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OHA steps up for Blue Mountains; $63,000 contributed to improve habitat

By February 11, 2024February 24th, 2024OHA News

By Tyler Dungannon, OHA Conservation Coordinator

OHA has increased its impact on elk habitat and research in central and northeast Oregon. OHA partnered with the Blue Mountains Elk Initiative (BMEI) in an effort to expand our habitat restoration and enhancement efforts on the Ochoco, Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur National Forests.

OHA contributed $15,000 to the Damon Aspen Project that will fence aspen stands, thin conifer, and improve elk security on the Malheur National Forest.

This project has thinned 11,700 acres of conifer, burned 900 acres to improve elk forage, and restored 240 acres of aspen to date. OHA funding will allow for 300 additional acres of aspen stand restoration and 100 additional acres of aspen fencing.

OHA also gave $10,000 to the Sunflower Juniper Removal Project on the Ochoco National Forest. Juniper encroachment is a major concern for deer and elk, as it results in reduced forage for these species. OHA funding will help forest managers methodically cut 150 acres of juniper, which will restore perennial grass and bitterbrush communities in the area.

State OHA and OHA’s Union-Wallowa Chapter applied for and landed an LOP deer tag on The Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve to raffle with proceeds ($22,000) directly funding the Sheep Creek Thinning Project to benefit deer and elk in the Starkey Unit. OHA funds will contribute to the thinning and slash reduction of 1,062 acres on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

In addition to providing funds for OHA’s continued involvement with BMEI, the Bend, Redmond, and Ochoco chapters also provided a combined $16,000 to fund an elk GPS collaring project on the Ochoco National Forest. These collars will provide important elk vital rate and movement data that will help ODFW in reducing landowner conflict and improve management of the elk herd.

Additional funds raised by chapters in 2023 will be used to support BMEI projects next year.

State OHA and OHA chapters around the state have committed to funding projects to benefit deer and elk in the Blue Mountains. OHA conservation staff will continue to work with managers of projects we funded to develop volunteer opportunities where applicable and monitor project progress.

OHA made a big splash in its first year with BMEI, and our impact will continue to be recognized, thanks to OHA chapters and their support for deer and elk in the Blue Mountains.

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