You don’t have to listen to the “Voice of the Rocky Mountains” for long before realizing that Elk are a big deal. (And wolves—but lets not get started) Well, the Northwest isn’t all latte and yoga studios. We have wildlife, too, and our wildlife restoration programs are gaining national attention (or Rocky Mountain attention. Same difference right?)
But don’t take my word for it! I’m late for a date with a double-shot mocha! Here is the official press release from The Boys in Beige:
Vancouver, WA—Employees of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, along with a number of community partners, received national recognition from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation with the 2006 “Elk Country Achievement Award for Wildlife Habitat Improvement.” Bronze elk statuettes will be on display at each of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Ranger Districts. A plaque commemorating the achievement is on display at the Forest’s Vancouver office.
Mitch Wainwright wildlife biologist, Steve Freitas silvicultural forestry technician, and Carol Chandler, wildlife program manager for the Forest accepted the honor at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s national convention in Reno, Nevada. The habitat improvement award is one of four “Elk Country” awards given annually to individuals and agencies who have contributed to Conservation Education, Habitat, Land Protection, and Individual Achievement (Long Term Commitment to Partnership and benefits to Elk and Elk Habitat) nationwide.
“Their work has increased available forage for elk in these forest stands for many years,” said Claire Lavendel, Forest Supervisor. “Improved forage will help to create a healthier elk population across the Forest for future generations to enjoy.”
Changes in habitat condition over time through fire suppression and reduction in timber harvest have led to loss of forage. This is thought to be a significant factor associated with observed population declines for deer and elk. Several recent estimations of population levels in the southern Cascades of Washington State indicate that both deer and elk populations have been experiencing declines in overall numbers.
Since 2001, Gifford Pinchot National Forest wildlife biologists Mitch Wainwright and Tom Kogut and silviculturists LaRae McCaslin, Steve Freitas, and Rocky Pankratz have worked with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other partners to enhance elk forage areas across the Forest.
Working together, the wildlife biologists and silviculturists developed a program to conduct thinning in young tree plantations to re-establish and extend the amount of time grasses and shrubs are available for elk, deer and other wildlife, while still meeting the management objective of moving these areas toward old-growth habitat conditions.
Since the inception of this program, Forest personnel have joined forces with partners to treat more than 7,850 acres of habitat across the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Partners with the Forest in this effort included, the Federal Highways Administration, Lewis County, Skamania County, students from Skamania County schools and volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.