RMEF and Idaho FGD Secure Deer and Elk Habitat

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Two land transfers underway in Idaho are securing public hunting on over 1,500 acres of managed elk habitat-and helping build a special fund earmarked for more similar projects by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

RMEF's Strategic Land Protection Fund, which began in 2009 with $1.5 million, is now over $3 million. The fund is used for acquiring vital but eminently threatened tracts, holding them until partnering state and federal agencies can accumulate funding, and then conveying them for permanent habitat protection and public access.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission in late December authorized the Idaho Fish and Game Department to purchase two tracts offered by RMEF at about half of their appraised values. The agency will make four installments of $137,550 each.

"These monies, along with previous imbursements from other states as well as private donations, are building our Strategic Land Protection Fund to a level that makes RMEF well positioned for even broader conservation successes in 2010," said Jack Blackwell, vice president of lands and conservation for RMEF.

On the Idaho projects, specifically, Blackwell explained, "Most often, while we're holding land for future conveyance, our agency partners begin managing the habitat and opening the lands for public access. That's how it worked with the Idaho Fish and Game Department and these latest projects in Idaho. Many public-land hunters in Idaho are already familiar with the quality of habitat and the amount of wildlife on these tracts."

The first parcel borders the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area in the Upper Snake River region. This tract is 700 acres, 380 in native habitat and 320 in dry cropland. The second parcel is 895 acres, all in native vegetation, bordering the Georgetown Summit Wildlife Management Area in the southeast region. Both areas include critical mule deer and elk winter range, as well as upland habitat.

The counties were notified in advance of the state's intent to purchase, and Idaho Fish and Game Department will pay fees in lieu of taxes on both tracts.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.7 million acres-a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.