DENVER – Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and Agriculture’s Forest Service recognized the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto (NRMG) last week for their leadership and contributions to wildlife conservation and public lands stewardship. The awards were presented at the 84th North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference in Denver.
The RMEF, a 35-year veteran partner to both agencies and headquartered in Missoula, Montana, received the Forest Service-BLM 2019 Conservation Partner of the Year Award for sustained outstanding contributions to wildlife conservation and public access across the West. The NRMG was awarded the Forest Service-BLM 2019 Conservation Project Award for its dedication, leadership, and innovations to building collaborative partnerships that promote sound land management practices and conservation of public lands, wildlife, and cave resources in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota.
“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto embody what it means to be a true partner. The dedicated work, vital leadership, and significant financial contributions provided by these organizations and their volunteers each year make a real difference in our ability to manage our nation’s wildlife and public lands sustainably for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations of Americans,” said Kristin Bail, BLM Assistant Director for Resources and Planning.
“Committed partners like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto are critical to sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands. We value their dedicated commitment, technical expertise, and leadership in working with federal and state agencies, communities, and other partners to leverage resources in the management and conservation of lands and wildlife,” said Rob Harper, Director of Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air and Rare Plants in the Forest Service.
RMEF has helped the BLM and Forest Service implement more than 4,300 wildlife habitat enhancement, land protection, and public access improvement projects. Such projects include aspen restoration, forest restoration thinning, prescribed fire, burned area restoration, planting, seeding, fence removal, and weed control to enhance more than firve million acres of wildlife habitat on federal public lands.
RMEF also facilitated BLM and Forest Service land and easement acquisitions through the nation’s Land and Water Conservation Fund to conserve wildlife habitat and improve public recreational access on federal lands. RMEF has directly contributed more than $36.6 million to both agencies to help fund wildlife and conservation projects. The combined total conservation value of the two agencies’ partnership with RMEF is estimated at more than $411 million.
The NRMG assists the Forest Service, BLM, and the State of Montana in cave inventory, monitoring, and management, with a focus on cave restoration, bat habitat monitoring, and preventing the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a deadly and highly infectious disease affecting bat populations across the U.S. NRMG is actively engaged in helping the agencies educate the public on bat conservation, including installing cave visitor register boxes, which provide information for cave visitors about clean caving practices, decontamination protocols, and reporting bat observations through the NRMG website. The organization also collaborates with Forest Service and BLM personnel and Bigfork High School Cave Club to establish cave climate monitoring, photo monitoring, and Visitor Impact Point monitoring across Montana.
“We are honored to receive this recognition for our conservation work that benefits elk and so many other wildlife species,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We appreciate our federal agency partners with whom we’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder for years now and look forward to many more joint projects that permanently protect and enhance wildlife habitat, open or improve public access and benefit hunters, anglers and so many others who cherish our wild landscapes.”
“We've really enjoyed working with the FS and BLM since 2011. As many agencies are stretched thin with resources, it is imperative that we learn to work more effectively to help manage the outdoor resources we all care so much about,” said Ian Chechet, NRMG Chairman.