MISSOULA, Mont. — Help is on the way for Montana’s elk, elk habitat and efforts to maintain and grow the state’s traditional hunting lifestyle. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners allocated $3,664,902 for 44 different projects that support conservation and outdoor activities across the state.
“Enhancing habitat is paramount to our mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Wildfires burned nearly 54,000 acres of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest in 2021. Some of this funding will replace scorched wildlife water developments, fencing and treat invasive weeds that crowd out natural vegetation relied upon by elk and other wildlife.”
The project is part of RMEF’s continuing $1 million commitment for wildfire restoration and is one of nearly two dozen Montana projects focused on improving wildlife habitat. There are also 20 projects that help archery and recreational shooting teams, mentored hunts and other outdoor-related efforts.
RMEF supplied $1,018,908 in funding that leveraged $2,645,994 in partner dollars.
“We would not be able to put this funding on the ground if it weren’t for dedicated RMEF volunteers who freely give their time to plan and host fundraising banquets across Montana,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “To them we say, ‘Thank you.’”
Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 1,226 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Montana with a combined value of more than $209.7 million. These projects conserved and enhanced 919,895 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 358,309 acres.
Below is a list of the Montana projects, shown by county.
- Restore two miles of riparian habitat along Fish Creek and remove encroaching conifers on 420 acres of sagebrush and grassland habitat at Blacktail Deer Creek land managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Dillon Field Office. It is critical winter range, an elk calving area and a migratory route.
- Enhance 2,407 acres of habitat for elk, mule deer, moose and other wildlife in the Dillon Ranger District on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (BDNF) by removing encroaching conifers followed by prescribed burning. The treatments are part of a landscape-scale aspen restoration strategy.
- Provide funding support for the Broadwater County 4-H Shooting Program that teaches youth life skills, safe and responsible use of firearms and archery equipment, and develops a lifelong appreciation for outdoor activities.
- Provide funding for a week-long flyfishing and conservation camp hosted by the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program. Youth learn about fishing, ecology and identification, casting and tying, ethics and other skills (also benefits Flathead, Jefferson and Silver Bow Counties).
- Provide funding to Montana Scholastic 3-D Archery (SD3A) for supplies to help participants develop safe and ethical bowhunting practices, marksmanship and team-building skills in a competitive environment (also benefits Broadwater, Lewis & Clark, Madison, Missoula and Silver Bow Counties).
- Provide funding for the Little Belt Archers, an S3DA youth archery club for ages seven to 18.
- Provide funding support for Cascade County 4-H Shooting Sports that teaches safe and responsible use of firearms and archery equipment, including sound decision-making skills, self-discipline and sportsmanship.
- Remove regenerating ponderosa pine and encroaching juniper from 400 acres of land managed by the BLM Miles City Field Office. The Knowlton area is home to many big game species and used by hunters and recreationists.
- Provide funding for the Miles City National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) chapter that exposes participants to archery safety, awareness and skills.
Deer Lodge County
- Upon completion of the 829-acre Willow Creek addition to the Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area, RMEF will provide additional support to get the property ready for public use by including weed treatment, wildlife-friendly fencing, travel management infrastructure and parking areas.
- Establish biological control agents (insects) across 180 acres in the Glacier View and Spotted Bear Ranger Districts on the Flathead National Forest to reduce the density and spread of invasive weeds. Herbicide treatment is not an option due to the rugged nature and valuable native plants in the area.
- Provide funding to support an educational trailer for the Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance to offer education about native plants, invasive species and ways to mitigate user impacts on wildlife habitat when recreating in the outdoors (also benefits Madison County).
Golden Valley County
- Upon completion of the 5,677-acre Shodair Children’s Hospital property acquisition and conveyance to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, RMEF dollars will provide start-up funding for the new Big Snowy Mountains Wildlife Management Area to help with invasive weed treatment, installing wildlife water developments and wildlife-friendly fencing, and getting the area ready for public use.
- Remove encroaching conifers and treat 392 acres for invasive weeds in the Butte Ranger District on the BDNF to reduce timber stand density in grassland and shrub communities as well as aspen stands on elk winter range.
- Utilize various treatments including cutting, mastication, lop and scatter, and jackpot burning across 341 acres in the BDNF’s Butte Ranger District. The multi-year aspen improvement project benefits elk winter and summer range.
- Remove encroaching conifers from 571 acres within aspen stands in the Basin Creek Watershed in the BDNF’s Butte Ranger District. The area serves elk as both a calving area and summer habitat.
Lewis & Clark County
- Provide funding for the Lewis and Clark County 4-H Shooting Sports so it can add 3-D archery to its activities.
- Provide funding for Great Falls Hooked on Fishing, Not Drugs Camp Walleye, an opportunity for youth to fish and learn about water safety, fish conservation and the value of outdoor activity.
- Burn 908 acres in the Libby Ranger District on the Kootenai National Forest to maintain and enhance habitat, reduce hazardous fuels and improve site conditions to allow for continued use of fire as a management tool. Remove encroaching conifers from 20 acres, spot spray invasive weeds across 340 acres and make repairs to 5,000 feet of boundary wildlife-friendly fencing in the Tobacco Valley. The native Palouse bunchgrass prairies supply important habitat for elk that cross the British Columbia border.
- Use backpack sprayers to treat 635 acres of backcountry in the Troy Ranger District on the Kootenai National Forest to prevent invasive weeds and follow up treatment with seeding. Wildfires in 2020 and 2021 left the area susceptible to the spread of invasive weeds, including ventenata grass, that crowds out natural forage.
- A high-intensity wildfire in 2017 scarred big game winter range near the Montana-Canada border on the Kootenai West Wildlife Management Area. RMEF dollars support a reforestation project that includes planting a mix of western larch, ponderosa pine and Douglas fir seedlings to benefit elk, mule deer, moose and other wildlife.
- Provide Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) funding to remove burned fencing, repair/replace wildlife water developments and treat 1,515 acres to slow the expansion of invasive vegetation after four wildfires burned nearly 54,000 acres on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest in 2021. The project will improve habitat and wildlife passage (also benefits Broadwater and Cascade Counties).
- Remove heavy Douglas fir encroachment across 300 acres in the Superior Ranger District on the Lolo National Forest to prepare for future prescribed burning. Once completed, the combined treatments will improve more than 500 acres of elk summer and transition range.
- Burn 3,000 acres as part of a multi-year approach to restore forest conditions on yearlong elk habitat in the Ninemile Ranger District on the Lolo National Forest. The Petty Creek and Frenchtown Face projects are designed to improve big game habitat by emulating historic natural fire regimes.
- Use a combination of hand and aerial ignition to burn 300 acres in the Missoula Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest to remove encroaching Douglas fir and open the forest canopy to rejuvenate decadent shrubs and grasses. Follow-up weed treatments will ensure the establishment of native forage for wildlife.
- Provide funding for the Western Montana Fish and Game Association to increase youth participation in competitive and recreational shooting sports with a goal of creating lifetime hunters and shooters (also benefits Lake and Ravalli Counties).
- Provide funding to support statewide shooting sports by sponsoring a fundraising event for the Montana Shooting Sports Association.
- Erect wildlife-friendly fencing in the Gardiner Ranger District on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest to improve wildlife movement while keeping cattle away from ongoing wildlife and riparian habitat work. Additional work aims to remove dilapidated fencing and restore natural vegetation.
- Provide financial support for the PERC Brucellosis Compensation Fund to create incentives for ranchers managing quality habitat for elk herds in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
- Provide funding to support hazing of elk from high-risk areas and reduce the chance of brucellosis transmission between elk and cattle.
- Provide funding for Outdoor Education Field Day, a 4-H outreach program to introduce youth to hunting, conservation, fishing, outdoor survival, archery, air rifle shooting and other outdoor activities (also benefits Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison Counties).
- Provide funding for a Blackfoot Challenge elk hunt coordinator to serve as a mediator between landowners and hunters to make public access easier and less of a burden for landowners which would improve elk management.
- Burn 2,898 acres in the Ashland Ranger District on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest to restore ponderosa pine ecosystems while improving wildlife forage and reducing the risk of high-severity wildfires (also benefits Powder River County).
- Treat 445 acres to restore native bunchgrass and improve forage on year-long elk and deer range in the Thompson Falls Ranger District on the Lolo National Forest.
- Provide funding for the Trout Creek School archery program that offers hunter and bowhunter education as part of its classroom curriculum for 7th and 8th Its 19-member team takes part in NASP competitions.
Silver Bow County
- Improve habitat by treating weeds on 700 acres of private land that is in partnership with RMEF through a voluntary conservation agreement and winters hundreds of elk. Wildlife movement will also be improved by converting fence structures to wildlife-friendly and lay-down fencing.
- Provide TFE funding to support the Montana Master Hunting Program, which provides advanced hunter education that increases skills, competence, ethical behavior and knowledge of agriculture and stewardship for up to 120 hunters. Also designed to improve landowner relations and understanding, the program hosted 13 service days on ranches and farms in 2021 to educate hunters about the role landowners play in stewarding wildlife habitat and challenges associated with land management.
- Provide funding for the Boone and Crockett Club’s mobile archery unit designed to teach youth archery basics as well as conservation and hunting as a wildlife management tool.
- Provide membership dues for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Montana Advisory Council.
- Provide funding for the Missoula Family YMCA to update its BB gun and archery ranges along with a zipline course at its summer camp site. Hundreds of youth from diverse backgrounds receive hands-on experience in outdoor skills, safety and shooting sports annually.
- Provide sponsorship support for a Montana Forest Collaboration workshop to help collaborative groups across the state with forest and grassland restoration, conservation and resource use.
- Provide funding for the Gallatin County 4-H Shooting Sports Program to offer youth education in safe and responsible use of firearms and archery equipment while advancing their knowledge and shooting experience.
- Provide funding for the Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation’s newest program, Hunt for Purpose, which uses archery elk hunting as a way for 9/11 combat veterans to find peace, meaning and purpose through recreational activities. Eight participants will take part in a six-month program that includes an elk hunt.
Project partners include the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bitterroot, Custer-Gallatin, Flathead, Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai and Lolo National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, private landowners and conservation, sportsmen, civic, volunteer and business organizations.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 38 years ago and fueled by hunters, RMEF maintains more than 225,000 members and has conserved more than 8.5 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.