Small disruptions on the landscape can trigger permanent, far-reaching negative impacts on habitat, wildlife populations and public access.
In 2016, a small 40-acre inholding within the Tabby Mountain Wildlife Management Area in northern Utah quickly went up for sale on the open market with the very real possibility it would be developed.
Luckily, the initial deal fell through and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation used its Torstenson Family Endowment funding to swoop in and purchase it. RMEF then worked with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to convey it to the agency where it remains open to public access today.
Located about 60 miles southeast of Salt Lake City in the Wasatch Mountains, the 50,000-acre Tabby Mountain WMA offers prime winter range to 2,000 elk and upwards of 9,000 deer.
It is also home to moose, mountain lions, black bears, sage-grouse and other wildlife species.
And because it is open to public access, hunters can seek elk and other wildlife to fill their freezers while also assisting with state-guided wildlife management.
Since 1984, RMEF and its partners opened or improved public access to more than 1.3 million acres of land.
To learn more about the access points of RMEF projects near you or your favorite hunting area, turn on the RMEF layer in the onX Hunt App.
Plus, use the code RMEF when you sign up for your new onX subscription to receive a 20 percent discount, and a portion of the proceeds benefit RMEF’s mission.
MISSOULA, Mont. — Ninety acres of prime elk habitat is now permanently protected and opened to public access in northern Idaho. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and partners worked with private landowners to purchase and convey their property to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG).
“This is a unique project that touches on several positive facets of both conservation and access. It benefits elk and other wildlife, forestland, riparian habitat and boosts public access for hunting and fishing,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We thank the McKee Family and Idaho Fish and Game for their vision and cooperation in making this happen.”
The Smelterville Flats property is in a historic mining area between the towns of Pinehurst and Kellogg with its southern edge bordering the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River. The parcel features 50 acres of forest, 32 acres of floodplain habitat and eight acres of wetlands.
“Increasing efforts are being made to restore fish habitat and recover native Westslope cutthroat trout in the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River,” said Andy Dux, IDFG regional fishery manager. “We are very excited about this acquisition because it benefits fish conservation, improves public access to the river and benefits other wildlife.”
The transaction protects fish habitat and enhances opportunities for stream and wetlands restoration. It also improves access to state lands to the east. At its western boundary, the property adjoins the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene’s, a rail trail beginning at the Idaho-Montana border that follows the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way across Idaho to Washington.
Additionally, IDFG plans to construct a fishing access site on the premises.
The property is near several past RMEF habitat stewardship efforts as well as the 2019 Reeds Ridge project that is now in the public’s hands.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 36 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 231,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 8.1 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 rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.
Below is a news release from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The Missouri Conservation Commission approved Missouri’s second annual elk-hunting season at its March 26, 2021, meeting. The Commission approved the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) recommendation of issuing five permits for hunting bull elk for the 2021 season. At least one permit will be for qualifying area landowners with the remainder for the general public.
Missouri’s second elk season comes after years of restoration efforts of the native species by MDC, numerous partners including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and many supporters including local communities and landowners.
MDC has designated a nine-day archery portion running Oct. 16-24 and a nine-day firearms portion running Dec. 11-19. The five permits will be for bull elk and will be valid for both portions. All permits will be assigned through a random drawing. Only Missouri residents are eligible to apply for and purchase elk-hunting permits in Missouri.
“The timing of the season was designed to come after the peak of elk breeding during late September and early October and to avoid, as much as possible, the elk season coinciding with portions of the firearms deer season,” explained MDC Elk and Deer Biologist Aaron Hildreth.
MDC will require a $10 application fee for all applicants. Those selected for each of the five permits must pay a $50 permit fee. All permits are nontransferable.
MDC will limit the random drawing to one application per-person, per-year with a 10-year “sit-out” period for those drawn before they may apply again.
Beginning this year, at least 10 percent (with a minimum of one) of the elk-hunting permits will be awarded to approved landowners with 20 or more contiguous acres in Carter, Reynolds, or Shannon counties. This year there will be one permit set aside for qualifying landowners.
All elk-hunting permits, including those allocated to approved landowners, can be used in Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties, except the refuge portion of Peck Ranch Conservation Area.
“The allowed hunting methods for each season portion will be the same as for deer hunting,” Hildreth said. “The permits will allow for the harvest of one bull elk with at least one antler being six inches or greater in length. Successful hunters must Telecheck their harvested elk by 10 p.m. on the day of harvest, like for deer.”
MDC ELK RESTORATION EFFORTS
Elk are a native species in Missouri that disappeared from the state due to unregulated hunting during the late 1800s. With the help of numerous partners and supporters, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, MDC reintroduced about 100 elk to a remote area of the Missouri Ozarks in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Most were cow elk with some calves and immature bulls.
Their numbers have grown to more than 200 with an annual herd growth rate of over 10 percent and a herd ratio of more than one bull elk for every four cow elk – three key biological benchmarks that needed to be met prior to the establishment of an elk-hunting season in Missouri. Their range has expanded in recent years to cover portions of Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties. The elk restoration zone consists of nearly 80 percent public land interspersed with tracts of private property.
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The New Mexico legislature ignored testimony by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other wildlife management interests and passed a controversial bill that bans trapping on all public lands statewide.
RMEF opposed the effort by environmentalists and others, citing it will frustrate wildlife management efforts.
“Trappers are essential for managing human-wildlife conflicts such as livestock depredation, property damage, public health and safety. Many wildlife species cannot be managed through hunting or other means,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Studies have shown that regulated trapping, like hunting, is a highly effective tool for managing furbearers and other wildlife.”
Hunting and trapping are essential tools used by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department to successfully manage wildlife populations. Additionally, RMEF supports the North American Wildlife Conservation Model and state-based wildlife management.
Below is a news release from theIdaho Department of Fish and Game.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on March 18, 2021, approved big game seasons for the next two years. The 2021-2022 Idaho Big Game Seasons and Rules booklet will be available on Fish and Game’s website in early April, and printed copies will be available at Fish and Game offices and license vendors in late April or early May.
The seasons set by commissioners pertain to deer, elk, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion, and gray wolf, and the proposals were the product of extensive outreach to hunters. Some of the major changes for the 2021-22 seasons are included below, but more detailed information and additional changes can be found in the 2021-2022 Idaho Big Game Seasons and Rules booklet.
Mule deer hunters in the Upper Snake and Southeast regions will see reduced antlerless mule deer harvest opportunity in an effort to help mule deer populations rebound. In the Southeast region, nearly all antlerless opportunity has been eliminated for the 2021-22 seasons — including general youth seasons, general archery-only seasons, and controlled antlerless seasons — in response to underperforming mule deer populations and public concern.
For the same reasons, mule deer hunters in the Upper Snake Region will see reductions in general youth seasons, general archery-only seasons, and controlled either-sex seasons. There was broad public support for both proposals.
In Southwest Idaho, mule deer hunters will see a substantial increase in the number of either-sex controlled hunt tags available for Controlled Hunt Area 39-1 — up to 2,000 from 1,500. While there was some public concern about the increase in tags, Fish and Game wildlife biologists said the area has an abundant mule deer population, and that they have observed a declining fawn survival rate in recent years.
“We are seeing some indications that this population of mule deer is nearing the capacity that the habitat can support,” Mike McDonald, acting state wildlife game manager, told the Commission. “And that is why we proposed this increase in controlled hunt tags.”
Major changes for elk hunters include an increase in antlerless opportunity in the Boise River Elk Zone, where a 2021 survey showed both bull and cow populations are above objectives; and a reduction in antlerless hunting opportunity in the Smoky-Bennett Elk Zone.
The Smoky-Bennett Elk Zone is an area where Fish and Game has been working to reduce the population to bring it back within its population objectives in recent years by providing hunters with ample antlerless opportunity. Results from an aerial survey flown in 2021 showed that elk numbers in the zone were successfully reduced, which prompted wildlife managers to propose a substantial reduction in the number of over-the-counter antlerless tags for the 2021-22 seasons, as well as reduce the number of antlerless controlled hunt tags.
In a major statewide change for pronghorn hunters, the Commission approved changing unlimited archery controlled hunts for pronghorn into first-choice only hunts. Wildlife managers proposed the change in response to steadily increasing numbers of archery pronghorn hunters over the past 10 years and an effort to reduce hunter numbers in these controlled hunts. Going hand-in-hand with that change, the Commission also approved the reorganization of pronghorn units into 10 hunt areas for first-choice only controlled archery hunts.
A major change for black bear hunters in Idaho was centered around the Weiser-area, including Units 22, 31, 32 and 32A, and a proposal developed by the Weiser Black Bear Working Group — a diverse group of stakeholders representing the needs of hunters and landowners..
For the 2021-22 seasons, these units will move away from a strictly controlled hunt bear harvest framework. General season opportunity will be allowed on, or within, one mile of private land, with baiting and hounds allowed as tools to address private property conflicts. Controlled hunts will continue on other public land. The changes were proposed in order to meet the goal of reducing or eliminating private land and human conflict caused by bears, while maintaining healthy and viable bear populations in areas where they are not causing problems.
Major changes for mountain lion hunters include the removal of male and female quotas statewide, and allowing the use of electronic calls. The changes were proposed as an effort to increase lion harvest and reduce predation on deer and elk, and reduce human conflicts and livestock depredations.
While there were some concerns from the public over removing quotas in some areas, Fish and Game biologists indicated that the changes were unlikely to result in over-harvest of mountain lions, pointing to other areas that maintain healthy and viable lion populations despite not having harvest quotas. Mandatory check requirement for all mountain lion harvests remain in place, so Fish and Game staff can monitor the harvest in real time and recommend closing a season if needed.
The Commission approved expanding wolf hunting to year-round in much of the state, which includes areas with chronic predation and depredation issues, as well as units 21, 21A, 30, 30A, and 37A.
Wolf trapping was set to open Sept. 10 in those same areas, excluding units 49 and 62, due to public concern with this proposal in those areas. Wolf trapping season was approved on private property, year-round, foothold traps only in units with chronic wolf-related livestock depredations, also excluding units 49 and 62.
Wolf trapping on public land was approved to open on Oct. 10 in much of Southwest and south-central Idaho to mirror the rest of the state. Wolf trapping remains closed in units 48 and 49 and the portion of units 38 and 39 within Ada County.
No major changes, but adjustments to season dates in some units.
Seeking to increase funding to better take care of its state wildlife areas (SWA) and assist the financial burden solely shouldered by hunters and anglers, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission unanimously voted to approve a new Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass.
CPW currently manages more than 350 SWAs with dollars from hunting and fishing licenses. Those funds are also matched with federal income from the excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment.
“This is an important step in ensuring everyone who visits our state wildlife areas is contributing to their management and maintenance,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow.
While these SWAs provide critical wildlife habitat, they also gained significant value for outdoor recreationists over the years. Because these properties have always been open to the public, not just to the hunters and anglers that purchased them and pay for their maintenance, many people now visit these properties and use them as they would any other public land.
Below is a news release from theUtah Division of Wildlife Resources.
With many people flooding to the outdoors for recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah State Parks and other land management agencies saw a significant increase in their number of visitors. Many of those escaping to the outdoors were also able to enjoy hunting and fishing as a recreational outlet — the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources saw a record year for hunting and fishing license sales.
From March 2020 to February 2021, the DWR sold 222,124 combination licenses (which allow the holder to legally fish and hunt in the state of Utah), compared to 183,358 from March 2019 to February 2020. A total of 417,883 fishing licenses were sold during the 2020–21 timeframe, an increase of more than 100,000 licenses from the year before. And 68,265 hunting licenses were sold, up from the previous year’s 50,551 hunting licenses.
“This was the most licenses we have sold in one year, by far,” DWR Wildlife Licensing Coordinator Phil Gray said. “It was a 28% increase from the previous year, when on average, we usually see about a 2% increase in license sales each year. Hunting and fishing are definitely a great way to experience the outdoors and Utah’s wildlife, and we are glad so many people were able to enjoy these activities during such a difficult year.”
There was also an increase in the number of people who bought fishing or hunting licenses for the first time: 167,000 licenses were sold to first-time customers, compared to 121,000 in 2019. July was the busiest month for total license sales. And fishing licenses saw the biggest increase overall — they surged 28% from the previous year.
“We love to see more people discover and enjoy Utah’s outstanding fishing. While some wildlife species require hunters to obtain permits through a drawing, fishing only requires a license that you can easily buy online, creating unlimited fishing opportunities for Utahns,” Gray said. “Everyone who wants to can go fishing any time of the year, and there are plenty of incredible areas and opportunities for Utahns to create lasting memories while fishing in our beautiful state.”
Along with providing a great way to relax and enjoy Utah’s natural resources, the increase in fishing and hunting license sales also bodes well for Utah’s fish and wildlife.
“License dollars are used by the DWR to carry out the division’s mission to conserve and protect the wildlife of Utah,” Gray said. “So any time you buy a fishing or hunting license, you are helping conserve wildlife in Utah. That funding is used for projects like improving habitat for our various fish and wildlife species in the state, so that everyone can continue enjoying them for years to come.”
(Photo source: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)
Count Nebraska as among the latest states to confirm a wolf within its borders. Federal officials say a rancher monitoring his livestock who thought he was shooting a coyote, instead shot and killed a small wolf near Bassett, a small town in the northern part of the state about 240 miles northwest of Omaha.
The incident marks the second time in the last century wildlife officials confirmed a wolf in Nebraska.
“This is something that has been happening in all the surrounding states,” Sam Wilson, furbearer and carnivore manager for Nebraska Game and Parks, told the Omaha World Herald. “We do expect from time to time that we’ll see dispersing wolves here. Some will walk a really long ways as they look for new territory.”
Testing reportedly shows the wolf wandered into Nebraska from the Great Lakes region. Investigators did not prosecute the rancher.
Below is a news release from theArizona Game and Fish Department.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has completed its random draw for 2021 elk and pronghorn hunt permit-tags.
The results are available for those who have a free AZGFD portal account, or by calling 602-942-3000, pressing “2” and following the prompts. Be prepared to provide a Social Security number or Department ID number, and date of birth. This service is free.
To open a portal account, visit accounts.azgfd.com/Account/Register and complete the required fields. A portal account allows customers to create a secure account where they can view and manage their contact information, as well as their licenses, draw results history and bonus points in their personal “My AZGFD Dashboard” section. For questions about creating a portal account, call AZGFD at 602-942-3000 and press “7.”
Meanwhile, AZGFD has posted a list of leftover hunt permit-tags, as well as a printable paper application, on its website. There are 707 leftover hunt permit-tags, including 661 for the minimal occurrence zone/low density (general) hunt in game management units 12A, 12B, 13A and 13B.
The department will begin accepting paper applications for leftover hunt permit-tags on a first-come, first-served basis — by mail only — beginning Monday, March 22. All completed paper applications must be addressed to: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Attn.: Draw/First Come, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086. There is no “mini” draw. Allow 10 to 15 business days to receive a hunt permit-tag by mail.
Any remaining leftover hunt permit-tags will go on sale on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Monday, March 29. To ensure public health and safety protocols are observed, customers will be required to first contact customer service at 602-942-3000 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Some of the leftover hunt permit-tags are for Hopi hunt open areas and are available to everyone, both tribal members and non-tribal members, through the first-come, first-served process.
A number of leftover hunt permit-tags remain for military hunts at Camp Navajo, for those who qualify.