That wildlife print, lottery tickets or hangover you bought at a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquet are paying off.
The Montana-based organization with numerous Idaho chapters is spending $134,460 in 20 Idaho counties.
Forest thinning, prescribed burns, weed treatment and more projects are expected to improve 28,993 acres of Idaho elk country, a press release from the group said.
The Clearwater herd is the focus of this years effort. At one time, the Clearwater herd was the second largest in the entire country with 36,000 elk, but is now down to about 5,000 animals, according to RMEF.
Were helping to lead a collaborative of conservation groups who want that herd stabilized, re-established and growing again, said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.
Since 1985, the organization and its partners have completed 418 conservation and hunting heritage projects in Idaho with a combined value of more than $51.2 million, the group reported.
Funding for grants is based on local membership drives and banquet fundraising by RMEF chapters and volunteers in Idaho. Allen thanked RMEF supporters for their dedication to conservation both in Idaho and all across elk country.
Projects funded by the groups grants include:
Bear Lake County: Enhance elk habitat by treating noxious weeds on 50 acres in the Giraffe Creek wildfire area and 100 acres in the backcountry of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
Boise County: Prescribe burn 2,173 acres to enhance forage for elk that winter in the Rocky Canyon area of the Boise National Forest. Construct fence wings to funnel elk and deer into an Idaho 21 underpass near Lucky Peak Reservoir to reduce vehicle collisions and maintain habitat on the Boise River Wildlife Management Area.
Bonneville County: Thin conifers on 250 acres and prescribe burn 600 acres to improve aspen stands and calving habitat for elk and fawning habitat for deer in the Red Creek area of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Thin conifers and prescribe burn 1,550 acres in the upper basins of Fall and Bear creeks in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
Clark County: Provide sponsorship for Clark County 4-H 2012 archery class to introduce youths to traditional outdoor recreation and conservation.
Clearwater County: Provide sponsorship and RMEF representation in the Clearwater Basin Collaborative, a coalition to restore elk, other wildlife and resources, and recreational interests in the Clearwater Basin.
Elmore County: Improve forage and browse plants for elk and deer by prescribe burning 1,500 acres in the Whiskey Camp area of the Boise National Forest. Rehabilitate elk winter range damaged by 2010 wildfires by planting 100,000 bitterbrush seedlings in the Bennett Hills area near King Hill.
Idaho County: Improve forage for elk by treating invasive weeds near Mackay Bar along the Salmon River, and apply herbicides to another 370 acres of weed-infested areas in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Also, prescribe burn 20,000 acres in Clearwater Basin areas of the Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests.
Nez Perce County: Remove 3 miles of barbed-wire fencing and erect new wildlife-friendly fencing to improve elk habitat at Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Provide sponsorship for Boys and Girls Clubs of the Lewis Clark Valley Camp Wittman to introduce youths to traditional outdoor recreation and conservation.
Owyhee County: Continue initiative to restore 1,000 acres of sage-steppe habitat by removing juniper and reseeding native grasses in elk habitat across Southwest Idaho (also affects Adams, Idaho, Elmore, Gem and Payette counties).
Shoshone County: Burn 1,200-acres to improve forage for elk in the Heller and Wisdom creek areas of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Prescribe burn 1,000 acres of elk winter range in the Upper Coeur dAlene River basin of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
Statewide: Provide funding for a regional research project to blend elk recruitment data from other states to measure broad impacts of weather, predators, habitat changes, etc.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors