Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

RMEF Supports Arizona's Hunter Education Program

Below is an Arizona Game and Fish Department news release regarding a collaboration between AZGFD and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

RMEF grant reinforces safety message in Arizona's hunter education program

Youths who successfully complete a class will receive a hunter orange cap

Youth participants in the Arizona Game and Fish Department's hunter education program will receive a blaze orange ("hunter orange") cap when they graduate, thanks to a $9,700 grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). The grant will provide 2,475 caps for the program this year. 

“Blaze orange enhances hunter safety by making the wearer more visible to other hunters in the field,” says Denise Raum, conservation education program manager for Game and Fish. “While not required in Arizona, we recommend that hunters wear blaze orange clothing or caps.”

“We appreciate the opportunity to reach out to youth who are entering the field to hunt. Doing so is a key element of our mission to enhance our hunting heritage,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “The grant funding comes from the Torstenson Family Endowment, named in honor of Bob Torstenson -- a man who had a passion for passing on his love of hunting to the next generation.”

Arizona’s hunter education program teaches students about firearm and hunting safety, outdoor skills, hunter ethics and laws, and wildlife conservation. The class can be taken either online or in a classroom setting (classroom courses are a minimum of 12 hours of classroom learning). Both courses require completion of a hands-on field day and exam.

“We very much appreciate receiving the grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, as the caps will reinforce the safety message that we convey to our hunter education students,” says Raum.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was founded more than 30 years ago by hunters and now has more than 200,000 members. The organization works to ensure the future of elk and other wildlife and the nation’s hunting heritage. RMEF has conserved more than 6.5 million acres of wildlife habitat and also works to open and improve public access and fund and advocate for science-based resource management. For more information, visit www.rmef.org.

RMEF Opposes Maine Bear Hunting Proposal

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports the North American Wildlife Conservation Model which has two basic principles that our fish and wildlife belong to all Americans and that they need to be managed in a way to sustain their populations forever.

With that said, RMEF is among 30 American Wildlife Conservation Partners that sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife in support of the department's position opposing a Nov. 4 ballot question that would place restrictions on bear hunting in the state.

Read the letter here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

RMEF: Ensuring the Future of "Other Wildlife" Too

The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. "Other wildlife"consists of a wide variety of mammals, reptiles, fish and other forms of animal life, including birds.

Photo courtesy Stacey Boyd
The story

It’s not hard to see flycatchers, falcons and sapsuckers as “birds of a feather,” but elk? No problem, once you consider that all four species “flock together” to the same habitats regardless of whether they wear antlers or wings, talons or hooves. They’ve got good company, too. A wide assortment of wildlife seeks out the same key spots in certain seasons, an overlap that also creates an ideal opportunity for conservation interests to join forces. 

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a prime example. It focuses its work on elk, but makes a point of always looking for collaborators in virtually every project it does, which has helped the foundation conserve more than 6.5 million acres over the past three decades. 

Clark's Nutcracker
Currently, RMEF is partnering with a number of other organizations all contributing time, talent and resources toward four Montana projects that benefit elk and nineteen bird species listed as “species of concern” by Montana’s Natural Heritage Program. That includes Goshhawks, Grosbeaks and Great Gray Owls, just to name a few, as well as scores of other bird species considered to be “at risk” due to habitat loss and degradation. Collaboration is an essential step in securing a bright future for these incredible animals.
Northern Goshawk

RMEF and its partners are right now focusing part of their efforts on the Beaverhead, Helena and Lewis and Clark National Forests. To date, this coalition has succeeded in permanently protecting almost 7,000 acres of important bird, elk, and other wildlife habitat, and is currently hard at work on saving another 2,940 acres. After purchasing the land, RMEF then conveys these parcels to the Forest Service, which will develop a management plan to maintain, and if need be, restore critical habitats for species of concern within these new additions, while looking out for the needs of elk, other wildlife and public access as well. 

How it happened

Back in 2008, the Forest Service lands specialist Bob Dennee approached RMEF requesting support for his efforts working with the Tenderfoot Trust to acquire key wildlife habitat on Tenderfoot Creek, a tributary of one of Montana’s most highly regarded trout streams, the Smith River. These parcels were owned by the Bair Ranch Foundation, which hoped to place its land in the hands of the Forest Service to become publically accessible ground. RMEF researched species and habitat data for the proposed project, and based on these conservation values, sought out partners including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Cinnabar Foundation and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust. All three provided financial help to match federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Tenderfoot Project

Despite so much support and interest, land conservation can be a slow process, and six years later the work continues on the Tenderfoot project. RMEF and its partners have so far protected 5,760 of 8,220 acres. Bald Eagles sat on Montana’s list of threatened species when this collaboration began, but have since been downgraded as their populations have rebounded. Peregrine Falcon, though, remain a species of concern, and Montana Natural Heritage staff has added another three other bird species to its list in the project area -- Veery, Northern Goshawk, and Clark’s Nutcracker. Those additions add to the importance of conservation at Tenderfoot Creek.

Pileated Woodpecker
 While Tenderfoot has progressed, RMEF and its partners added three other Montana acquisition projects that have so far resulted in permanent protection of 1,250 acres of elk and bird habitat in the Helena and Beaverhead National Forests.

Some of the at-risk birds that benefit from the partner’s habitat protection work in the Lewis and Clark, Helena and Beaverhead National Forests are Neotropical, meaning they breed in Montana but winter in warmer climates as far south as South America. Can you imagine Neotropical birds arriving back in Montana, exhausted from their long journey, only to find the habitat they and their ancestors have always depended is now paved over? Permanently protecting habitat aims to avoid that.

The Neotropical birds known to use RMEF’s Montana project areas include Brewer’s Sparrow, Cassin’s Finch, Ferruginous Hawk, Flammulated Owl, Golden Eagle, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, Peregrine Falcon, Sage Thrasher, Veery and Williamson’s Sapsucker. At-risk resident birds that winter in Montana include the Brown Creeper, Clark’s Nutcracker, Evening Grosbeak, Great Gray Owl, Northern Goshawk, Pacific Wren, and Pileated Woodpecker. Another species known to use the area is the Black Rosy-Finch, which is extraordinarily dependent on Montana, as 38% of its entire population breeds within the state, making conservation of the alpine areas needed by this unique species all the more critical.

RMEF supports public agencies’ habitat stewardship work by awarding conservation grants and providing volunteers to get habitat enhancement work done. Beyond these project areas, RMEF is working hard to conserve sagebrush and grassland habitat, reduce juniper encroachment and weed infestation, which not only benefits elk but also Sage Grouse, Golden Eagles, Ferruginous Hawks and Brewer’s Sparrows, just to name a few. RMEF has also enhanced tends of thousand of acres of aspen habitat used by Purple Martins, Pileated Woodpeckers and scores of other species. 

Flammulated Owl
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has identified vital habitat types that elk and at-risk bird species need. RMEF and its partners use this information to help focus attention on these habitats in the acquisitions. The habitats include riparian and wetland areas, mountain streams, broadleaf forests, grasslands and sagebrush that the state identifies as of “greatest conservation need” in its Comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Strategy. 

RMEF partnership work in the Beaverhead, Helena and Lewis and Clark National Forests has: 
  • protected 6,910 acres that support elk, mule deer, and nineteen bird species of concern. 
  • protected 2.24 stream miles that support westslope cutthroat trout, is working to protect another 4.37 miles that have the potential to support westslope cutthroat trout. 
  • created new public access on 6,910 acres with another 2,940 acres now in the works.
  • placed responsibility for maintaining 6,910 acres of elk and bird habitat with the US Forest Service.
Bob Springer
RMEF Project Development Specialist

Letter to RMEF Michigan Members about Election Day Referendums

Michigan RMEF Family,


Election Day is coming up on Tuesday, November 4. As always, going to the polls is an opportunity for each of us to cast a vote and have a say in the future of our government and our way of life.

As you know, there are two referendums on the statewide ballot that were enacted to support hunting rights and guarantee the scientific management of wildlife. The first asks whether to affirm the original law that named wolves as a game species while the second would affirm a law that allows the Natural Resources Commission to name game species, issue fisheries orders and provide free hunting and fishing licenses to active military members. 

Please consider a YES vote for these important issues.

It’s true that the legislature already passed an act that protects Michigan’s hunting rights and the DNR’s ability to determine games species and fisheries orders but a YES vote will send a clear message that anti-hunting groups like the Humane Society of the United States cannot buy or influence the intent of Michiganders.

Thank you for your support.

M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

Friday, October 24, 2014

Step Up for the Way Life Should Be

The tiny town of Newry, Maine, has a population of about 330, but for one weekend –the second weekend in October 2014 in this case– its population explodes to several thousand. And that’s exactly where 33 members and volunteers of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation found themselves.

They traveled to the Pine Tree State from as close as nearby Connecticut and as far away as Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina and Wyoming. They enjoyed the beauty of New England’s fantastic fall foliage and soaked in the festival atmosphere as they gathered for Step Up for the Way Life Should Be, an RMEF fundraising event and reunion of sorts.

RMEF Co-founder Charlie Decker and wife Yvonne hosted the three-day gathering. Participants took part in a wide range of activities including a Chondola (combination of chair lift and gondola) ride on Thursday to the Sunday River Ski Resort’s Peak Lodge for a welcome reception. 

On Friday, the group rode in a motor coach to Old Port in Portland for a tour of the Cabot Farmer’s Annex. The stop included some private cheese-tasting. From there, it was off to a lobster bait shop for a private tour followed by a cruise that featured lighthouses on Casco Bay. The day culminated with a return trip to Sunday River for a traditional lobster bake.

Saturday morning brought with it a meeting to reminisce, share heartfelt feelings, express gratitude and learn from each other. Group members talked about what fuels their passion for wildlife, conservation and the RMEF. 

“It was really great to hear everyone’s stories. They are very committed and passionate about the Elk Foundation,” said Geri Pursley, RMEF major gifts service lead. “Most of the group members serve as volunteers on the local chapter level. Several of them stepped up to either become an RMEF Life Member, a Habitat Partner or they increased their commitment within the Habitat Partner level.” 

Following the meeting everyone had free time, but for most folks it was time to join the throngs on hand to check out the 15th annual North American Wife Carrying Championships, the highlight of the Fall Festival weekend. 

Husband-and-wife teams, with the husbands doing the carrying and wives hanging on for dear life, raced through a 278-yard obstacle course that included log hurdles, sand traps and the “widow maker” water hazard. The fastest two teams from the qualifying round then competed head-to-head with the winning couple taking home the wife’s weight in beer, five times her weight in cash and an automatic entry into the Wife Carrying World Championship scheduled for the following summer in Finland. Watch the video below to view the 2014 winners—Jesse Wall and Christina Arsenault of Maine.

For the record, Wall and Arsenault won 96.5 pounds of beer and a cash prize of $482.50. Arsoneault said they did so well because she’s “wicked small” and he’s “wicked strong.”

To the winners, go the spoils  (Photo via Associated Press)

The Elk Foundation contingent capped their memorable weekend together by gathering one last time for a farewell dinner on Saturday evening. 

“It was such a fun event! I really admire all the folks who attended this event because of their commitment to RMEF,” added Pursley.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Elk-Loving Insomniac

I cannot get to sleep tonight.
I toss and turn and flop.
I try to count some fluffy sheep
while o'er a fence they hop.
--Kathy Kenney-Marshall

What is it with insomnia and counting sheep? Has counting sheep actually helped anyone anywhere fall asleep?

A recent Facebook post caught our attention. It comes from Lacey Jae Christinson out of South Dakota. 

Now that makes sense! Good night Lacey and pleasant dreams!

Courtesy RMEF Facebook page/Hector Olavae
Lacey, you could also try counting elk. See more photos on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Facebook page.

Courtesy Daniel Bowerly

A Bull Elk's Bugle in Favor of Conservation

Mike Mueller lets out an elk bugle call
(Photo via Thom Bridge/Independent Record)
An elk bugle call echoed across the foothills of the Big Belt Mountains on a damp autumn day, in between the passing of two rain storms, northeast of Townsend in west-central Montana. It came from the calling tube of Mike Mueller, senior lands program manager for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. There was no response, no confirmation…at least not immediately.

Mueller was part of a small but enthusiastic group of about 30 people who gathered in mid-October 2014 to celebrate a land acquisition project, brokered by RMEF that transferred nearly 1,000 acres of prime elk country from private to public ownership.

“We’re truly blessed today. This is a big deal and you know we need to pause and take time because we worked so hard for this,” said Mueller, as reported in the Independent Record.

It would not have happened if four sisters decided to sell their land –the former Neild family ranch– to private interests. Instead they teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service, RMEF and other partners to sell the 988 acres and watch it be conveyed to the Helena National Forest. The transaction also improves public access for hunters, hikers, anglers and other outdoor lovers to more than 6,000 additional acres of public land.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet day for us,” Barbara O'Dore, one of two Neild sisters on hand, told the Independent Record. “We have a lot of memories up here; you know we used to trail cattle up here and come up on picnics and pick choke cherries. Now the good thing is we can still come. It is a beautiful piece of property.”

In addition to being prime elk habitat, the property contains a segment of Ray Creek that covers more than two miles. 

Photo via Thom Bridge/Independent Record
“It was a fantastic day of celebrating partnerships,” said Jennifer Doherty, RMEF director of lands. “So many entities and people came together to make this project happen and it was evident that it was at the heart of what so many people value: public access for Montanans and habitat for elk and pure-strain westslope cutthroat trout.”

The dedication ceremony continued with a sign unveiling, recognition, picture-taking and the sharing of many heartfelt feelings of gratitude. In the midst of it all, it finally came. Although barely imperceptible, several in the celebration party heard it. A bull elk chimed in with a distant bugle, seemingly in approval and appreciation of the successful conservation efforts directed at its homeland.

Below are the words of RMEF President and CEO David Allen, shared by Doherty at the dedication:

“This is what it’s all about. This projects hits at the heart of the mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk foundation. It’s an incredible project that permanently protects almost a thousand acres of prime elk habitat while also providing a new access point for sportsmen and women…AND making it happen alongside a great group of conservation partners who understand and appreciate its importance.

“RMEF is proud to have collaborated with the Neild Family, US Forest Service, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Cinnabar, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and all of those who worked to secure federal Land and Water Conservation Funds. 

“This project celebrates many winners. It’s not only you and I and the people of Montana, but also elk, mule deer, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, other critters and, of course, the pure-blood westslope cutthroat trout that live in Ray Creek. 

“We express our sincere thanks to all who made this day possible. Again, we thank our partners, our volunteers and members, and each of you for your support of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.”
Mike Mueller, Barbara and George O'Dore, Edwina Hankinson (Barbara's sister)
and Bob Dennee, retired US Forest Service team leader
(Left to right)
(Photo courtesy Stephanie Parker)
MT Fish, & Wildlife Conservation Trust Manager George Bettas, Jennifer Doherty, RMEF Board of Directors member
Mike Baugh, George and Barbara O'Dore, Edwina Hankinson, Bill Orsello of the MT Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust
and RMEF Board of Directors member Chuck Roady
(Left to right)
(Photo courtesy Stephanie Parker)
Ray Creek Conservation Project
(Photo courtesy Stephanie Parker)