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Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be able to continue to provide hunters access to otherwise inaccessible lands.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) recently donated $50,000 to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Access Yes! program. The funding will be used to help secure about 40,000 acres of land to provide access for sportsmen and women.
“Opening and securing public access is a key component of RMEF’s mission,” says David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “This grant will allow Idaho Fish and Game to work with landowners to provide access to land that hunters would not otherwise be able to use.”
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game was previously able to secure public access with the help of funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA provides grants to state governments to encourage owners and operators of privately held lands to voluntarily make that land available for access by the public for wildlife-related recreation, including hunting, fishing and trapping. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s USDA grant has expired, and the state is currently in a one-year time gap before it can apply for a second USDA grant.
“RMEF is stepping up and helping out so we don’t have to terminate a number of agreements with landowners during this fall hunting season,” said IDFG Director Virgil Moore. “We truly appreciate RMEF’s efforts to maintain recreational access for the citizens of Idaho.”
The Access Yes! program is designed to expand sportsmen’s access to private land or through private land to public land by compensating willing landowners who grant access. The program is entirely voluntary and as of April 29, 2014, 97 lease agreements are currently active opening 394,952 private acres and 511,555 public acres.
Funding for the Access Yes! grant came from the Tortenson Family Endowment, which donated $30 million to the RMEF last year. It was one of the largest gifts ever made to a hunter-based, wildlife conservation organization. For the RMEF, it was a game-changer.
Upon receiving the gift, Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation said: “The impact this endowment will have on RMEF’s on-the-ground projects in incredibly far-reaching. This gives us the potential to increase our mission accomplishments substantially. RMEF plans to invest half a million dollars this year alone toward improving elk habitat and supporting hunting heritage projects.”
Since 1985, RMEF and its affiliates have completed 446 conservation and hunting heritage outreach programs in Idaho with a combined value of more than $56.4 million that either opened or secured public access to 62,002 acres.
Earlier this year, RMEF donated $45,000 to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Access Yes! program, which will provide access to 189,000 acres of land.