MISSOULA, Mont.-To the average American eye, it’s a forgotten scrap of windswept prairie with horizons broken only by weathered fencerows. But to the American spirit of conservation, it’s sacred ground.
Today this North Dakota landscape-Theodore Roosevelt’s historic Elkhorn Ranch-is permanently protected, now held by the U.S. Forest Service, following a long, collaborative effort by reverent conservationists.
To celebrate the project, the Forest Service and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently presented an Elk Country Award to dedicated federal employees who were instrumental in the success. The award, a bronze elk sculpture, was given during the Elk Foundation’s annual convention, which concluded Feb. 24 in Reno, Nev.
Ron Erickson of Forest Service Region 1 and Dave Pieper, Dakota Prairie Grasslands supervisor, accepted the award on behalf of their staffs.
“Acquiring this property from the Eberts family and transferring ownership to the Forest Service has permanently protected 5,200 acres for elk and other wildlife. This habitat is now immune to the land-development pressures increasing across the region,” said Tom Toman of the Elk Foundation. “Roosevelt used this ranch for grazing livestock and hunting, and both of those uses will continue into the future.”
The Boone and Crockett Club, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Elk Foundation’s Larry Baesler and Grant Parker also were recognized for leadership and considerable work in the project.
The Elkhorn Ranch (which will be managed as part of a 23,000-acre grasslands unit) provides crucial range for more than 100 elk in the Badlands of western North Dakota. It also provides valuable habitat for deer, turkeys, bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions and sharp-tailed grouse.
Roosevelt often credited his years in North Dakota with building his outdoor ethic and philosophy. His Elkhorn Ranch has been called the “cradle of conservation” in America.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Missoula, Mont., the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. The Elk Foundation and its partners have permanently protected or enhanced over 5.2 million acres, a land area larger than Connecticut, Delaware and District of Columbia combined. More than 500,000 acres previously closed to public access are now open for hunting, fishing and other recreation. The Elk Foundation has more than 150,000 members, a staff of 150 and 10,000 active volunteers. To help protect wild elk country or learn more about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, visit www.elkfoundation.org or call 800-CALL-ELK.