hope in innovative approaches such as this conservation easement,” said Tony Wasley, NDOW director. “This is a great solution that protects private land, while also maintaining the land’s benefits for the wildlife species that depend on it.”

“This specific area is year-round habitat and crucial summer range for up to 100 elk. It’s also a key area for mule deer and antelope, crucial habitat for Greater sage-grouse and it features riparian habitat for fish and other species,” added Henning.

Current range conditions consist of enough forage for cattle and wildlife and a plan has been implemented to ensure that best management practices maintain quality habitat going forward.

“This project is a great example of the private and public partnership efforts that exist to protect critical habitats and preserve agricultural working lands for future generations,” stated Ray Dotson, NRCS state conservationist.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and the Nevada Department of Wildlife provided funding for the project.

Small Utah Project Has Big Public Access Dividends

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Sportsmen and women now have permanent access to 3,800 acres of National Forest land in central Utah thanks to a collaborative effort between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Manti-La Sal National Forest, Back Country Horsemen of Utah and Emery County.

“This project shows how working together can bring about improved public access that benefits hunters, hikers, horseback riders and so many other people who enjoy our national forests,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

“The American public benefits greatly by acquiring this property which allows access to some of the best country for hunting and horseback riding on the Manti-La Sal National Forest” said Darren Olsen, district ranger for the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

The project site is located approximately 20 miles west of Huntington and secures permanent public access from a parking area on Highway 31 to the popular Candland trailhead.

RMEF recently conveyed the 10-acre parcel of land to the Manti-LaSal National Forest which now oversees management responsibilities. Back Country Horsemen of Utah (BCH), San Rafael Chapter, originally acquired grant funding and coordinated trailhead construction. Emery County donated thousands of dollars in equipment use, labor and materials.

“The Candland Mountain trailhead more than triples the parking for users of the Candland Mountain trail system,” said Rod Player of San Rafael BCH. “It would not be possible were it not for the generous donations from Emery County and RMEF. RMEF has ensured the existence of the trailhead for future generations.”

“Emery County appreciates the opportunity to partner in this project which will benefit residents of the county as well as visitors to our area,” said Ray Petersen, Emery County public lands administrator. “The Emery County Road Department displayed its typical professionalism in constructing this parking area. We are very proud of the work they do. As is often the case, it takes a willingness to collaborate by many partners to accomplish beneficial results on our public lands.”

The area accessed by the trailhead is primarily elk spring through fall habitat, including calving areas, and is used by more than 1,000 elk. It is also home to mule deer, black bears, mountain lions and a host of bird and animal life.

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) provided funding for the project. TFE funding is used solely to further RMEF’s core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

RMEF Maintains Stance: No Sale or Transfer of Public Lands

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintains its long-standing stance in adamantly opposing the sale or transfer of federal lands to states.

“We have always been against the sale or transfer of our public lands but now we’re seeing some western state legislatures mulling or taking action that could lead to that happening. We’re also hearing some chatter on the federal level,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “This is dangerous for two reasons. First, it could result in the privatizing of these lands and the subsequent permanent loss of public access for hunters, anglers, hikers and others. Second, this discussion is a smoke screen of sorts that does nothing to address the real issue of the crucial need for active management of our forests.”

RMEF released a detailed position on the issue in 2016. In addition to stating an opposition to the wholesale disposal, sale or transfer of federal land holdings, it also highlighted the urgent need for active land management.

The lack of active management has a detrimental impact on the landscape in the form of ailing forest health, an increasing number of catastrophic wildfires and a reduction in quality habitat for elk and other wildlife.

RMEF maintains litigation reform is essential to limit non-stop, frivolous lawsuits by environmental groups that use their political agendas to frustrate the implementation of badly needed land management practices as they also seek to eliminate any consideration of multiple use in many national forests.

Additionally, RMEF maintains that some within public land management fundamentally oppose active management of forest and range resources in favor of a hands-off preservation approach to landscapes which has a detrimental effect on wildlife and wildlife habitat.

“We call on RMEF members across the nation and America’s sportsmen and women to contact representatives in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to urge them to provide federal land managers the tools and direction to develop and implement effective active land management procedures. We also call on them to strongly urge state and federal lawmakers to speak out against the sale or transfer of public lands to protect our ability to hunt, fish, camp, ride and recreate, and then hold them accountable for their actions.” added Allen.

Stay Off My Land You SOB

Or something like that. This morning I was reading George Smith’s article in which he stated that it was time for the Maine Legislature to enact two new laws. One would make it legal to provide “wild game” dinners and charge money for them.

Probably in this day and age, it is about time. But before Mainers go changing and/or creating more laws, they should understand that this law was first created in conjunction with commercial hunting. Lawmakers at the time believed that allowing commercial establishments to continue selling and serving “wild game” dinners, after the prohibition of commercial hunting, might promote illegal hunting. Perhaps those days are over? I dunno.

The second proposed law would be to make it illegal for people to enter private land and “pick crops on private land, such as mushrooms and fiddleheads.” He also suggests that, “No one else should be able to take those crops from our woodlot, without our permission.” And, “What gave him the idea that this was ok without asking us? Time to stop this bad behavior and show more respect for private landowners.

I’m not disagreeing with Smith’s notions. But is making a law that bans access to private land to “pick crops” the right choice and the direction Maine residents really want to go in? I would think and support an education program to teach people about respect of private land and the benefits all residents have by keeping private land accessible. Learning respect involves the act of seeking permission from a landowner – which is much more common today than ten or more years ago. What exists for education programs is working but more effort and time, and patience, is needed. Whatever is done, it will never stop them all. No law ever does.

Can we conclude that respectful people will seek permission, especially if it involves “taking” something from the land and that those, either ignorant or brazen enough to steal, probably will continue to do it even if a law is passed?

Maine is one of those rare states where private land is considered open to the public unless the landowner legally posts his/her property. This is a benefit to all people of the outdoors, some of whom may not fully understand that benefit, perhaps because they have never experienced locked-up private land. By forcing a law through the Legislature to prohibit access to private land to “pick crops,” steers the state in a direction toward reversal of the existing state of private land access. If a law is passed intended to prevent somebody from stealing mushrooms and fiddleheads, what is to stop the next person from seeking a law to prevent taking a walk, or fishing, etc.?

Outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, will drastically change when private land becomes closed and written permission needed to access it for any reason.

From my perspective, and yes, I am a landowner in Maine, Smith’s proposed law is a bit draconian. There is a difference between simple trespass and theft. There already exists laws on the books that make it illegal to take something that is not yours. What makes Smith believe that a law stating a specific event will make any difference?

Piling laws up on the books has proven to be a waste of time. There are so many laws now, few can or are ever enforced. This is a thoughtless reaction we often hear when someone says, “There ought to be a law!” In this case there doesn’t need to be a law, because there already is one. There needs to be some education that will target the disrespectful, but generally law-abiding people citizens, to learn that taking mushrooms and fiddleheads, apples, potatoes, Christmas trees, or any other privately owned property is already illegal.

Wyoming Project Secures Access to 47,000 Acres of Public Land

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Hunters, anglers, hikers and those who enjoy other forms of outdoor recreation will benefit from a recent Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation project in Wyoming.

RMEF worked with a private landowner, Linda Zager, and several other partners to permanently protect and open access to 160 acres of prime elk and riparian habitat in southwest Wyoming.

“This small piece of property provides important habitat for elk and other wildlife but since we conveyed it to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), it is also now open to the public and improves additional access to approximately 47,000 acres of surrounding public land,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

The tract is nestled in the Wyoming Range at the confluence of Miller and La Barge Creeks which feature vital spawning and rearing habitat for the Colorado River cutthroat trout. In addition, it provides winter range for elk and is a key migration route for elk, moose, mule deer and other wildlife.

RMEF also worked with the BLM and a local contractor to repair what was an impassible road through the property.

The project links the Lake Mountain Wilderness Study Area, Miller Mountain Management Area, additional BLM lands and the Bridger-Teton National Forest while also providing public access and parking.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Sportsmen Recreational Access and RMEF provided funding for this project.

20,000-Acre Ranch Opened to North Dakota Hunters

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDGF) and other partners joined forces with dedicated landowners to create North Dakota’s largest hunter access tract.

The Richard Angus Ranch Access Project covers 20,153 acres. It also improves access to two adjacent state land sections covering another 1,280 acres.

“We are grateful to Byron and Kathy Richard for their willingness to recognize both the conservation values of their land and for allowing hunters free, walk-in access,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

The ranch, located approximately 15 miles north of Beach in extreme west-central North Dakota near the Montana border, is now part of NDGF’s Private Lands Open to Sportsmen program. A 10-year agreement allows hunters immediate access to what was formerly known as Beaver Creek Ranch.

The landscape features high-quality grassland with woody draws, bluffs, buttes and a winding Beaver Creek that offers quality habitat for elk, deer, pronghorn, turkeys and a wide array of other wildlife.

Volunteers also removed two miles of old fence and replaced it with wildlife-friendly fencing and better distributed water sources.

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) and Project Advisory Committee, NDGF, Pittman-Robertson funds, Mule Deer Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation and Pheasants Forever provided funding for the project.

RMEF uses proceeds from the TFE solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

RMEF Tops One Million Acres in Public Access Projects

*Editor’s Note* – While it is encouraging and generally a good thing that land is accessible for public use, one has to question the decision by RMEF to buy and then deed land over to government agencies. Historically, government agencies, all of which are in bed with environmental groups, have a tendency to restrict or limit use of public lands. It seems a shame should RMEF use members’ money to buy up land to protect access for hunting and the promotion of elk growth, only to discover the government later bans hunting and/or access on the same lands. Perhaps there is a better way.

RMEF has opened or secured access to 84 acres per day since its founding in 1984

MISSOULA, Mont.—From its first project in Montana 28 years ago to its most recent this fall in New Mexico, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation just surpassed one million acres in lifetime projects that created, maintained or improved access to public land.

“This is a tremendous milestone that strikes at the heart of our conservation mission,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Providing public access for hunters, anglers and others allows all of us the opportunity to better value, appreciate and care for our wildlife and wild landscapes. We especially appreciate the strong, continual support of our RMEF volunteers and members for helping make this happen.”

RMEF worked alongside scores of conservation partners over the years including the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state wildlife agencies and other organizations to complete 249 access projects in 23 different states with wild, free-ranging elk populations.

First project: Robb Creek, Montana (16,440 acres)
RMEF purchased private land and conveyed it to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It is now called the Robb-Ledford Wildlife Management Area.

Latest project: Alamocita Creek, New Mexico (40,000+ acres)
RMEF purchased 5,867 acres of private land which it conveyed to the BLM. The project also improves access to 35,000 of surrounding public land.

Largest project: Cumberland Forest, Tennessee (74,000 acres)
RMEF granted funding to assist the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency purchase a private forest previously owned by a paper company.

Smallest project: Evandale Township, Montana (.287 acres)
Part of the Royal Teton Ranch project, RMEF purchased and conveyed five small lots to the USFS which lie within the Yellowstone wildlife migration and winter range corridor.

“One million acres of public access is indeed a significant accomplishment but we have much more work to do,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “RMEF has an annual goal of creating or improving public access to 50,000 acres per year. Through our Access Elk Country Initiative, we have our sights set on an additional 150,000 acres of access by 2019.”

RMEF has opened or secured access to 84 acres per day, every day since its founding in 1984. That plays out to 4.6 acres for each of its 219,750 members.

One million acres equates to 1,563 square miles which is roughly the size of 758,000 football fields (end zones included) and slightly less in area than the state of Delaware (1.2 million acres).

3,800 Acres of Public Land Opened to Utah Hunters, Others

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked with the U.S. Forest Service to purchase a 10-acre tract that permanently protects access to 3,800 acres of public lands in central Utah.

“Opening and securing public access is core to our conservation mission,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “This small transaction has a funnel-like effect in helping hunters, hikers and other people reach a much larger publicly-administered landscape.”

The project is located approximately 25 miles west of Price in the Electric Lake area of the Manti-LaSal National Forest. It secures permanent public access from a parking area on Highway 31 to a trailhead used by elk and deer hunters, many of whom use it to pack in and set up camps.

The area accessed by the trailhead is primarily elk spring through fall habitat, including calving areas, and is used by more than 1,000 elk. It is also home to mule deer, bear, mountain lions and a host of bird and animal life.

Because of liability concerns, there was a very real concern the area may be closed by the previous landowner, but RMEF purchased and plans to convey the property to the Forest Service. RMEF purchase of the property ensures this trailhead will remain open for hunters and recreationists.

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) provided funding for the project. TFE funding is used solely to further RMEF’s core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lands in the Northeast Region; Draft Long Range Transportation Plan

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of a draft long-range transportation plan (LRTP) for public review and comment. The draft LRTP outlines a strategy for improving and maintaining transportation assets that provide access to Service-managed lands in the Northeast Region (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia) over the next 20 years.<<<Read More>>>

Access Elk Country Taking Longer Strides Thanks to RMEF Supporters

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation opened or secured public access to nearly 76,000 acres of elk habitat in 2015.

“Creating, maintaining and securing access to elk country is core to our mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation.

In 2015, RMEF carried out 17 land projects in eight different states that permanently protected 12,249 acres of elk habitat and opened or secured access to 75,922 acres, or approximately 119 square miles.

RMEF’s Access Elk Country Initiative calls for accelerated efforts to find common-sense solutions to local access challenges. Its goal is to open or secure access to 50,000 acres of public lands every year for the next five years for a total of 250,000 acres of elk country open to hunters and others to enjoy.

“A lack of access to huntable land is the number-one reason why some people don’t hunt. And since hunters provide the lion’s share of funding for land and wildlife conservation, it is vital that we ramp up our access efforts,” added Henning.

Access Elk Country charter sponsors include Sitka, Kimber, Bushnell, ALPS OutdoorZ, Yeti, Yamaha and Gerber.

“We consider these groups conservation partners because of both their financial backing and their shared support of our mission,” said Steve Decker, RMEF vice president of Marketing. “We are also extremely appreciative of our members and volunteers for their support and dedication.”

Since 1984, RMEF opened or secured access to 852,628 acres of elk country across 21 states.