September 24, 2019

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.

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Wildlife, Riparian Habitat Permanently Protected Near Mount St. Helens

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its conservation partners permanently protected and opened access to 1,453 acres of wildlife and riparian habitat in southwest Washington.

RMEF worked with Merrill Lake Properties LLC and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to connect protected lands and enhance recreational activities like hunting and fishing.

“There was a possibility that the previous owner could offer this Merrill Lake waterfront property to the highest bidder, but now this landscape is forever protected and open for everyone to access and use,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

“Our working partnership with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation enables us to meet the public’s demand for increased wildlife conservation, more open space and recreational opportunities,” said Clay Sprague, WDFW Lands Division manager. “We very much appreciate and value the key role that RMEF has played in opening up this incredible landscape near Merrill Lake for the public. Their funding of the remaining acreage is a very timely contribution and enhances this public acquisition.”

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office provided vital funding through its Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program for the project and RMEF stepped in to bridge a shortfall due to a purchase deadline. WDFW takes immediate ownership of 1,016 acres while RMEF holds 140 acres until funding is acquired for conveyance to WDFW. RMEF is currently spearheading that effort.

The transaction benefits Washington’s largest elk herd and is the latest in a series of projects near Mount St. Helens. RMEF collaborated with its partners to complete the first phase of the Merrill Lake project, encompassing 297 acres, in 2015.

“This property with its early seral and old growth forests has an extremely diverse set of conservation values that, in addition to elk, benefit black-tailed deer, mountain lions, black bears, osprey, eagles and other animal life as well as salmon and steelhead,” added Henning.

The land provides low elevation security for elk and is a vital fishery featuring some of the coldest fresh water inputs from the Kalama River that lead into the lower Columbia River system.

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National Access Funding Cements Montana Elk Habitat, Public Access Project

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, U.S. Forest Service and other partners permanently protected 800 acres of prime elk habitat while also improving access to approximately 5,500 acres of surrounding public land in southwest Montana.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been instrumental in our ability to secure recreational access to Montana’s public lands,” said Leanne Marten, Regional Forester of the Forest Service’s Northern Region. “Recreation is a major component of Montana’s economy and access to our forests is so important. We are proud that Zekes Meadow was the first use of the 2016 LWCF’s Priority Recreation Access appropriations in the National Forest System.”

“We are grateful to our partners for recognizing the conservation values of this particular project and its benefits for wildlife and public access,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “We also thank our congressional lawmakers for supporting LWCF funding and urge them to fully reauthorize this vital program currently set to expire in 2018.”

Located in Granite County west of Georgetown Lake within the Rock Creek watershed, including its headwaters, the property consists of two inholdings on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The southernmost portion features aspen-lined meadows and riparian habitat including Moose Meadow Creek which provides spawning grounds for westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout. The northern section includes a ponderosa pine-dominated forest, springs, wetlands and streams that are home to nearly 500 elk as well as moose, deer, grizzly bear, mountain lion and wolverine.

As part of the transaction, RMEF conveyed the land to the USFS for management purposes. The project connected more than 15 miles of public trails on land that was previously difficult to reach. Hunters, hikers, anglers and others now have access to the trailhead and can park on the USFS property.

“The landowners were willing to sell the entire property in order for the Forest Service to be able to extend public access across the land,” said Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Pintler District Ranger Charlene Bucha. “This access connects to an extensive system of trails within the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area and secures backcountry recreation for horseback riding, hiking, fishing, camping, and hunting.”

LWCF Recreational Access Funding is used by federal agencies to secure access for the American public to its federal lands. Agencies work with willing landowners to secure rights-of-ways, easements or fee simple lands that provide public access, or consolidate federal ownership so that the public has intact places to hike, hunt and fish.

In addition to LWCF Recreational Access Funding via the USFS, other funding partners include RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

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

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My Letter to Governor LePage – Re: LD372 and Bond Issues

Governor Paul Lepage – Thank you for signing LD372 and other bills to appropriate money and further your commitment to control predators that are seriously harming the state’s deer herd and other species. I hope you will also join other sportsmen in keeping a watchful eye on the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to ensure that they will use the funds as mandated by the Legislature and use it effectively.

I hope that you will consider not signing the Bond issues for mostly economic reasons. You’re doing a great job working to get Maine out of debt, we don’t need millions in bond debt piled on now. In particular the bond that would provide money to Land for Maine’s Future, is a proposal that comes premature. It is one thing to seek funding for this program, some of which through wording of the bond proposal, would earmark money to be spent on saving deer wintering areas. This effort may sound good and is certainly well intentioned but, it is quite another to appropriate this money without a real plan. Millions of dollars should not be appropriated to a program that has no viable plan on how it is going to use that money.

Some in Maine, have said that this money to save deer yards is critical and yet they also state that no landowner is going to sell the state a stand-alone deer yard. Where is the plan? Until Maine produces a workable plan that is agreeable to landowners, appropriating money, particularly through a bond is irresponsible…at best.

Thank you again for your efforts and considerations on the upcoming bond issues.

Tom Remington

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