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Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air & Rare Plants

Elk Country

National Forests - Your Elk Country

As public land, the National Forests provide opportunity for all to enjoy the great outdoors. This includes wildlife watching, hiking, hunting, camping, fishing, photography, and many other activities. The majority of wild elk are dependent on the habitat provided by the National Forests and spend all or part of their lives on National Forests.

Elk are very popular with the public, be it for wildlife watching, hunting, or just knowing they are roaming free on the wildlands provided by intact landscapes. Elk are important ecologically and can provide an indicator of how well habitats are functioning. They have a direct role on vegetation through herbivory and seed dispersal, create wallows, and serve as prey and carrion for many other wildlife species. Throughout their range elk contribute to local economies by providing wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities.

Prior to European settlement elk were found across much of North America including all of the lower 48 states with the exceptions of upper New England and Florida. While numbers are still approximately 10% of what was here at that time, there are substantial populations across much of the West, as well as ongoing elk restoration in the East. Development of habitat by people and declining habitat quality remain some of the primary long term risks to elk.

The Forest Service continues to provide habitat for this species and other wildlife, enhance habitat, protect land through acquisition and exchange, conduct research, and provide wildlands that are open to the public to enjoy this resource. The Forest service works closely with state agencies, the public and non-governmental organizations, to meet the needs of wildlife as it accomplishes its multiple use mandate.

Photo by RMEF



Current Events/News

  • Forest Service/Elk Country - RMEF Award: There is not an annual schedule for the Elk Country awards. Nominations can be sent in throughout the year and can be coordinated with the RMEF liaison. 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 Regionís Jane Ingebretson, a wildlife biologist on the Swan Lake Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest. The foundation cited Ingebretsonís 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 - The Wild Life of Elk
    Download the book through the FS NatureWatch website

  • 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


  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF)
    The RMEF is a not-for-profit 501©3 organization with a mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Focus areas include habitat enhancement, land acquisition, improving access to public lands, restoring elk to historic range, research, and sustaining our hunting heritage. RMEF is actively engaged with outreach to the public, as well as with state and national legislative affairs. It provides privately raised funding as well as staff and volunteer support to USFS projects and programs. The USFS is responsible for managing 193 million acres of NFS lands across 44 States with a mission to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nationís forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The USFS and the RMEF desire to cooperate fully in mutually beneficial actions given their overlap in missions and the importance of NFS lands to elk and the public. Examples of cooperation include land acquisitions and exchanges, habitat enhancement, access to landlocked public lands, hunting heritage, elk restoration, research, and planning efforts, the exchange of information, and disseminating information to the public, all when mutually beneficial and as appropriate, and in compliance with applicable laws, regulation and policy.

    • Project Advisory Committee (PAC) and partnership project information :: Contact your FS state PAC representative or Eric Tomasik for copies of the current project proposal forms and advice/instructions.

    PAC Summary - November 2010 (PDF 39 KB)

    USFS PAC Representatives - April 2016 (Doc.x 14 KB)

  • 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