RMEF Secures Black Hills Public Access

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Wildlife habitat, public access and sustainable timber harvest have been permanently secured by a new Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation conservation easement on 328 acres in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The easement affects Sawyer Memorial Park about four miles south of Deadwood, South Dakota. Held by a private trust for the public good, the land is home to elk, deer, turkey, ruffed grouse, songbirds and predators. Free public recreation opportunities, including hunting and an archery range, abound. For more than 30 years, the tract has been part of an American Tree Farm System that promotes renewable forestry and private stewardship.

The easement ensures this property will never be subdivided or developed.

"Sawyer Memorial Park adjoins the Black Hills National Forest, so this project is important for habitat continuity and expanding permanent range for elk and other wildlife," said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

Allen, who grew up in Deadwood, will sign the easement in a June 6, 2009, ceremony at the site. He says this project is personally gratifying because it protects a piece of his hometown landscape.

"The Elk Foundation works with willing landowners all over the U.S. to conserve habitat, but this one is especially meaningful to me because it's part of my own backyard. I have real sentimental attachment to this area. We're grateful for the opportunity to work with the Nellie Sawyer Trust on an easement designed to protect and enhance forestry, wildlife values, public enjoyment and education. This land will always be much like it was when I grew up," he said.

Charles Webster, board chairman for the Nellie Sawyer Trust, said, "This land would be highly valuable as a subdivision, but we wanted to promote conservation of the area and encourage public use for future generations."

Sawyer Memorial Park is also a popular destination for conservation learning, hosting more than 1,000 area students over the past five years for forestry education events, according to trustee Bill Coburn.

Since 1984, RMEF and partners have completed more than 154 conservation projects valued at more than $19 million in South Dakota, primarily in the Black Hills area.

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 5.5 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.