MISSOULA, Mont. – —Elk calf recruitment research, healthy forest efforts and the maintenance of wildlife water sources are among the South Dakota conservation projects funded this year by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. RMEF also sponsors projects and events to engage youth and families in South Dakota’’s rich hunting heritage.

RMEF grants for 2012 total $83,769 and directly affect five counties: Custer, Fall River, Lawrence, Meade and Pennington. Additional projects have statewide interest.

“”Continuing to fund research about declining elk numbers in the southern Black Hills will give biologists a better idea of what’s really happening on the ground,”” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “”This three-year study will also help wildlife managers document the effects of predation by mountain lions and help them reverse the trend of a shrinking elk population.””

RMEF’s mission is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 192 different conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in South Dakota with a combined value of more than $32.2 million.

Funding for RMEF grants is based on local membership drives and banquet fundraising by RMEF chapters and volunteers in South Dakota. Allen thanked RMEF supporters for their dedication to conservation in South Dakota and all across elk country.

RMEF grants will help fund the following 2012 projects in South Dakota, listed by county:

Custer County— – Assist the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks (SDGFP) address overpopulation issues by hazing elk out of the Wind Cave National Park where elk are above population objectives into adjacent units which are below objectives; fund ongoing study to examine elk nutrition, pregnancy rates, movement and predation in the southern Black Hills, including competing hypotheses concerning movement and mountain lion predation, to determine causes behind continuing declining elk numbers in Custer State Park (also affects Pennington County).

Fall River County— – RMEF volunteers will monitor and repair as needed guzzlers used by elk and other species in the Black Hills (also affects Custer, Lawrence, Meade and Pennington counties).

Lawrence County – —Thin pine from 250 acres of timber stands and meadows on state Game Production Areas to improve hardwood and grassland habitat for elk and other wildlife. Project will also remove trees infected by mountain pine beetles, reduce fire danger and provide opportunities to implement future prescribed burns. The Black Hills lost 75 percent of its hardwood components on winter range and 95 percent on summer range over the last 125 years (also affects Custer, Fall River and Pennington counties).

Pennington County— – Regenerate aspen on 100 acres in the Palmer Gulch area to improve habitat for elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, wild turkey and non-game birds on the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve.

Statewide – —Complete $10,000 commitment toward construction of an elk display at SDGFP Outdoor Campus West, a facility to educate youth and adults about outdoor skills, wildlife, conservation and management practices; provide funding for South Dakota Outdoor Expo which introduces children and families to outdoor recreation and conservation.

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 be funded.

Partners for 2012 projects in South Dakota include the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, Black Hills National Forest and other agencies, organizations and foundations.

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