The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners awarded over $1.3 million of grant funding to support elk habitat enhancement and hunting heritage projects in Arizona.
The RMEF directly granted $232,730 and leveraged an additional $1,096,532 in partner funding.
“This grant funding will assist in the fight against junipers and other vegetation encroaching on historic grasslands that provide vital forage for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “It also helps establish dependable water sources in a part of the country where water is often scarce.”
Twelve projects benefit 17,115 acres across Apache, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo and Yuma Counties. There are also three projects of statewide benefit.
Arizona is home to nine RMEF chapters and nearly 7,000 members.
“We greatly appreciate the time and effort put forth by our volunteers,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “Thanks to their passion and dedication, we can place this funding on the ground in Arizona to benefit elk and a wide array of other wildlife species.”
Since 1986, RMEF and its partners completed 494 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Arizona with a combined value of more than $34.5 million. These projects protected or enhanced 417,131 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 21,585 acres.
Arizona project partners include the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto National Forests, private landowners and various other conservation, sportsmen and civic organizations.
Below is a sample of Arizona’s 2019 projects, listed by county.
Provide funding for the Rio Salado Target Terminators, one of the first Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) teams formed in Arizona. The club utilizes certified volunteer shotgun coaches to teach shooting sports sportsmanship, responsibility, teamwork and other life skills.
Provide funding for the Wickenburg Christian Academy Archery Club, which provides an opportunity for middle school and high school age boys and girls to participate and compete in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP).
Remove young juniper trees encroaching on 1,834 acres via mastication to restore grassland habitat on private land that lies between the Kaibab National Forest’s Tusayan and Williams Ranger Districts to benefit elk, pronghorn, other wildlife and livestock.
Provide funding and volunteer manpower to carry out habitat enhancement work on the O’Haco Ranch. Specifically, crews remove and repair fencing while also installing elk jumps, where needed, and also construct three different wildlife water drinkers out of large tractor tires.
Continue a multi-year grassland restoration project on 3,178 acres in the Deadman Mesa area on the Tonto National Forest. Crews create large, quality forage openings by removing decadent junipers and non-palatable brush on elk year-round range. The project also reduces the threat of catastrophic wildfire.
Repair, clean and seal 14 inefficient and non-functioning earthen dirt stock tanks. Repair berms remove sedimentation and debris, and then seal 14 inefficient and non-functioning earthen dirt stock tanks last maintained about 50 years ago. The project improves year-round water availability across nearly 9,000 acres by providing reliable water sources that keep wildlife and livestock from concentrating in sensitive riparian areas.
Editor's Note: Information from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.