MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) and a committed landowner to permanently protect more than 2,600 acres of prime elk habitat in north-central California.
“We want to thank Jim Keegan who reached out to us to conserve his Whiskey Hill property,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “The conservation easement now in place protects the wildlife and riparian habitat in the upper portion of the Salt Creek watershed, which is adjacent to the Cache Creek area, and is a focus for RMEF’s conservation mission work.”
The property is approximately 15 miles west of Williams and 70 miles north and west of Sacramento. It is bordered both to the east and west by lands already under easement protection from other organizations.
“This transaction is especially important because it provides year-round habitat for about 70 tule elk, and is in an area where the CDFW wants to increase the size of the herd,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Right now, there are only about 5,000 tule elk in the world.”
The property features grasslands, oak woodlands and some patches of brush. It also includes ponds and a few intermittent streams that support riparian habitat in an area where such features are limited.
“We commend Mr. Keegan for actions he took to greatly improve an area that was previously overgrazed. Not only did he alter grazing activity but he greatly improved water availability by creating three solar-powered wells that benefit elk and other wildlife species,” added Henning.
The landowner does allow hunting on the property through the CDFW Shared Habitat for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Program.
“The WCB is proud to be a partner with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in the Whiskey Hill Ranch Conservation Easement,” said John Donnelly, WCB executive director. “The ability to work with the RMEF to conserve and protect working landscapes and critical winter range for the tule elk and other regional California wildlife is something that WCB is honored to be a part of.”
In addition to elk, the land is also home to blacktail deer, golden eagles and a wide array of bird and animal species.
RMEF works with willing landowners to establish conservation easements to protect crucial elk winter and summer ranges, migration corridors, calving grounds and other areas vital to elk and other wildlife.