May 8, 2012 11:20 AM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX/KAJ Media Center)
MISSOULA- The Missoula-based Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is awarding more than $250,000 in grants to help improve habitat on thousands of acres in Montana this year.
The 2012 RMEF grants total $257,011 and affects 14 counties: Broadwater, Fergus, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Madison, Mineral, Missoula, Petroleum, Powder River, Powell, Ravalli, Rosebud, Sanders and Stillwater.
The funded projects in Western Montana will use a combination of prescribed burns and clearing that will help improve habitat for not only elk, but other species.
A grant in Missoula County will pay for treatment of 185 acres of noxious weeds at Boyer Ranch to improving wintering habitat for elk, as well as deer and upland birds. Another 398 acres will be treated for knapweed and the weevils it attracts in the Marent Gulch area of the Lolo National Forest.
A grant to Ravalli County will fund more research for elk survival in the Bitterroot Valley, including thinning and prescribed burns on 4,000 acres of forest land on the East Fork of the Bitterroot.
In the Lower Clark Fork region, vegetation will be thinned or burned on nearly 600 aces on the South Fork of Fish Creek, removing noxious weeds on 700 acres near Thompson River and burning 400 acres in the Falls Creek Flat area.
Partners for 2012 projects in Montana include the Bureau of Land Management, Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, U.S. Forest Service and other agencies, organizations, corporations and landowners.
"Prescribed burning, forest thinning and weed treatment projects will help to enhance some 18,000 acres of habitat across Montana," said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. "We're also continuing to provide major funding for the high-profile, elk-survival research in the Bitterroot Valley, where preliminary findings support managing and controlling predator populations. Managing for a balance between predators and prey is so important in areas where habitat is shrinking or in less than optimum condition."
Funding for RMEF grants is based on local membership drives and banquet fundraising by RMEF chapters and volunteers in Montana.
The newly announced grants do not include the recent $51,000 contribution from RMEF to support implementation of Montana's approved wolf management plan.