20090822_RockyMnt_processMISSOULA, Mont.—Wildlife conservation projects in 14 Colorado counties have been selected to receive grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in 2010.

The new RMEF funding, totaling $146,250, will affect Archuleta, Chaffee, Delta, Fremont, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Las Animas, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, Park, Rio Blanco and San Miguel counties.

“These grants are possible because of the successful banquets and fundraisers staged over the past year by our Colorado volunteers—most of whom are elk hunters as well as devoted conservationists,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Since 1984, our annual grants have helped complete 502 different projects in Colorado with a combined value of more than $115 million.”

RMEF grants will help fund the following projects, listed by county:

Archuleta County—Prescribe burn 1,500-2,000 acres of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest to improve forage for elk and other wildlife in the Sheep and Davis creeks areas of San Juan National Forest.

Fremont County—Hydro-axe 400 acres of pinion-juniper to improve forage and distribution of elk in the upper Arkansas River basin on BLM lands (also affects Chaffee County).

Gunnison County—Restore 765 acres of riparian habitat and improve water table on elk winter range by installing check dams and re-establishing a single creek channel in the Graflin Gulch area of BLM lands.

Las Animas County—Use a hydro-axe to clear 200 acres of oak brush and conifer to improve habitat for elk in the Bosque del Oso State Wildlife Area.

Mesa County—Prescribe burn 2,167 acres of decadent shrubs and juniper to improve forage for wintering elk and deer in the Kannah Creek Basin area of Grand Mesa National Forest; enhance elk and deer habitat by prescribe burning 2,317 acres in the Mud Hill and Reservoir Gulch areas of Grand Mesa National Forest.

Montrose County—Conduct research on Sudden Aspen Decline by constructing exclosure fencing around 10 aspen stands to assess regional impacts of ungulate browsing and conifer encroachment (also affects Ouray, Delta, San Miguel and Mesa counties); treat noxious weeds and re-seed native grasses on 80 acres in the Tabeguache area of Uncompahgre National Forest.

Park County—Thin 60 acres and prescribe burn 2,167 acres to improve mixed conifer and aspen habitat utilized by elk and deer in the James Mark Jones State Wildlife Area.

Rio Blanco County—Enhance forage conditions for elk and deer by prescribe burning 250 acres of shrub-choked lands in the Oak Ridge State Wildlife Area; treat 300 acres of noxious weeds in the Flat Tops area of Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest (also affects Routt, Grand and Garfield counties), use hydro-axe to clear 150 acres, prescribe burn 880 acres, and treat noxious weeds on 100 acres in the White River National Forest.

Projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies and universities.

Partners for 2010 projects in Colorado include Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Colorado Division of Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, other agencies, corporations and landowners.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.7 million acres—a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.