Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquet coming to fairgrounds

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Photo courtesy of IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME A young Idaho hunter poses with her first bull elk.

A banquet to raise money for projects and education that benefit elk is planned for later this month at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds Jacklin Building.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s 29th annual fundraising banquet scheduled Saturday, March 24, starts at 5 p.m. with a social hour that includes games, raffles and prizes followed by a buffet catered by Classic Foods Catering and Scheffelmaier Meats.

The banquet includes live and silent auctions for art, guns, collectibles and outdoor gear. A general raffle features a bunch of prizes.

Money raised at RMEF banquets are used for conservation projects in Idaho and throughout the U.S. The Coeur d’Alene banquet, which is the biggest elk foundation fundraiser in the state, has raised more than $1.3 million since 1988, according to the RMEF. It is ranked 17th of 500 chapters across the nation in the heft of donations collected.

“Last year we gave away 50 guns and raised nearly $120,000,” said local chapter chairman Kyle Koski. “This year our goal is 60 guns, $135,000 and top 15 in the nation.”

Regional director Jared Wold of Kalispell said the foundation since 1993 has funded more than 30 habitat enhancement projects in the Panhandle to improve elk habitat and forest health including prescribed burns, noxious weed treatment, road rehabilitation and meadow restoration.

To date, the RMEF has spent more than $145,000 on those projects, Wold said.

At the upper reaches of the Coeur d’Alene Ranger District the foundation has worked to improve elk winter and summer range. Future projects, planned for the next five to 10 years, include targeting 12,000 acres in 62 project areas that range in size from 24 to 970 acres.

More than 4,000 acres are targeted for future habitat rehabilitation in the southern portion of the Purell Mountains in the Bonners Ferry Ranger District, Wold said.

In the Clearwater, where elk populations bottomed out a couple decades ago and are slowly making a comeback, the foundation has partnered with local agencies since 2014, contributing $675,000 to date, Wold said.

“We’ve been funding extensive landscape and elk habitat restoration in the Clearwater Basin, where elk populations previously had seen steady decline due to substantial loss of early seral habitat, human pressures and the reintroduction of wolves,” Wold said.

Funding has also paid in part for an elk nutrition study in the Clearwater that includes capturing and collaring wild elk. The foundation has also worked on re-establishing young aspen, a favored elk food, on 50 acres in the Clearwater.

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