December 7, 2019

More Elk Country Conserved, Opened to Public Access in Pennsylvania

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—An additional 766 acres of Pennsylvania elk habitat is now permanently protected and opened to public access thanks to efforts by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) and a generous donor.

“This would not have happened without landowners who care about Pennsylvania and both understand and appreciate the crucial wildlife values of this area,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

Located in Centre County, the project extends the western unit of State Game Lands 100 to the north along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. By doing so, it expands that unit to 5,272 acres in size and improves access to it while expanding the overall size of the two State Game Lands 100 units to a combined 21,069 acres.

“This critical acquisition to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s State Game Land system will not only enhance the agency’s ability to better manage the southern dispersal of its elk herd, but it will benefit all Pennsylvanians by adding an additional 766 acres,” said Bryan Burhans, PGC executive director. “We are grateful for the outstanding partnership between RMEF and the Game Commission.”

The property’s habitat includes oak and pine woodlands, meadows, grassland and key riparian habitat along 1.24 miles of the river. It is home to elk, whitetail deer, black bears, turkey, grouse and other bird and animal life.

“We are especially grateful for our long-standing partners at the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Their dedication and determination made this project possible,” added Henning.

Since 1991, RMEF and its partners completed 424 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Pennsylvania with a combined value of more than $24.9 million. These projects conserved or enhanced 26,874 acres of habitat and opened or secured public access to 9,312 acres.

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Montana Elk Habitat Conserved, Opened to Public Access

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—A key wildlife landscape previously threatened by subdivision in northwest Montana is now permanently protected and in the public’s hands thanks to a collaborative effort between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a conservation-minded family and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

“This property lies within the popular Holland Lake recreational area of the scenic Swan Valley and there was some pressure to develop it,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “We appreciate the landowners for recognizing the wildlife values of the land and reaching out to us to help conserve it.”

The 640-acre parcel offers important summer and winter habitat for elk and whitetail deer. It is also provides key habitat for grizzly bears, Canada lynx and a vast array of other wildlife. Additionally, it contains riparian habitat via springs and a chain of wetland ponds that feed a tributary of Holland Creek.

Located about 65 miles north of Missoula, the property lies west of the Swan Mountain Range and is nestled between the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the east and Mission Mountain Wilderness to the west. It was previously an inholding within the Flathead National Forest but thanks to its conveyance, it now falls under the ownership umbrella of the USFS and belongs to all citizens.

”This acquisition will improve public land access, and help to preserve the recreation setting and valuable wildlife habitat in the popular Holland Lake area,” said Rich Kehr, Swan Lake district ranger.

The Holland Lake project is one of the first to receive 2017 funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 967 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Montana with a combined value of more than $160.2 million. These projects protected or enhanced 818,826 acres of habitat and opened or secured public access to 289,532 acres.

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RMEF Surpasses 7 Million Acre Conservation Milestone

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation capped 2016, a year filled with several organizational conservation milestones, by surpassing seven million acres in lifetime land protection and habitat enhancement projects.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment that strikes at the very heart of our conservation mission. It is a reflection of decades of hard work bolstered by the support of dedicated volunteers, members, partner organizations, sponsors and many, many other good folks,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

RMEF seeks to permanently protect crucial elk range, migration corridors, calving grounds and other areas vital to elk and other wildlife. It does so by using acquisitions, access agreements and easements, conservation easements, land and estate donations, and other similar land conservation tools and projects.

Additionally, RMEF recognizes that healthy habitat is essential for wild, free-ranging elk herds so through the Managed Lands Initiative it helps fund and conduct prescribed burns, forest thinning, noxious weed treatments, water development projects and other such efforts to improve essential forage, cover, water and space components for wildlife. RMEF also supports and funds research and wildlife management work to help maintain healthy, thriving herds.

“Protecting and enhancing habitat are among the most important things we can do for wildlife. We will continue to do all we can in leading that effort in elk country. RMEF will also seek to carry out more public access projects, assist elk reintroduction work, advocate for issues important to conservation as well as sportsmen and women, and do all we can to ensure our hunting heritage,” added Allen.

In November 2016, RMEF, through the Access Elk Country Initiative, topped one million acres in new or improved public access. And in August, RMEF surpassed 10,000 lifetime conservation projects.

RMEF 2016 Milestones Summary

• Surpassed 7 million acres of conserved or enhanced habitat
• Topped 1 million acres of new or improved public access
• Surpassed 10,000 lifetime conservation projects
• Recorded eighth consecutive year of record membership, totaling 222,325 as of December 31, 2016

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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.

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Wildlife Habitat, History Permanently Protected in Montana

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—A 320-acre property in southwestern Montana, vital to wildlife and linked to the pages of U.S. history, is now permanently protected thanks to a successful collaboration between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a conservation-minded family and the U.S. Forest Service.

The former Holland Family Ranch is located west of Dillon and was previously an inholding in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. It lies squarely on the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, where Chief Joseph led his Nez Perce tribe away from its pursuers in 1877.

“We appreciate the Holland family for reaching out to us to help conserve and permanently protect this key stretch of habitat,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Land Conservation. “It is especially rich in wildlife values.”

Elk use the property as calving grounds as well as spring and summer range. It serves as an important wildlife movement corridor between the Big Hole River Valley and the Continental Divide for elk, mule deer, moose and black bear. It is also home to Canada lynx, wolverine, a wide variety of other animal and bird life, and includes more than two miles of fisheries, wetlands and surrounding riparian habitat.

RMEF recently conveyed the tract to the Forest Service thus providing both new and improved public access for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities.

“This purchase is a perfect example of how partnerships can conserve wildlife, ecological, recreational and historic values,” said Melany Glossa, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest supervisor. “Working together with RMEF and the Holland family to be a part of this legacy has been a really wonderful experience.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, Cinnabar Foundation, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust and RMEF provided funding for the project.

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LePage’s bond freeze jeopardizes the economy of Somerset County

LepageMess*Editor’s Note* – Perhaps all is not lost in this effort to convince Governor LePage to change his mind. It seems that from the author of this piece, any hopes of anything worthwhile lies in the lap of Plum Creek and the deal that was struck for the Cold Stream project. It seems that Plum Creek negotiated this deal while in the midst of negotiating a deal with Weyerhaeuser. Does this mean Weyerhaeuser automatically drops the deal? Why would they? What is the reason that Plum Creek worked on this deal? Public relations might be a big reason. If Weyerhaeuser is buying up land and moving into Maine for the first time, perhaps in their effort to start off on the right foot, would be willing to propose an even better deal for the Maine people.

I know the old saying of “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” I wonder though if anyone involved in the negotiations with Plum Creek on the Cold Stream project, has made an attempt to contact Weyerhaueser to begin talks?

It seems that it is a better deal to sew up this agreement before the sale to Weyerhaueser, but if it doesn’t, better things might be ahead.

But, if it’s strictly about The Forks’ economy, and the author tells us that Weyerhaueser historically sells hunting leases (which can be big money), then the big money might come to the Big Woods. Then, businesses will have their dollars and the Maine sportsmen will be just plain hung out to dry.

“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.”

As a direct result of this new law, the Cold Stream Project, one of the greatest conservation projects of my lifetime, was developed and proposed for the West Forks region. Working with Plum Creek and the Trust for Public Land, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry negotiated a deal that would sell 8,153 acres of critical wildlife habitat to the state, including 3,000 acres of prime deer wintering habitat, 30 miles of trout spawning streams and nine undeveloped ponds. This gem surrounds West Forks and would forever be managed for wildlife and guaranteed traditional public access.

Then, last year, Gov. Paul LePage announced that he would hold hostage Cold Stream and more than 30 other approved Land for Maine’s Future projects, representing more than $10 million in conservation bonds approved by voters, until the Legislature agreed to allow more aggressive cutting on public lands and until they appropriated $5 million generated from cutting trees to pay for his new, still undefined, home heating program.

Source: LePage’s bond freeze jeopardizes the economy of Somerset County – Central Maine

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RMEF Conserves, Opens Access to West-Central Montana Elk Habitat

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation partnered with a conservation-minded family and the U.S. Forest Service to permanently protect 317 acres of prime elk habitat in Montana’s Elkhorn Mountains.

“We are grateful to the Williams family for their desire and commitment to protect and conserve this inholding within the Elkhorn Mountain Range,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “This is crucial elk winter range that is also home to mule and whitetail deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, bear and a wide variety of other wildlife and bird species.”

The property is about 14 miles west of Townsend in the Missouri River-Canyon Ferry Lake Valley. It is also located in the southwestern section of the Elkhorn Wildlife Management Unit which is well-known to sportsmen and women as a prime area for trophy bull elk.

RMEF supervised the purchase of the land and will convey it to the Helena National Forest for public use.

“The Jenkins Gulch property, as it is called, has never been open to the public but now it will be accessible year-round for hunting, hiking, camping and other recreational outings. More importantly, since it is now permanently protected, there is no longer a potential threat of development which could have led to a loss of habitat,” added Henning.

Aside from the Williams family, conservation partners and supporters include the Land and Water Conservation Fund through the Helena National Forest as well as the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust (MFWCT), Mule Deer Foundation, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Broadwater and Jefferson County Commissioners, and Elkhorn Restoration and Working Groups.

“The Montana Fish Wildlife and Conservation Trust is very pleased to be a part of the Jenkins Gulch critical inholding acquisition. This parcel was our flagship project for 2015 and helps to ensure that the Forest Service can manage habitat, wildlife, access and recreation for the benefit of the public,” said Bill Orsello, MFWCT chairman.

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners have completed 862 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Montana with a combined value of more than $149 million. These projects have protected or enhanced 781,157 acres of habitat, of which 228,519 acres have been opened or secured for public access.

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RMEF Closes 2014 with a Bang: 10,000+ More Acres Protected, Conserved

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Shortly before the ball dropped to ring in 2015, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation closed the deal on seven different land projects in four states that permanently protect and conserve 10,565 acres of vital elk habitat. Three of the projects, two in Montana and one in North Dakota, create 3,601 acres of new public access and enhance access to thousands of more acres of public lands.

“We appreciate these conservation-minded landowners and our conservation partners who worked with the RMEF to protect and maintain this crucial habitat for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation.

Four of the projects are voluntary conservation easement agreements between landowners and the RMEF to permanently protect habitat on private acreage for the benefit of wildlife. The other three are land acquisitions. RMEF purchased ownership of two Montana properties which will be conveyed to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and contributed funds toward a North Dakota Game and Fish Department acquisition.

“These Montana and North Dakota projects are a win-win for wildlife and those who enjoy the outdoors. What was once private land that benefits a wide array of species is now permanently protected and will be added to expand three existing wildlife management areas,” added Henning.

RMEF land projects (listed by state):

Morellini Creek Conservation Easement, California
The Philip S. Berry estate donated a conservation easement to the RMEF on approximately 2,500 acres of Tule elk habitat south of California’s Pinnacles National Park (previously National Monument). The easement will protect the property’s natural oak, grass, and scrub ecosystem and continue to provide habitat for its small resident Tule elk herd as well as black-tailed deer and a wide variety of wildlife.

Little Shasta – Fogg Gulch Conservation Easement, California
RMEF teamed up with the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Wildlife Conservation Board and a committed landowner to permanently protect 640 acres of prime elk habitat in north-central California. The ranch is located on rolling foothills with seasonal drainages in Little Shasta Valley. The easement will protect important Roosevelt elk habitat, including riparian areas, that is also used by antelope, black-tailed deer, mule deer and other wildlife.

Telegraph Gulch Conservation Easement, Montana
The First Citizens Bank of Butte, Montana, donated this conservation easement to RMEF to protect 708 acres of elk and wildlife habitat adjacent to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The property’s wildlife habitat consists of a good mixture of forests, aspen groves and grassland meadows. According to FWP, resident elk utilize this land on a year-round basis for its winter, spring, summer and fall forage, plus some wet springs and possibly calving areas. It also provides habitat for deer, black bear, grouse, mountain lion, turkey and many other species.

Wall Creek Acquisition, Montana
RMEF acquired 631 acres of vital elk winter range in the Madison Valley of southwestern Montana adjacent to the 7,067-acre Madison-Wall Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The entire southern edge of this property borders the existing WMA, which provides crucial winter range for 2,000 elk as well as hundreds of mule deer and pronghorn antelope. The east edge borders Bureau of Land Management land that runs clear to the Madison River. RMEF plans to convey the land to FWP this coming summer.

Whitetail Prairie Acquisition, Montana
The Voegele Family and FWP partnered with RMEF to help conserve 2,810 acres of important wildlife habitat adjacent to the 31,947-acre Beartooth Wildlife Management Area in western Montana. The land is valuable year-round habitat for elk, antelope, mule deer and whitetail deer, bear, mountain lion and numerous non-game species. The project was made possible through funding from RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) and additional financial support from the Cinnabar Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation and Safari Club International.

Chavez Creek II Phase II Conservation Easement, New Mexico
This donated conservation easement protects 3,116 acres of private land south of Chama, New Mexico. Adjacent to other existing RMEF easements protecting approximately 1,300 acres, this property contains elk winter and summer range, calving habitat and transitional range. It also provides habitat for the Mexican spotted owl, peregrine falcon, northern goshawk and lynx.

Pembina Hills Acquisition, North Dakota
RMEF contributed funds for the acquisition of 160 acres adjacent to Pembina Hills Wildlife Management Area by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. This transaction provides new public access and will protect key habitat for North Dakota’s north eastern elk herd and many other species that rely on these native woodlands.

In 2014, RMEF permanently protected 24,383 acres in nine different states and opened or improved public access to 61,817 acres across six states.

MEF 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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