Arizona Elk habitat gets $1.3 million upgrade

Contributed Photo/Courtesy RMEF

Contributed Article

MISSOULA, Mont.— The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners awarded $1,329,262 of grant funding to support elk habitat enhancement and hunting heritage projects in Arizona. RMEF directly granted $232,730 and leveraged an additional $1,096,532 in partner funding.

“This grant funding will assist in the fight against junipers and other vegetation encroaching on historic grasslands that provide vital forage for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “It also helps establish dependable water sources in a part of the country where water is often scarce.”

Twelve projects benefit 17,115 acres across Apache, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo and Yuma Counties. There are also three projects of statewide benefit.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy RMEF: Elk sparring

Arizona is home to nine RMEF chapters and nearly 7,000 members.

“We greatly appreciate the time and effort put forth by our volunteers,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “Thanks to their passion and dedication, we can place this funding on the ground in Arizona to benefit elk and a wide array of other wildlife species.”

Since 1986, RMEF and its partners completed 494 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Arizona with a combined value of more than $34.5 million. These projects protected or enhanced 417,131 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 21,585 acres.

Below is a sample of Arizona’s 2019 projects, listed by county.

Coconino County

  • Remove young juniper trees encroaching on 1,834 acres via mastication to restore grassland habitat on private land that lies between the Kaibab National Forest’s Tusayan and Williams Ranger Districts to benefit elk, pronghorn, other wildlife and livestock.
  • Provide funding and volunteer manpower to carry out habitat enhancement work on the O’Haco Ranch. Specifically, crews remove and repair fencing while also installing elk jumps, where needed, and also construct three different wildlife water drinkers out of large tractor tires.

Gila County

  • Continue a multi-year grassland restoration project on 3,178 acres in the Deadman Mesa area on the Tonto National Forest. Crews create large, quality forage openings by removing decadent junipers and non-palatable brush on elk year-round range. The project also reduces the threat of catastrophic wildfire.
  • Repair, clean and seal 14 inefficient and nonfunctioning earthen dirt stock tanks. Repair berms remove sedimentation and debris and then seal 14 inefficient and nonfunctioning earthen dirt stock tanks last maintained about 50 years ago. The project improves year-round water availability across nearly 9,000 acres by providing reliable water sources that keep wildlife and livestock from concentrating in sensitive riparian areas.

Arizona project partners include the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto National Forests, private landowners and various other conservation, sportsmen and civic organizations.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Founded 35 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.6 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at or 800-CALL ELK.