Kentucky Division - Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Since 1997, the RMEF has invested roughly $2.5 million in Kentucky for elk restoration, habitat enhancement and other conservation projects. In 2003, the RMEF focused these efforts b establishing the Appalachians Wildlife Initiative, a vision for ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat in the central and southern Appalachians. The epicenter of this initiative is the 16-county elk restoration zone in southeastern Kentucky.
In mid-2004, the RMEF further refined its efforts in the state by creating a conservation plan specifically for the elk zone. This plan, created in partnership with KDFWR, Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF), the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources (KDNR), the University of Kentucky (UK), the Kentucky Coal Association (KCA), SEKTDA, several mining companies and corporate landowners was completed in August 2005 and became the Eastern Coalfields Wildlife Initiative (ECWI). Copies of plan are available upon request.
The ECWI identifies the challenges to conservation and natural resource management in southeasatern Kentucky and identifies strategies to address them, including 1) improving habitat; 2) protecting habitat; 3) increasing public access to elk, wildlife and wild lands; and 4) incorporating ocnservation strategies and actions into an economic development plan based on wildlife and wild land recreation.
A key strategy of the ECWI is to work in partnership with the DBNF and adjacent counties to develop the "Redbird Project," an economic and conservation vision for the region, based on wildlife habitat recreation and conservation. The feasibility study we will conduct per this proposal is in direct line with the objectives we have laid out for our work in this region.
In addition, partnerships with local citizens, local government, state and federal agencies, private landowners, business and other stakeholders are central to our efforts. We have already been working closely with the KDFWR, KDNR, UK, DBNF and KCA and our relationships are strong. In addition:
We are working with the KDNR to reform policies and practices on reclaimed mine sites to make better wildlife habitat in these areas already favored by Kentucky elk.
We partnered with three local coal mining companies to restore over 1,200 acres of wildlife habitat to mine sites.
We facilitated agreements between 2 corporate landowners and the KDFWR to enroll their corporate landholdings into public access agreements with the KDFWR. These agreements added over 74,000 acres of lands available for public access in Bell, Knox, Leslie, Clay and Harlan counties.
We continue our long and strong partnership with the US Forest Service (USFS) through our work with the DBNF. The USFS and the RMEF have a 20 year history of partnering and have a MOU and a strategic plan for working together. We hold annual strategic meetings and we have partnered on more than 1,700 conservation projects across the country with a combined value exceeding $100 million.