Western Marble Winter Elk Forage Improvement Project
The Western Marble Winter Elk Forage Improvement grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is the first grant from a private organization received by the OSB FSC. This project is located between the Klamath River and the western front of the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area on the Ukonom Ranger District; a part of the Klamath National Forest and Karuk Ancestral Territory. Treatment sites are known critical winter foraging areas utilized by the Sandy Ridge herd of Roosevelt Elk. These elk summer in the vast meadows of the Western Marble Mountains, and move down into open midslope and Klamath River riparian habitats when snow levels push them out of the high country. Local guide, Dean McBroom, estimates the herd to be between 300 and 500 head.
Nearly 100 years of active fire suppression along the Klamath River corridor has resulted in landscape level conversion of historic Roosevelt Elk winter foraging habitat. Once extensive grasslands and oak woodlands, maintained by human fire use and wildfires, have been encroached upon by conifer and shrub species. Local wildlife biologists and guides believe that decreases in abundance and distribution of highly nutritious grass and forb species associated with these habitats may be the main factor limiting the size of the local herd. Lack of forage has forced the elk to increase use of rare meadow and open habitat maintained by private landowners, causing considerable impacts to human use areas and increasing the potential for depredation.
This project will utilize fuels reduction and prescribed fire to maintain and expand existing oak woodland and meadow habitats on private properties that provide winter elk forage and habitat. Expansion of these habitats will draw elk use impacts away from human use areas. Shaded fuelbreaks will include a mosaic of vegetation patches (20%) to provide some cover for elk. Fuels reduction will target conifer and shrub species less than 10 inches dbh. This project will complement adjacent USFS projects currently being planned, and provide multiple benefits, including increased elk winter habitat and forage, reduced wildfire risk, restoration of habitats impacted by fire suppression, and improvement of cultural use plants for gathering.