Foundation grants to improve elk habitat

Staff reportMay 4, 2014 

WILDLIFE Nine counties will receive almost $180,000 in funding for habitat projects and research through grants provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Work funded by the 2014 grants will improve nearly 1,600 acres in Asotin, Cowlitz, Jefferson, King, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Pierce, Skamania and Yakima counties. There also are two statewide projects.

Partners for the Washington projects include the Colville, Gifford Pinchot, Olympic and Baker-Snoqualmie national forests; state Department of Fish and Wildlife; University of Alberta; Washington Wildlife and Recreation Foundation and various sportsmen, wildlife, civic and government organizations.

Since 1985, 521 conservation and hunting outreach projects have been completed in Washington with a combined value of more than $110.6 million.

The grants are:

Asotin County: Treat 325 acres of noxious weed such as rush skeletonweed, whitetop, spotted knapweeds, hawkweeds and sulfur cinquefoil.

Cowlitz County: Aerial spray 75 acres, plant 15,000 trees/shrubs and seed 50 acres to decrease noxious weeds and increase elk forage and quality in an area that showed poor body condition in elk that winter within the 27,000-acre Mudflow Unit of the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area.

Jefferson County: Enhance the forage on 60 acres of previously pre-commercially thinned habitat for Roosevelt elk by piling slash to improve animal movement in the Olympic National Forest.

King County: Purchase six new GPS collars and refurbish four others to place on elk in the Snoqualmie Valley study area to determine if elk are using newly created habitat areas, and to get a better population estimate. The project also will thin and seed an additional 30 acres to provide forage for elk away from the valley floor.

Okanogan County: Thin 303 acres to prepare for an 804-acre prescribed burn to stimulate growth of grasses, herbs and shrubs for elk, mule deer and other wildlife in the Chesaw Wildlife Area.

Pierce County: Relocate an existing gate to better protect wintering elk and increase use of three newly created forage openings in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. A fourth opening is planned.

Pend Oreille County: Use prescribed fire to remove encroaching conifers and improve forage production in two locations.

Skamania County: Complete 222 acres of restoration at four meadow sites by removing encroaching conifers, removing 4 miles of old barbed-wire fencing and installing boulders and a gate to prevent motorized vehicle access to three of the meadows in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The grant will provide funding for a study assessing the changes in the carrying capacity for elk near Mount St. Helens by comparing the eruption blast zone with state and federal land outside the blast zone where timber cutting was drastically reduced. Quantifying changes in elk habitat conditions will provide a foundation for evaluating forest management, predicting future habitat condition trends and a basis for elk population management.

Yakima County: Treat 20 miles of roadside and 200 acres of rangelands for noxious weeds on the Oak Creek Wildlife Area.

Statewide: Fund lab analysis, sample supplies and sample shipment of calf elk tissue with early hoof disease lesions to labs around the world to address the factors behind the outbreak of hoof rot affecting the Willapa Hills and Mount St. Helens elk herds.

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