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Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air & Rare Plants

Elk Country

America's Elk Country

As the land management agency responsible for managing most of the occupied elk habitat in the continental United States, the Forest Service plays a definite role in establishing a future for wild, free-ranging elk on public lands.

Nearly 80 percent of today's elk population reside year-round or seasonally on National Forests and Grasslands. These lands provide a variety of elk habitat: dense coniferous forests of the northwest, pinyon and juniper of the southwest, and the steep timbered canyons and sagebrush flats of the northern rockies. Presently 72 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands (an area roughly the size of Colorado) support nearly 550,000 elk of three subspecies: the Tule elk of California; the Roosevelt elk of the Pacific coast; and the Rocky Mountain elk of the interior west. Elk make the public lands richer- their presence lends a wild edge, a bit of wonder.

Elk have occupied North America for at least 10,000 years. With a range that extended almost coast to coast, elk were the most widespread members of the deer family when European man first arrived. The westward expansion of man changed that. Elk were eliminated from the eastern United States by the mid 1800's. By the turn of the century only 1 percent

Photo by RMEF

(about 100,000) of the total estimated population survived, the majority in the remote Yellowstone National Park area. The history of elk in the United States is a classic case of habitat loss caused by man's settlement and development of the west. Demands on elk habitat continue to increase.

Today, conservation efforts have increased elk numbers dramatically. Major opportunities to improve habitat and expand elk range exist. The Forest Service will continue to provide successful management of elk populations, through coordinating elk management with other forest uses, close cooperation with state fish and wildlife agencies, programs with private partners, and public support.

Current Events/News

  • Forest Service/Elk Country - RMEF Award: Discontinued by RMEF due to a lack of nominees submitted by the FS. Historical award winners are listed at the Award page, AwardsArchiveWFWARP.docx

  • The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded its 2012 Elk Country Award to the Northern Region’s Jane Ingebretson, a wildlife biologist on the Swan Lake ranger district of the Flathead National Forest. The foundation cited Ingebretson’s efforts and contributions to almost two dozen different elk and wildlife habitat improvement projects dating back to 1995. The projects have treated and improved more than 5200 acres of wildlife and elk habitat on the district using prescribed burning, noxious weed control and partner collaboration. Current 2012 projects are expected to add an additional 1,000 acres to that total. Ingebretson has coordinated the funding for these and other projects.

  • See "Partnerships" below for RMEF/PAC forms and instructions



Kid's Corner

  • Elk - Exploring Habits and Habitats
    Download the book

    "Explore the world of elk habits and habitats in this fun, educational booklet geared for youth.
    This is formatted to read as a booklet, so it is best to print it double-sided in color and then put three staples down the left side."

Illustration: book cover "Elk Exploring elk habits and habitats". Calf nursing with mother cow.

  • Elk Trunks from RMEF

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) "Elk Trunks" are tool kits containing lesson plans, activities, books, antlers, fur and skulls, among other things.

These tool kits are the result of a partnership between RMEF, Council for Environmental Education and Project WILD— WILD About Elk in 1993. These kits were designed to provide educational materials about elk to conservation educators - especially for youths grades 5 through 8. For information regarding use or purchase of an elk trunk, please contact Laura Verhaeghe, RMEF, 406.523.3444 or email:

Elk Trunk Contents (19.8 KB PDF)

  • New Elk book ... RMEF and USFS partnership ... details coming


  • You Can Get Involved

Individuals, groups, and organizations are invited to explore the possibilities and participate in the continuing program to provide more and better elk habitat.

    • Contact a western USDA Forest Service office (where there is elk habitat, thus projects). The wildlife biologist on the Forest can share with you information regarding on going and up coming projects. Using our Challenge Cost Share program and volunteering your time, knowledge, tools, skills, or networks, you will help improve elk habitat.
    • Join a society focused on elk, such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
    • Go watch elk. Once you hear an elk bugle you will be a fan for life. The Nature Watch Viewing Sites website can help you find a great place to watch elk.

Eric Tomasik, National Elk Country Coordinator
Forest Service/Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Liaison

RMEF mailing address: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
P.O. Box 8249
Missoula, MT 59807-8249


Disclaimers | Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) | Privacy Notice

Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air & Rare Plants (WFW)
Washington, D.C. Office
Author: Shelly Witt, National Continuing Education Coordinator, WFW staff
Phone: 435-881-4203
Expires: none

Photo Credits

USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C. 20090-6090
(202) 205-8333