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State nears 1 million acres set aside for elk assistance

State nears 1 million acres set aside for elk assistance

May 29, 2012 - The Associated Press

RAWLINS -- Wyoming elk may look a lot happier now that the state has conserved more land for wildlife than any other state in the country.

The Wyoming Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is about 13,000 acres shy of reaching 1 million conserved acres for elk, said David Allen, CEO and President of the foundation.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has existed for about 28 years and has conserved 6 million acres nationwide.

"We are on the verge of reaching 1 million acres right here in the state of Wyoming," said Wyoming's regional director of the foundation, Ryan Kaiser. "We will be first state to reach a million acres within a single state."

If all the contracts the foundation has with BLM and Wyoming Game and Fish go through, Kaiser said he thinks the state will surpass 1 million acres by the end of summer.

"The main reason why we do this is because people love wildlife," Kaiser said.

The national elk population is 10 percent less than it used to be before development began encroaching.

Conserving land helps improve habitat for elk and other wildlife, which also helps the population grow, he said.

Some ways the foundation conserves land for elk is making sure ranchers do not break their properties up and sell each lot for development.

"That is really bad for wildlife," Kaiser said.

The foundation also runs controlled burns in forests to free up space for elk.

The foundation also makes an effort to replace barbed wired fencing with more animal friendly fencing.

The new fencing helps improve elk migrations, Kaiser said.

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