Elk NetworkRestoring Elk Country – Crooked River, OR

Restoring Elk Country | March 10, 2024

Crooked River National Grassland, OR

The sprawling Crooked River National Grassland of north-central Oregon, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, is home to many wildlife species ranging from elk, mule deer and mountain lions to quail, chukar and rattlesnakes.

It’s also a popular destination for hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking and other activities.

Dating back to 1995, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supplied funding and even volunteer manpower at times for nine different projects to improve wildlife habitat.

The work included prescribed burns across more than 3,000 acres to remove decadent conifers and return the landscape to historic grassland and shrub prairie habitat. The resulting forb, shrub and grass production is especially appealing to elk and deer.

Six projects focused on conifer removal where young junipers popped up in ponderosa pine stands, crowding out palatable grasses and shrubs. The area has both year-round elk herds and other elk that migrate there for the winter from the Cascade Mountains.

More recently, RMEF supplied $67,000 for a series of treatments to restore sections of the national grassland affected by wildfire. In 2021, the Grandview Wildfire charred more than 6,000 acres of habitat on the west side of the area. Four years earlier, the Emerson Wildfire burned more than 10,500 acres in the east.

In addition to repairing or replacing nine wildlife water guzzlers, reconstructing fencing to keep livestock out of sensitive riparian habitat and treating invasive weeds, habitat enhancement work took to the skies.

Crews loaded a small plane with bags and bags of native grass and shrub seeds. The pilot then buzzed the barren post-wildfire landscape, dropping the seeds below.

The result is an improved abundance of forage, healthier forestland and better overall winter range.

Restoring elk country is fundamental to RMEF’s mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Since 1984, RMEF helped conserve or enhance more than 8.9 million acres of wildlife habitat.