June 21, 2018

More Pennsylvania Elk Country Protected, Open to Public Access

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Another piece of Pennsylvania elk country is permanently protected and open to public access thanks to a collaborative effort by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).

The Woodring Farm II project entails 37 acres and is the newest addition to State Game Lands 311. It is located near a project finalized in 2014 and marks the 13th RMEF land protection and access project in Pennsylvania elk country.

“Even though these three parcels amount to just 37 acres, every piece of the puzzle counts in expanding the total amount of elk habitat acreage protected in Pennsylvania,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “We appreciate our partners at the Pennsylvania Game Commission as well as RMEF members and volunteers for their continual support.”

The property lies within the heart of the Pennsylvania elk range in Elk County’s Benezette Township which boasts the highest elk population density in the state.

“This acquisition is critical as it protects a very popular public corridor for elk viewing.  Public visitation to these viewing areas increases every year,” said Bryan Burhans, PGC executive director. “However, high-quality elk range is finite. This area is now protected perpetually thanks to our partners at RMEF and an anonymous donor.”

Funds generated from Pennsylvania elk tags and the anonymous donation to RMEF provided funding for the project.

Since 1991, RMEF and its partners completed 425 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Pennsylvania with a combined value of more than $25 million. These projects protected or enhanced 26,907 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 10,152 acres.

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Elk Habitat Protected, Hunting Access Improved in Colorado

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Thanks to a conservation-minded landowner and a key state funding program, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation joined Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to permanently protect 2,677 acres of vital elk habitat in northwest Colorado.

“We are grateful to Rick Tingle, a RMEF life member, for placing a conservation easement on his Louisiana Purchase Ranch,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Additionally, this project highlights the critical need for the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Program (CWHP) and its Habitat Stamp which supplied important funding to help push things through to the finish line.”

“With a fast-growing human population, it is more important than ever before to ensure the state’s wildlife has the habitat it needs to survive in perpetuity,” said Bill de Vergie, CPW area wildlife manager. “Thanks to funds provided by Great Outdoors Colorado and CPW’s Habitat Stamp Program, a very valuable stretch of land is now protected through the CWHP. Some limited public hunting access will also be provided so the benefits of this easement will pay dividends well into the future.”

CWHP provides a means for CPW to work with private landowners, local governments, and conservation organizations to protect important fish and wildlife habitat and provide places for people to enjoy opportunities to hunt and fish.

Since the ranch is bordered on three sides by State Land Board and Bureau of Land Management land in a part of the state home to Colorado’s largest elk herds, it provides connectivity for elk and mule deer migration. Thousands of elk pass through the area during the spring and fall. The property also provides summer and winter range for both species and other wildlife.

“This truly is a special place,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, who has visited the location. “We are grateful to the Tingle family for recognizing and helping us protect the wildlife values of this land.”

Access is improved to surrounding public lands because the landowner will provide perpetual unlimited permission to public hunters for a 25-day period each year with drive-through access. In addition, he signed off on a 10-year CPW agreement to provide access for six elk and/or deer hunters on lands off County Road 23 during a three-day window during Colorado’s third rifle season.

Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 726 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Colorado with a combined value of more than $165.2 million. These projects protected or enhanced 447,910 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 107,992 acres.

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Elk Habitat Protected, Public Access Expanded in Montana

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked with a conservation-minded family and a group of partners to permanently protect and conserve 2,810 acres of elk habitat in the Big Belt Mountains of west-central Montana. RMEF conveyed the land to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) which added it to the adjacent Beartooth Wildlife Management Area (WMA), expanding the game range by nearly nine percent.

“This Whitetail Prairie acreage is valuable year-round habitat for elk, antelope, mule deer and whitetail deer, mountain lion and a variety of other game and non-game species,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “It is also a vital fishery since it contains three tributaries of the Missouri River.”

“Today, anywhere you look, the currency of successful wildlife habitat conservation is trust,” said Jeff Hagener, FWP director. “It took cooperation among landowners, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, sportsmen and women and others to again demonstrate the power of working toward a common goal. The result will last longer than a lifetime and continue Montana’s commitment to long-term conservation of special places that address the still critical need for healthy wildlife habitat.”

“We hope the future users enjoy and appreciate the Whitetail [land] as much as we did,” said Del, Jim, Lee and Merlin Voegele. “You initiated a project that apparently ignited a fire under a whole lot of like-minded folks including a number of behind-the-scenes volunteers who seemingly never quit working.”

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE), the Mule Deer Foundation, Safari Club International and the Cinnabar Foundation provided funding for the project as well as Habitat Montana funds derived from Montana hunting licenses plus Pittman-Robertson funds provided through the taxation of firearm and ammunition sales.

“It’s important to understand that Habitat Montana funds, the value of which the Montana legislature continues to debate, are absolutely critical to conservation efforts like this one. They are crucial for conservation organizations like RMEF to carry out this work and they’re crucial for hunters, anglers, hikers and other recreationists so they can reap the benefits of it,” added Henning.

“After more than 25 years, Habitat Montana has proven that wildlife and agriculture can benefit each other. By working with willing landowners who sold or placed their lands in conservation easements, FWP has found productive ways to work with others to ensure the long-term conservation of natural and agricultural values while providing new places for the public to recreate, especially for hunting. Habitat Montana has been and remains a critical component in maintaining what is best about Montana,” added Hagener.

TFE funding is only used to further RMEF’s core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

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RMEF Allocates $3.5 Million for Habitat Stewardship, Hunting Heritage

MISSOULA, Mont.—In addition to work in permanent land protection, public access and elk restoration, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation allocated more than $3.5 million so far in 2014 for habitat stewardship and hunting heritage projects across the United States.

The total includes more than $3.1 million specifically directed for elk habitat, research, elk restoration and wildlife-related conservation projects in 27 states with wild, free-ranging elk populations. Additional funding is allotted for hunting heritage programs in 49 states.

Banquet-based membership and fundraising activities by local RMEF chapters generated the funding that state volunteers and staff will direct into various on-the-ground projects and programs.

“What can you say about our volunteers who number more than 10,000 strong?” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “It’s thanks to their hard work, passion and dedication that we have this funding to turn around and put back on the ground in their own backyards which will enhance the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.”

“This allocation of funds has and will fund Project Advisory Committee projects, state grants, and a portion of the Virginia and Missouri elk restoration projects,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “Individual states also designated some of the funds to our national programs and initiatives.”

Habitat projects are selected for RMEF grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies and universities from their respective states. Project examples include prescribed burning, forest thinning and management, noxious weed treatments, water improvements and other habitat enhancement work carried out mostly on public lands. Also included are research projects to better understand and improve management of elk, habitat, predators and other factors that influence conservation.

Hunting heritage projects are selected by RMEF staff and volunteers in their individual states and are based on the ability to provide education about habitat conservation, the value of hunting, hunting ethics and wildlife management, and reaching out to youth.

RMEF will also distribute funding received through donations, partnerships with conservation-minded partners, grants and other means to its national core programs of habitat stewardship, land protection, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

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David Trahan and Gerry Lavigne On a $5 Million Bond to Protect Winter Deer Yards

The Bangor Daily News carries an opinion piece coauthored by David Trahan, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine(SAM), and Gerry Lavigne, former deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) and member of SAM. The piece is a call to the governor, the Legislature and voters of Maine to pass LD852, a $5 million bond to fund Land for Maine’s Future.

For readers to better understand exactly what this means as it pertains to protecting deer wintering areas, first please consider the Summary as provided in LD852:

The funds provided in this bond issue are to recapitalize the Land for Maine’s Future program with $36,000,000 to continue Maine’s land conservation efforts, leveraging a minimum of $36,000,000 in required matching funds. It provides $12,000,000 for natural resource industry based infrastructure improvements and enhancement related to natural resource industry and to provide capital for state park maintenance and improvements. It also gives land conservation projects that protect and enhance deer wintering habitat preference and directs the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Conservation to pursue projects that protect and conserve deer wintering habitat(emboldening added).

I would strongly suggest that all voters thorough read and understand LD852 before voting on it. Below is part of LD852 which speaks of disbursement of funds if the bond is passed. I’ve highlighted some key points as it relates to protection of deer yards.

Sec. 5. Disbursement of bond proceeds. The proceeds of the bonds must be expended as set out in this Act under the direction and supervision of the Executive Department, State Planning Office; the Department of Conservation; the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources; and the Department of Marine Resources.

1. The proceeds of the bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future Board as set out in section 6 must be expended by the Executive Department, State Planning Office for acquisition of land and interest in land for conservation, water access, outdoor recreation, wildlife and fish habitat, farmland preservation in accordance with the provisions for such acquisitions under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, chapter 353 and working waterfront preservation in accordance with the terms of this Act, including all costs associated with such acquisitions, except that use of the proceeds of these bonds is subject to the following conditions and requirements.

A. Hunting, fishing, trapping and public access may not be prohibited on land acquired with bond proceeds, except to the extent of applicable state, local or federal laws, rules and regulations and except for working waterfront projects and farmland protection projects.

B. Payment from bond proceeds for acquisitions of local or regional significance, as determined by the Land for Maine’s Future Board, may be made directly to cooperating entities as defined in Title 5, section 6201, subsection 2 for acquisition of land and interest in land by cooperating entities, subject to terms and conditions enforceable by the State to ensure its use for the purposes of this Act. In addition to the considerations required under Title 5, chapter 353, the board shall give a preference to acquisitions under this paragraph that achieve benefits for multiple towns and that address regional conservation needs including public recreational access, wildlife, open space and farmland.

C. The bond funds expended for conservation, recreation, farmland and water access must be matched with at least $36,000,000 in public and private contributions. Seventy percent of that amount must be in the form of cash or other tangible assets, including the value of land and real property interest acquired by or contributed to cooperating entities, as defined in Title 5, section 6201, subsection 2, when property interests have a direct relationship to the property proposed for protection, as determined by the Land for Maine’s Future Board. The remaining 30% may be matching contributions and may include the value of project-related, in-kind contributions of goods and services to and by cooperating entities.

D. Of the bond proceeds allocated to the Land for Maine’s Future Board, $4,000,000 must be made available to protect farmland in accordance with Title 5, section 6207.

E. Of the bond proceeds allocated to the Land for Maine’s Future Board, $4,000,000 must be made available to protect working waterfront properties in accordance with Public Law 2005, chapter 462, Part B, section 6.

F. Because portions of the State have deer populations that are struggling and deer wintering habitat protection is vital to the survival and enhancement of these populations, projects that conserve and protect deer wintering areas are considered to have special value and must receive preferential consideration during scoring of new applications for support under Title 5, section 6200, et seq.

2. The proceeds of the bonds for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources must be expended on agricultural infrastructure improvements.

3. The Department of Conservation and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shall take a proactive approach to pursuing land conservation projects that include significant wildlife habitat conservation, including conservation of deer wintering areas. The departments shall include in conservation negotiations under this section provisions for the appropriate management of deer wintering areas. The proceeds of the bonds for the Department of Conservation must be expended as follows.

A. Two million dollars allocated to the Maine Forest Service must be used for forestry infrastructure improvements.

B. Two million dollars allocated to the Bureau of Parks and Lands must be used for public recreation infrastructure improvements.

C. Four million dollars allocated to the Bureau of Parks and Lands must be used to preserve state parks and lands managed by the Department of Conservation.

4. The proceeds of the bonds for the Department of Marine Resources must be expended on commercial fishing infrastructure improvements.

5. To the extent the purposes are consistent with the disbursement provisions in this Act, 100% of the bond proceeds may be considered as state match for any federal funding to be made available to the State.

Yesterday, I shared some thoughts on this subject.

Tom Remington

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