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A bull elk on the National Elk Refuge outside Jackson. 

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded more than $500,000 in grants for projects in Wyoming aimed at improving elk habitat and research, public access and hunting heritage efforts, the group announced this week.

The grants will fund 56 projects that benefit 11,570 acres across 18 counties. Among other things, the money will pay for a scientific study of elk in the high desert ecosystem of Sweetwater County and research aimed at mapping unknown migration paths of the Targhee elk herd in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the group said.

“This is the largest project allocation amount from one state in one year on record,” Kyle Weaver, the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Wyoming may have the smallest population in the United States, but RMEF volunteers in the Cowboy State sure know how to deliver on behalf of elk and elk country.”

Money from the grants will help provide public access to roughly 48,000 acres of land around the state through a partnership between private landowners and sportsmen. It will also pay to remove encroaching trees as part of an effort to improve aspen health in Fremont County. The area is home to elk, mule deer and moose.

The foundation, which focuses on conservation and improving public access to the outdoors, has more than 9,100 members and two dozen chapters in Wyoming.

“It’s a direct reflection of the hard work and passion of our volunteers,” Weaver said. “They work tirelessly on their own time to generate these funds that are then put back on the ground in their state to enhance elk and elk habitat.”

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