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Of Conservation Grants, Wildlife Summits and Marathons

New grants benefit Idaho counties, and City of Trees marathon needs volunteers

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With public lands and wildlife management agencies' budgets taking major hits in the last few years, private grants have become even more important for restoration and management projects.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation announced a series of grants totaling $134,460 to support conservation projects in 20 Idaho counties, with a special focus on the Clearwater Basin, where the elk herd has experienced a major decline in the last decade.

"Our concerns for the Clearwater Basin herd are more immediate. At one time, the Clearwater herd was the second largest in the entire country with 36,000 elk. Now it's down to just 5,000," David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president, wrote in a press release.

In other areas of the state, programs will include forest thinning, prescribed burns and other projects on roughly 29,000 acres, with the goal of improving wildlife habitat.

In Boise County, money will go to a prescribed burn of more than 2,000 acres to improve winter grazing, as well as the construction of fencing designed to guide wildlife to an underpass under Highway 21 to help cut down on vehicle-wildlife collisions.

In Elmore County, the grant funding will help with prescribed burns, as well as rehabbing areas burned by wildfires in 2010. In Owyhee County, funds will go to help restore 1,000 acres of sage-steppe habitat by removing juniper and replanting native grasses.

Since the foundation began the grant program in 1985, it has helped with 418 projects valued at $51.2 million.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is looking at the future of wildlife itself in the wake of its recent Idaho Wildlife Summit.

The August event brought the public, conservation groups and management agencies together to talk about the future of wildlife conservation at a time when traditional funding is not only being cut, but fewer people are contributing through hunting permit sales.

IDFG recorded the event and has started posting video segments on its website while staff is going through public comments.

Check out the videos at fishandgame.idaho.gov.

Finally, if you're more of an athletic supporter than an athlete, organizers of the City of Trees Marathon are looking for some volunteers for the Sunday, Oct. 14, race.

Volunteers are needed to help with everything from manning water stations to helping take everything down after the race. Shifts are between two and three hours.

For more info, email cotvolunteer@gmail.com.

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