The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation announced this week that the organization is committing $1 million for wildfire restoration in eight states, including Montana.

KGVO News called spokesman Mark Holyoak for details on the announcement.

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“The bottom line is we're just furthering and continuing our commitment to active forest management out there,” said Holyoak. “There are so many things that are related to forests that need just a little bit of a boost to help them function a little bit better, but specifically, so many of us have dealt with wildfires across the West, and so in a combination of what we're dedicating toward the wildfire restoration effort from last year into this year, we're committing a million dollars toward that, specifically toward 19 projects in eight different states.”

Holyoak detailed some of the projects that $1 million will help to fund.

“All sorts of things, ranging from fixing up wildfire guzzlers that were maybe burned across or other water sources for wildlife, to noxious weed treatments, to all sorts of other projects,” he said. “So it's just it's just an opportunity to try and improve overall forest health and at the same time, make habitat better for elk and other wildlife.”

Holyoak said the lone project in Montana addresses a need in the Lolo National Forest.

“We have one project in Montana,” he said. “It's called the West Lolo wildfire restoration project. It deals with invasive weed control. It's just getting on the ground. A lot of times when you have severe fire that burns the root systems, not like a prescribed fire that's more control, but when you have these severe wildfires, they burn the root systems and that just opens the door for cheatgrass and other invasive weeds. So this money, combined with money from other partners, we have crews that can go up there and attack that and try and keep that from spreading.”

Holyoak said despite the pandemic, membership in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has continued to grow.

“We've got more than 225,000 members spread across the country and we're hoping to have more banquets this year,” he said. “We raised a lot of funding that we put back on the ground through our banquets, but we’ve had such great support. We just really appreciate the volunteers that we have and the members that we have, and then just regular folks who know who we are or are just learning about us, so that we can make more of a difference going forward.”

Holyoak said the RMEF’s headquarters’ visitor center in Missoula is still closed for repairs and hopes it will open more ‘sooner than later’.

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