Thanks to a collaboration between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), the California Department of Fish Wildlife (CDFW), the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) and Jim Keegan, a private landowner, over 2,600 acres of elk habitat in north-central California are now preserved. This project falls within prime elk habitat in the state, particularly for the tule elk, which is a subspecies of elk found only in 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.”
According to RMEF, the acreage, which is comprised of grasslands, oak woodlands, brushland, ponds and a few streams, is located 15 miles west of Williams and 70 miles north and west of Sacramento. The surrounding property to the east and west of Keegan’s land is “under easement protection from other organizations.” The conservation project also benefits other wildlife that live within the area, including blacktail deer, golden eagles and a variety of bird and animal species.
“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.”
“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,” said Henning.
Keegan permits hunting on his property via the CDFW Shared Habitat for Recreation 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.”