WILDLIFE -- Shoshone County is one of 10 Idaho counties that will be sharing a $276,584 Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation grant for wildlife habitat projects on nearly 76,000 acres in the state.
Shoshone County's portion will be used in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to aerially ignite 1,200 acres to improve big game forage, stand conditions and reduce natural fuels on elk summer range within the Heller Creek and Wisdom Creek drainages on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
This project is part of a larger plan to treat 3,750 acres with prescribed fire resulting in up to 21 percent of the project area becoming forage openings, according to RMEF officials. Prescribed burning also will be applied to 1,500 acres in the Lost Creek area of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains as part of a 5-10 year habitat enhancement project.
The grant also will help fund statewide research in areas where elk are declining, especially in the Clearwater region.
The steady elk decline in the Clearwater Basin of north-central Idaho over the past three decades is attributed to substantial loss of habitat, human pressures and the reintroduction of wolves, RMEF officials said. Money in that county will be used for a multi-year elk nutrition study and developing habitat models.
Read on for details about the grant funding for other counties and statewide projects.
Adams County—Treat 5,000 acres with prescribed fire as part of a larger multi-year effort to improve forage and habitat conditions for elk and other wildlife while also providing habitat for the threatened Northern Idaho ground squirrel that requires fire to improve and maintain its habitat.
Boise County—Place collars on up to 20 elk calves to determine if a 40 percent reduction of the wolf population in the Sawtooth Elk Zone on the Boise National Forest increased calf survival/recruitment; survey and apply treatment for noxious weeds along 103 miles of motorized trails across the Idaho City Ranger District on the Boise National Forest; and provide funding to complete the exclusion fence on the east side of Idaho 21 through the Boise River Wildlife Management area that helps guide elk and mule deer to the underpass to increase public safety, reduce wildlife mortality and maintain landscape integrity (project includes Ada County).
Bingham County—Restore four non-functioning water guzzlers, expand the surface area of water catchment aprons to improve wildlife distribution and lure them away from private agricultural lands, and install livestock exclusion fences around guzzlers on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land west of Pocatello.
Bonneville County—Provide funding as part of a multi-year-year effort to improve aspen habitat on nine units in the upper basins of Fall and Bear Creeks affecting 1,500 acres eight miles southwest of Swan Valley on the Caribou National Forest; and apply burning to material previously cut and left on the ground as part of effort to remove encroaching conifers from aspen stands in important habitat for elk calving and mule deer fawning in the Teton Ranger District on the Targhee National Forest (also affects Teton County).
Camas County—Seed bluebunch wheatgrass, plant bitterbrush seedlings and treat noxious weeds to restore 975 acres of elk winter range in the Wood River Valley within the 2013 Beaver Creek Wildfire area on the Sawtooth National Forest (also affects Blaine County).
Clearwater County—Provide funding for extensive landscape and elk habitat restoration in the Clearwater Basin of north-central Idaho where elk populations continue their steadily decline over the past three decades because of a substantial loss of habitat, human pressures and the reintroduction of wolves (also affects Idaho County); and provide Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) funding for a multi-year elk nutrition study in the Clearwater Basin that includes capturing and collaring wild elk, establishing a land use habitat matrix and applying the new Oregon-Washington elk nutrition and habitat models for a monitoring program (also affects Idaho County).
Elmore County—Provide TFE funding to plant bitterbrush seedlings across 25,000 acres of elk and mule deer habitat on BLM lands in the Pony Complex Wildfire area to enhance other post-fire rehabilitation treatments completed in the area; and hand-plant bitterbrush and sagebrush on 10,000 acres, hand-plant riparian vegetation along the South Fork Boise River and tributaries, and aerially seed 6,000-10,000 acres as part of continuing effort to rehabilitate Boise National Forest lands following the 2013 Pony and Elk Complex wildfires.
Idaho County—Provide TFE funding to burn approximately 18,000 acres in the Clearwater Basin on 10-units consisting of elk crucial winter and summer range on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest as part of an ongoing effort to improve elk habitat (also affects Clearwater County).
Owyhee County—Slash and girdle juniper on 921 acres in the Pole Creek area in preparation for future prescribed burning on BLM land located a few miles from the 2007 Crutcher Complex Wildfire as part of a 10-15 year project to restore and maintain shrub steppe and aspen communities; and hand-plant 14,000 bitterbrush seedlings on 700 acres in the Jarbidge Foothills on BLM land that burned in the 2007 Murphy Complex wildfire.
Valley County—Provide funding for Idaho Youth Outdoors’ youth ice fishing day to get kids outdoors and introduce them to the sport.
Statewide—Provide funding for the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council, an association of approximately 30 hunting, fishing and trapping organizations across Idaho, that reviews issues such as Chronic Wasting Disease, game farms, habitat challenges, fishing and hunting access, and big game tag availability with the Idaho Legislature, the Department of Fish and Game and sportsmen and women.
Conservation projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies and universities. RMEF volunteers and staff select hunting heritage projects to receive funding.
Partners for the Idaho projects include the Boise, Caribou-Targhee, Idaho Panhandle, Nez Perce-Clearwater, Payette and Sawtooth National Forests; Bureau of Land Management; Idaho Department of Fish and Game and various sportsmen, wildlife, civic and government organizations.
Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 446 different conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Idaho with a combined value of more than $56.4 million that also opened or secured public access to more than 22,000 acres.