MISSOULA, Mont. – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to permanently protect more than 8,000 acres of prime elk habitat in northwest Colorado.
RMEF received funding from CPW and lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado to place a conservation easement west of Steamboat Springs on 8,658 acres of the expansive Wolf Mountain Ranch, which first garnered interest as a conservation property in the 1980s.
”The ranch is at the epicenter of the Bears Ears elk herd, one of the largest herds in the world,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. ”This shows our continuing commitment to elk and elk country in northern Colorado as RMEF now holds five conservation easements within a 50-mile radius of Wolf Mountain.”
”Along with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wolf Mountain Ranch and other non-governmental organizations, we are in the process of a 10-year landscape scale habitat protection project in this area that will eventually protect more than 66,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat for years to come,” said Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde of CPW. ”Habitat protection is critical for the future of hunting in Colorado, and we are proud to be part of this effort.”
“It is very important that we protect this habitat,” said Jim Haskins, Area Wildlife Manager for CPW in Steamboat Springs. “Working together with RMEF and Wolf Mountain Ranch, we have taken a big step towards preserving an important part of Colorados hunting and habitat heritage.”
Wolf Mountain Ranch is a working cattle operation that has a CPW wildlife management plan to ensure high wildlife utilization, and is used by public hunters as a participant in the CPW Ranching for Wildlife program. It is a key migration route for elk that spend the summer high in the Gore Range and travel to their winter range 60 miles to the east. The ranch is also a calving ground and, on any given day, is home to 300 to more than 2,000 elk. It also supports populations of Columbian sharptail grouse and greater sage grouse, mule deer, black bear, mountain lion and other indigenous wildlife species.
“The Wolf Mountain project speaks to the heart of who we are as an organization,” added Allen. ”RMEF constantly strives to help out elk, other wildlife, their habitat and to ensure our hunting heritage.”
RMEF protected an additional 1,377 acres on Wolf Mountain Ranch in 2011. To date, RMEF teamed with other conservation organizations to permanently protect 16,127 acres of land on this property. Statewide, RMEF amassed nearly 175,000 acres of permanent land protection since 1987.