The eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in southcentral Washington feature rolling hills transitioning into steep slopes and a series of ridges, canyons and high elevation forests.
This is the 67,100-acre Oak Creek Wildlife Area – prime habitat for elk as well as key riparian habitat thanks to two rivers that bisect the landscape.
It is here that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation works alongside the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other partners as part of a multi-year effort to enhance habitat.
Years of fire suppression and past harvest practices led to densely overstocked forests and severe mistletoe infestations making them susceptible to catastrophic wildfire, insect outbreaks and forest disease.
As a result, an ongoing multi-year effort aims to reduce fuel loads and ladder fuels, which in turn increases wildlife forage and improves overall forest health.
Since 2016 alone, RMEF funding allowed crews to thin more than 1,000 acres of forestland, and apply prescribed fire to the forest floor as well.
It’s part of a commitment on the wildlife area dating back to 1990 that includes nearly three dozen habitat enhancement projects funded, in part, by more than $232,000 in RMEF funds.
Those projects include forest rehabilitation work, invasive weed treatment, seeding and numerous on-the-ground projects carried out by RMEF volunteers.
RMEF and other partners also worked to acquire more than 25,000 acres of former industrial private timberland that was conveyed to WDFW to enlarge the Oak Creek Wildlife Area.
Restoring elk country is core to RMEF’s Managed Lands Initiative.
Since 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners completed more than 12,600 conservation and hunting heritage projects that protected or enhanced more than 8 million acres of wildlife habitat.