(Photo credit: Ben Childers)
MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners supplied $842,662 in grant funding to bolster habitat, wildlife management and hunting heritage projects in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
“Maintaining and improving habitat for elk, deer, wild turkey, black bears and other wildlife is essential to their well-being and future,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “Placing these dollars on the ground helps make that happen. We appreciate our partners for their support as well as our dedicated RMEF volunteers who helped raise this vital funding at banquets and other events.”
RMEF supplied $255,403 that helped leverage $587,259 in partner dollars.
Projects vary from creating wildlife openings or meadows, prescribed burning and removing invasive vegetation to an elk calf survival study and supporting mentored hunts.
The five-state region received $1.45 million in conservation funding in 2022.
Below is a complete list of the 2023-funded* projects, listed by state.
(*Projects that receive funding in one year often carry over into the subsequent years.)
- Install upwards of 45 miles of fire lines to expand the use of prescribed burning to manage invasive vegetation and improve wildlife habitat on private mine land enrolled in the state’s public access program. A 4,000-acre burn will follow.
- Provide funding for elk crossing signs with LED lighting to warn motorists traveling across S. Highway 19 in Jackson, Swain and Haywood Counties as well as Acquoni Road on Qualla Boundary.
- Create four early seral wildlife habitat openings across 14 acres on William H. Silver Game Land. Removing large trees but keeping the stumps triggers sprouting that supplies important nutrients for elk and deer.
- Provide funding support for the Talking Trees Children’s Trout Derby hosted by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. More than 2,000 kids attend and receive a free fishing pole and gear, t-shirt, hat and meals. RMEF volunteers assisted the event for 20 years.
- Supply funding for continuing capture and collaring efforts so researchers can better monitor elk calf survival and mortality causes. RMEF previously funded research to monitor adult elk survival, habitat use and diet selection.
- Create the first of four planned wildlife habitat openings on the New River Unit of the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
- Treat 165 acres to improve habitat for elk, deer, black bears, turkeys, grouse and other wildlife by reducing an overabundance of woody vegetation on the WMA. The project sets the table for future prescribed burning to further enhance forage.
- Thin 38 acres of overly thick tree stands on the WMA as well as thickets that offer little wildlife value in preparation for future prescribed burns.
- Supply funding support for the mentored hunts of 10 veterans hosted by Cross the Divide, a nonprofit that offers vets an opportunity to experience nature, learn or rekindle a love for hunting, and provide meat for their families.
- Treat nonnative, invasive vegetation across 58 acres in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The project builds on earlier RMEF-funded work to improve habitat in the North Fork of Pound Lake area in the Virginia Elk Management Zone.
- Improve forage and water resources across nine acres of privately owned land in Buchanan County within and near the elk release site.
- Raised $54,855 for habitat stewardship work to improve forage for elk and other wildlife by raffling off the 2023 Virginia elk conservation tag.
- Treat 15 acres of invasive vegetation on reclaimed mine lands on the Big South WMA. About six miles from the original elk release site on the Tomblin WMA, it supplies habitat for elk, deer, ruffed grouse, turkey and other wildlife species.
- Provide funding support for 40 disabled hunters from across the country to participate in mentored deer hunts hosted by Hands of a Sportsman in North Carolina.
Project partners include the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources and sportsmen, conservation, business and civic groups as well as private individuals and foundations.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 39 years ago and fueled by hunters, RMEF maintains more than 225,000 members and has conserved more than 8.8 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.