Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Montana Elk Habitat, Wolf Management Get Boost from RMEF Grants

Below is a complete listing of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s 2015 grants for the state of Montana. Find more information here

Beaverhead County—Remove encroaching conifers (mainly Douglas-fir) from a 106-acre mountain mahogany stand on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest to reduce competition and increase browse potential for ungulates; enhance upland sagebrush grasslands in the Proposal Rock area on the Wisdom Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest with 367 acres of prescribed fire and 209 acres of mechanical lop and scatter to improve elk transition, summer range and calving areas as they travel from national forest to private lands in the Big Hole Valley and back; apply herbicide re-treatment to control large and remote spotted knapweed infestations on 236 acres of summer range and calving areas in the Plimpton and Bender drainages in the Big Hole Valley on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest; and burn 245 acres on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands on the north end of the West Pioneer Mountains near the Wise River to restore and maintain sagebrush meadows, aspen and riparian habitats, and reduce hazardous fuels in the wildland urban interface within a 4,800-acre project area.

Deerlodge County—Treat 665 acres of noxious weed infestations on Stucky Ridge which supports a strong population of elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep yearlong and is crucial winter range on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Flathead County—Remove encroaching conifers from 70 acres and target 272 acres for prescribed burning that were previously thinned to maintain a mix of cover and open foraging areas on winter range within historically open areas of Horse Ridge on the Spotted Bear Ranger District of the Flathead National Forests; and contribute to apply prescribed burn, weed treatment, and aspen regeneration efforts on 300 acres of the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge as part of a management project to develop a protocol for future patch burning that replicates natural fire processes for the area.

Jefferson County—Reduce conifer encroachment on 480 acres of sagebrush grasslands coupled with follow-up weed treatments. Volunteers will remove old and excess fence that is a hazard to wildlife and assist with identifying noxious weed locations that will allow for an integrated noxious weed treatment plan to be developed and followed by subsequent treatment. RMEF is working to acquire and convey this private inholding in the Elkhorn Mountains to the Helena National Forest (also affects Broadwater County).

Lewis and Clark County—Treat 480 acres of noxious weeds, including 100 backcountry acres, on the Lewis and Clark National Forest bordering and within the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness areas with a focus on treating known isolated patches and locating additional infestations to aid in early detection and eradication within vital habitat for elk, lynx, bighorn sheep, moose, mule deer, upland birds and a variety of other species (also affects Teton County).

Lincoln County—Treat invasive smooth brome and noxious weeds, thin small conifers and apply prescribed fire to restore winter range on 557 acres in the Tobacco Valley near the Canadian border in Northwest Montana on the Kootenai National Forest; chemically treat approximately 300 miles of roads (or 952 acres) as well as off-road spot spraying on adjacent field and sidehills that support wintering elk and deer away from roads on Plum Creek Timber, Stimson Lumber and state lands within the Fisher/Thompson Conservation Easement on the Kootenai National Forest; and apply prescribed fire to 1,815 acres, including backcountry areas where timber harvest is not feasible on the Kootenai National Forest near Troy, as part of an effort to implement 10,400 acres of prescribed burning on 23 units in addition to more than 800 acres of post-harvest underburn treatments to improve forage for elk, grizzly bears and a variety of other wildlife species.

Madison County—Treat 162 acres of isolated noxious weed patches that remain after previous aerial herbicide application in the Greenhorn Range of the Ruby River basin on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in an area of high value to elk, moose, mule deer and bighorn sheep.

Missoula County—Thin and underburn 1,200 acres of ponderosa pine dominated forest to stimulate growth of browse and forage species on Lolo National Forest land where fire suppression has led to degradation of yearlong elk habitat, bordering private lands west of Missoula; aerially treat 159 acres of noxious weeds to improve forage on winter range in the Gilbert Creek drainage, a tributary to Rock Creek, on the Lolo National Forest; and sponsor OutdoorsFest 2015, a free family event in Bonner that offers education about wildlife, shooting a bow and outdoor activities.

Petroleum County—Conduct the largest prescribed burn carried out by the BLM in Montana to date on 6,700 acres of BLM and private lands northeast of Winnett to reduce conifer and juniper encroachment into native grass and sagebrush prairie thereby increasing production and diversity of forbs for elk and lowering the risk of high-severity, stand replacement wildfires. Mule deer, pronghorn, wild turkeys and other wildlife also benefit.

Powder River County—Prescribe burn up to 2,100 acres on the Stag Burn Unit south of Ashland on the Custer National Forest to reduce leaf litter and understory growth while reducing the chance of high severity wildfire in order to improve forage for elk, browse and forage for white-tailed and mule deer, pine seed production for wild turkey, and the prey base for goshawk (also affects Rosebud County).

Powell County—Enhance native grasses, forbs and shrubs, and promote aspen regeneration in a transition area between grasslands and dry timber stands on the Helena National Forest approximately 10 miles west of Lincoln. Treatments include 335 acres of thinning/burning and 400 acres of weed treatments (with some overlap).

Rosebud County—Prescribe burn up to 500 acres on the Red Rock Lake Burn Unit and 850 acres on the Brewster Burn Unit 21 miles south of Ashland on the Custer National Forest to reduce leaf litter and understory growth while reducing the chance of high severity wildfire in order to improve forage for elk, browse and forage for white-tailed and mule deer, pine seed production for wild turkey, and the prey base for goshawk.

Sanders County—Hand cut dense patches of small Douglas-fir trees on 100 acres of the Lolo National Forest in preparation for an underburn to improve big game winter range forage production without having the fire damage the larger overstory ponderosa pine trees. The project is part of the Cutoff project which aims to treat more than 7,000 acres of winter range over five to seven years in the lower Clark Fork River drainage between St. Regis and Quinn’s Hot Springs; and apply prescribed burn treatment to more than 1,400 acres of winter range habitat on the Lolo National Forest, working toward the target of burning more than 4,000 acres north of Thompson Falls.

Stillwater County—Treat approximately 250 acres of noxious weeds on federal, state and private lands within the Upper Stillwater River Watershed. The project is coordinated by the Stillwater Valley Watershed Council and involves many landowners through a cost-share program of combining efforts to cooperatively control noxious weeds across a 184,000-acre landscape (also affects Carbon County).

Sweetgrass County—Continue ongoing aspen management and prescribed burning projects on the Yellowstone Ranger District of the Gallatin National Forest and some adjacent private land with 100 acres of thinning and a 1,200-acre prescribed burn south of Big Timber.

Statewide—Provide funding for dues/sponsorship of the Montana Association of Land Trusts which promotes and supports excellence in private voluntary land conservation across Montana including work on making the federal enhanced conservation tax incentives permanent, creating a new state stewardship fund for sagebrush and sage grouse conservation through the Montana Legislature, continuing efforts to make the USDA Agricultural Land Easement Program and Regional Conservation Partnership Program more productive and more effective in Montana, and working with the University of Montana Law Clinic on legal projects that benefit Montana land trusts; and sponsor the Be Bear Aware Campaign which provides bear avoidance safety events throughout northern Idaho and western Montana.

Western Montana—Provide $50,000 in funding to assist Montana’s wolf management plan. The funding, $25,000 to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park and $25,000 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provides for additional collaring of wolves to expand the science related to wolf pack locations, size and home ranges as well as resolving wolf conflicts associated with livestock depredation.

Partners for the Montana projects include the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Custer, Flathead, Gallatin, Helena, Kootenai, Lewis and Clark, Lolo National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, private landowners and various sportsmen, wildlife, civic, and government organizations.

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