Crucial Wildlife Habitat Connection
Dolly and Harry Evans of Custer, South Dakota, couldn’t bear the thought of their ranch someday being broken up, cross-fenced, subdivided or developed. The place had been in their family for generations; even their ancestors homesteaded nearby. The Evans wanted permanent protection for their land and they selected the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to help.
The Evans and RMEF recently transferred 212 acres of Black Hills ranchland and wildlife habitat to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. Mike Mueller, of the Elk Foundation, said a crush of development continues to shrink wildlife habitat across the Black Hills, which makes the Evans’ decision even more special.
The property also borders the Black Hills National Forest so the tract helps permanently connect a crucial corridor of wildlife habitat. Ponderosa pine-covered hills and lush grasslands are winter range for up to 300 elk. Pronghorn antelope, deer, turkey, mountain lion, coyote, bobcat and numerous other game and non-game species also utilize the area. The area is popular among hunters, sightseers and other recreationists.
“Dolly and Harry took years to decide how best to protect their property," said Mueller. "They're looking beyond their own lifetimes and focusing on the fact that this land they love will always be much like it’s always been. It’s a beautiful, wild place and very productive agricultural land, and now that’s never going to change.”
He added, “We’re honored the Evans family chose RMEF to be part of their family’s legacy. I’ve been so impressed with this family—Dolly, Harry, their daughters and sons, everyone working together toward a goal of keeping open spaces for wildlife and for people to enjoy forever.”
Working with many landowners through the years, the Elk Foundation has completed 35 different projects to help permanently protect 33,467 acres in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.6 million acres—a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.
Photos courtesy of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation