MISSOULA, Mont.—By thinning encroaching conifer and opening aspen and grassland habitat on 91 acres, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) has launched a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation initiative to enhance 33,700 acres in California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
The giant area near Burney, Calif., called McCloud Flats, is Roosevelt elk range. However, habitat quality has declined as overgrown forests choke out forage vegetation.
Together, the Elk Foundation and U.S. Forest Service developed a long-term agreement to restore wildlife values at McCloud Flats. Through its Habitat Stewardship Services Program, RMEF will help facilitate projects to swap habitat work for the value of forest products harvested. SPI earned the bid for the inaugural project.
Al Christophersen, who directs this effort for the Elk Foundation, explained, “In this deal, the Forest Service got a cost effective way to manage its forestlands, conservationists got a more natural and productive landscape for wildlife, and the forest products industry got a supply of logs to keep local mills running.”
SPI removed all conifers within 100 feet of aspen clones. Some timber produced lumber. Other timber was chipped for biomass power generation. The area is now fenced for approximately three years while aspen and native grasses are reestablishing.
“We hope to see more of these projects come our way. These stewardship contracts and agreements can be useful tools for us under the right circumstances. We hope to work closely with RMEF on future projects,” said SPI Division Forester Robert Hoover.
Hoover also complimented the careful, quality work of SPI’s local subcontractors, Dell Logging and fence-builder Clifford Cunningham.
RMEF and SPI have partnered on numerous conservation efforts in California, and the Elk Foundation’s Habitat Stewardship Services Program is active in other states, but the recent project in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest is a first for California.
“We grateful for the partnership between Shasta-Trinity National Forest and our Habitat Stewardship Services Program. We envision this cooperation leading to landscape-scale improvements for elk and other wildlife, as well as forest health,” said Christophersen.
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 5.6 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.