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New Mexico Elk Habitat Enhanced Thanks to RMEF Grants

Forest thinning, prescribed burns, wetland restoration and water creation projects to improve elk habitat, as well as research to enhance forage, and sponsorship of multiple hunting heritage projects, highlight 2013 grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for the state of New Mexico.

The RMEF grants total $104,972 and benefit 16 counties: Bernalillo, Catron, Cibola, Colfax, Curry, De Baca, Lea, Lincoln, Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Juan, San Miguel, Sandoval, Socorro and Taos. There are also projects of statewide and national interest.

“New Mexico boasts some quality elk country and elk hunting and that will only improve after a series of RMEF-backed habitat enhancement projects are carried out around the state,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Several guzzler projects will also provide much-needed water for wildlife in an arid part of the Southwest.”

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 278 different conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in New Mexico with a combined value of more than $20.9 million.

“We have more than 4,800 members in New Mexico. It is thanks to them, especially our dedicated volunteers who raise funds through banquets and membership drives, that these funds are raised and put back on the ground in their home state,” added Allen.

Allen also thanked RMEF chapters and volunteers around the nation for their dedication to conservation all across elk country.

RMEF grants will help fund the following 2013 projects, listed by county:

Bernalillo County—RMEF’s Albuquerque Chapter volunteers purchased youth door prizes and assisted with rifle and bow instruction at the New Mexico Outdoor Expo which exposes families to rifle, pistol and shotgun shooting, as well as archery, trapping, fly tying and casting, riding, ATV and other outdoor activities. Fifteen chapter members also completed a two-day hunter education course to become certified instructors.

Catron County—Thin 1,500 acres of ponderosa pine and pinyon/juniper encroaching on historic grassland areas, improve watershed conditions, regain forage for grazing wildlife lost to encroaching trees and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires on the Gila National Forest.

Cibola County—Mechanically thin 2,000 acres on the Cibola National Forest as part the multi-year Bluewater Ecosystem Management project to conduct restoration treatments on more than 30,000 acres in the Zuni Mountains.

Colfax County—Provide funding for a start-up clay shooting team at Raton High School that includes training youth in handling, maintenance, safety and shooting proficiency. RMEF members to assist with instruction, coaching, range safety and score-keeping.

Curry County—Provide funding to help offset the equipment and supply expenses for the Eastern New Mexico Young Guns program; provide funding for the Clovis Bowhunters Youth Bow Adventures program which offers monthly archery instructional shoots for Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H and FFA youth age 17 and under in eastern New Mexico; and provide funding for the Curry County 4-H program which offers monthly instruction for Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts and 4-H members.

De Baca County—Provide funding for the De Baca County 4-H program that offers youth age 9-19 the opportunity to learn firearms skills, safety and competition.

Lea County—Help purchase equipment to launch the Lea County 4-H archery program to get youth interested in shooting sports and outdoor activities; and provide funding to purchase shell bags, shotgun shells, ear plugs, choke tubes, safety vests, ammunition, clays and other supplies for the Lea County 4-H shooting sports program.

Lincoln County—Deepen one existing wetland and create four small wetlands of various shapes and sizes totaling six acres on the top of Grindstone Mesa on the Lincoln National Forest to provide essential year-round wildlife drinking sites and develop critical habitat for a variety of wildlife species; provide sponsorship of the Lincoln County 4-H shooting sports program that gives youth age 9-19 the opportunity to learn responsibility, sportsmanship, self-discipline and skills; and provide funding for the Friends of Future Farmers of America 3-D Shoot to assist the winning New Mexico Forestry and Agriscience students from Capitan to attend the national competition in Louisville, Kentucky.

Los Alamos County—Provide funding for the Los Alamos Invitational Youth Clay Competition that includes participants from Farmington/Aztec (San Juan County), Espanola (Rio Arriba County), Penasco/Taos (Taos County), Mora (Mora County), and Los Alamos (Los Alamos County). The event also hosts an RMEF SAFE Challenge display.

Rio Arriba County—Replace four non-functional guzzlers and install five new trick tanks with 5,000-gallon storage tanks, catchment aprons and pipe fencing around the structures to provide year-round water for elk and other wildlife across 162,000 acres of the Jicarilla Ranger District on the Carson National Forest; and mechanically treat 959 acres as part of a larger thinning and prescribed burning effort to improve forage availability, palatability and nutritional value to the Maquinita area of the Tres Piedras Ranger District on the Carson National Forest.

Sandoval County—Fund research to determine the response of elk to large-scale restoration treatments relative to topography, vegetation characteristics (type, canopy cover, fire history), restoration treatment type, time since restoration and the quality and quantity of key forage resources using a combination of remote sensing of elk and on-the-ground data collection to help guide future treatments to enhance forage on the Valles Caldera National Preserve (also affects Rio Arriba County).

San Juan County—Provide funding for the San Juan County 4-H program, one of the largest in the state at 279 participants, that includes shotgun, .22 rifle, .22 pistol, compound archery, recurve archery, air rifle and air pistol.

San Miguel County—Conduct prescribe burning on up to 200 acres of mixed conifer and ponderosa stands already thinned and piled or broadcast seeded on the Santa Fe National Forest as part of a project targeting 8,800 acres over 10 years within the Gallinas Watershed.

Socorro County—Replace an existing 2,200-gallon metal catchment with a 4,700-gallon galvanized water storage unit and install a one-acre pipe rail livestock exclosure to aid an elk herd of 100-250 approximately 15 miles west of Socorro; and install a new 4,700-gallon wildlife water development within the North San Mateo landscape approximately 50 miles southwest of Socorro; and five RMEF Albuquerque Chapter volunteers assisted with maintenance of two wildlife trick tanks and the construction of livestock exclosure fencing on the Mount Taylor Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest.

Statewide/Nationwide—Provide funding via RMEF state grants from New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas to assist the Military Warriors Support Foundation with a wounded warrior hunt filmed by the RMEF Team Elk TV show.

Taos County—Thinning of 200 acres on Cerro Montoso within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument to improve habitat for big game species. Work also includes the installation of two water catchment structures to provide water sources for wildlife and improve the overall distribution of big game species; and provide funding via RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment to purchase an RMEF Elk Education Trunk for the Taos Young Guns, a comprehensive youth hunter education challenge program that focuses on teaching youth the shooting disciplines, outdoor skills, and knowledge to become responsible and ethical hunters.

Conservation projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies. RMEF staff and volunteers select education projects to receive grants and hunting heritage projects to receive funding.

Partners for RMEF’s 2013 New Mexico projects include the Carson, Cibola, Gila, Lincoln and Santa Fe National Forests, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and various government, state, wildlife, business and volunteer organizations.