A Bull elk in the forest in Oregon

Preserving critical habitats across the nation

Bull Elk, Oregon

Acres for America, an historic conservation collaboration between Walmart and NFWF, continued its important work in 2014 to protect and enhance natural resources around the nation.

In addition to conserving critical habitats for birds, fish, plants and wildlife, recent Acres for America projects provide access for people to enjoy the outdoors and are helping the future of rural economies that depend on forestry, ranching and recreation.

Such was the case in Oregon, where a $500,000 Acres grant helped the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation complete a $6.9 million acquisition of private lands that permanently protected the headwaters of the John Day River, one of the most wild and scenic rivers in the Pacific Northwest.

The timberland properties, situated in a checkerboard pattern and in danger of being developed for cabins and permanent residences, now serve as a crucial, unified wildlife corridor between already-protected wilderness areas.

This swath of more than 40 miles of public land is home to an extraordinary community of wild animals. Elk, mule deer, pronghorn, mountain goats, black bear, cougars, wolverines and martens all traverse this mountainous, forested landscape, often moving from summer ranges at higher elevations to winter ranges below. The mix of old-growth forest and regenerating timbered land provide permanent and temporary hospices to mountain quail, great grey owls, northern goshawks, woodpeckers and a host of neotropical songbirds.

The 35 miles of streams protected by the John Day Headwaters project also supply cold, clean water that sustains rare and vital spawning and rearing habitats for various threatened fish species such as redband rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey — a species with cultural significance to some Native Americans.

The NFWF-supported project also benefits people by opening these lands up for a variety of recreational opportunities, including birding, camping, hiking, mountain biking, fishing and hunting.