The Appalachian Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has taken another huge step in its commitment to restoring elk herds across their former ranges in the Eastern half of the United States by pledging the first $50,000 to support elk restoration efforts about to get underway in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the AWF are partnering on the project that hopes to see elk restored in a designated zone in the southern part of the state.
“We are thrilled to help restore wild elk to yet another state from which they were extirpated more than a hundred years ago. It’s now just a matter of time before hunters and other lovers of wildlife will be able to hear the bugle of bulls and the mewing of cows and calves in an area of Missouri that is just beautiful,” said David Ledford, president and CEO of the AWF.
Those efforts came closer to reality Oct. 15, when the governing commission of the MDC voted to move forward with plans to restore elk to their state and authorized commencement of the project.
“This is the beginning of another chapter in the story of citizens stepping up to restore the wildlife legacy of our state,” said Bob Ziehmer, director of the MDC. “Partners continue to be essential in Missouri as we work to advance conservation. We look forward to working with the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation and other partners to ensure the long-term success of our elk program.”
The AWF will be working closely with the MDC and other partners to develop a long-term habitat conservation plan for Missouri’s elk herd even before the initial restoration effort is complete. AWF is uniquely qualified to assist the MDC in restoring elk herds, as the Kentucky-based nonprofit conservation organization works closely with that state’s game department to ensure the future of more than 10,000 elk in 16 counties. In its supporting role, the AWF works directly with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to implement habitat improvement efforts, and to open more land to public access for hunting and other outdoor recreation. The group anticipates assuming a similar role in Missouri, and while the focus of this project is on elk, everyone involved recognizes the significance it could have on other wildlife in the state.
“Getting elk on the ground is huge, but it is just the beginning of our relationship with the Department of Conservation and the citizens of Missouri. We are already developing plans for the continued support of this effort,” said Ledford. “Habitat quality and quantity are the keys to long-term success and will go beyond simply benefitting elk. Based on our efforts and experiences in Kentucky, we know that habitat conservation efforts for elk ultimately benefit many other species as well.
“We have spent some time doing habitat assessments of the elk restoration zone with biologists from the Department of Conservation, and the opportunities are exciting. The department has really been doing a great job with their landscape scale management activities, and future management to provide warm season and cool season forage for elk will certainly benefit everything from honeybees and butterflies to quail, turkeys, deer and several imperiled songbirds.”
About the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation: The AWF seeks opportunities and finds solutions for restoring wildlife and habitat. The current focus of the Foundation is on elk restoration and ecological restoration within the context of energy development. For more information about the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, visit www.appalachianwildlife.com.
For more info: Contact: David Ledford – 606-523-1323