Grants benefit elk habitat, hunting heritage, research in Minnesota

MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded $72,794 in grant funding toward conservation and hunting heritage projects in the state of Minnesota.

The 20 projects benefit nearly 9,000 acres of elk habitat and outdoor/sporting enthusiasts in Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Douglas, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Marshall, Morrison and Roseau counties. There are also seven projects of statewide benefit.

“There was a time more than 100 years ago that historic elk range covered the entire state of Minnesota. Now their range is miniscule,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “A portion of this grant funding goes toward a study to determine the feasibility of restoring elk to eastern Minnesota.”

RMEF volunteers raised the funding through banquet and membership drives and other events, which is put back on the ground in Minnesota and across elk country.

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 178 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Minnesota with a combined value of more than $2.8 million

A sampling of the 2016 projects, listed by county:

Itasca County: Provide Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) funding to support the Ruffed Grouse Society in initiating a Women’s Upland Hunting Course in the Grand Rapids, Minnesota area, with plans to expand into the Superior, Wisconsin area in 2017. The multi-day course gives women interested in hunting upland game and shooting shotguns the opportunity to learn with others that are of similar skill and experience level gun safety, cleaning, and handling skills, as well as introduce them to upland game management, hunting techniques and cooking.

Kittson County: Establish high quality forage plots on 50 acres of state and private lands to draw elk away from agricultural crops and increase acceptance of elk in an effort that also benefits bear, deer, moose, sharp-tailed grouse and sandhill cranes.

Marshall County: Use thinning and prescribed fire to decrease the amount of understory brush on the Kelly’s Ridge Management Unit to maintain the oak savanna habitat across 1,100 acres as a benefit for the Grygla elk herd as well as moose, deer, bear, numerous species of migratory birds and other wildlife.

Statewide: Provide funding as part of a partnership with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the University of Minnesota to study the feasibility of restoring elk to a portion of the animal’s historic range in eastern Minnesota; provide TFE funding to donate 576 RMEF youth membership knives to hunter education classes across the state.

Click here to see a full listing.

Minnesota project partners include the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, private landowners and sportsmen, government, civic and other organizations.

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