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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

RMEF Grants Benefit South Dakota Elk Country

Below is a complete listing of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s 2016 grants for the state of South Dakota. Find more information here.

Brookings County—Provide scholarship funding to benefit youth from low income families and help provide volunteer training at the Outdoor Adventure Center, a nonprofit organization in Brookings working to provide youth, young adults, active seniors, sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts with education, skills and experience related to "Dakota Heritage” (also benefits Moody, Lake, Codington, Kingsbury and Deuel Counties).

Butte County—Provide funding to assist with improvements to the Center of the Nation Sportsmans Club’s Belle Fourche Shooting Range which is used by various organizations to teach hunter safety and conduct law enforcement training and testing.

Charles Mix County—Provide funding to assist the Platte-Geddes School trap team made up of students in grades six through 12.

Custer County—Provide funding for research designed to monitor cow elk survival and mortality on the Black Hills National Forest by replacing 20-30 collars and increasing the overall sample size from 100 to 110 animals (also benefits Pennington and Lawrence Counties);provide funding for the installation of eight miles of pipeline, 12 stock tanks and two water guzzlers as part of a multi-phase project that, when completed, will provide water to approximately 60,500 acres in the remote Elk Mountain area of the Black Hills National Forest.; provide funding for a display addressing the history of Custer State Park as a wildlife park and a focus of game management and conservation in South Dakota in the remodeled visitors center (previously called the Norbeck Nature Center) as part of a larger outdoor heritage initiative seen by nearly 2,000,000 visitors annually; and provide volunteer manpower from eight RMEF South Dakota chapters plus Wisconsin’s state leadership team who carried out five separate projects in the Jewell Cave area on the Black Hills National Forest. That work includes replacing old fencing with buck and rail fencing to keep livestock out of two different springs and repairing livestock exclosure fencing around three existing guzzlers.

Jerauld County—Provide funding for the Jerauld County Step Outside Youth Outdoor Day  to expose young people to the outdoors through hands-on stations that teach hunting, fishing, trapping, camping skills, GPS skills, game calling and tracking (also benefits Buffalo, Hand, Beadle, Sanborn and Aurora Counties).

Lawrence County—Remove four miles of old fencing to benefit wildlife movement and construct exclosures around two acres of hardwood stands to help recruit new growth on Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered lands; provide funding and RMEF volunteer manpower to monitor and repair, as needed, 17 wildlife water guzzlers scattered across the Northern Hills Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest to assist with the distribution of elk and other wildlife; apply noxious weed treatment across 60 acres of BLM-managed land within the 2002 Jasper Wildfire area; provide funding for the construction of a wildlife watering pond to offer a reliable water source for elk and other wildlife that will also reduce wildlife casualties as elk will no longer be forced to cross a nearby highway to access water; provide RMEF volunteer manpower to clean up a two-mile stretch of Highway 82 plus the parking area at the Eagle Cliffs Trails system within the Black Hills National Forest as part of South Dakota's Adopt-A-Highway program; and provide funds to purchase equipment for the Bullseye 4-H Archery Club which offers youth ages eight to 18 in Butte and Lawrence the opportunity to learn about archery equipment, safety, proper shooting form, scoring and participate in competition.

Lyman County—Provide Torstenson Family Endowment funding to assist the Step Outside 2016 Youth Deer Hunt which introduces novice youth and non-hunting parents to firearm safety, basic deer hunting skills, field dressing and proper care of deer for consumption.

Pennington County—Apply noxious weed treatment to 40 acres along an extensive system of trails and roads within the Elk Creek and Butte Creek watersheds on the Black Hills National Forest to benefit elk and other wildlife; inventory and treat invasive weeds across 400 acres on the Black Hills National Forest and private lands, targeting oxeye daisy and spotted knapweed;  provide funding to purchase equipment for the Black Hills Archery Club which operates in cooperation with Pennington County 4-H.; and sponsor South Dakota Youth Hunting Adventures which provides mentored hunting experiences for youth ages 12-15 from the Rapid City area.

Statewide—Provide funding to expand South Dakota’s Elk Hunting Access Program so more privately-held land within Hunt Unit 3 is available to public hunting.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Time to Turn the Page

Sometimes it's just time to move on. This marks the 506th and final post on this blog.

Here's the deal. Back in September of 2012, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation began a new blog. The goal was to use Elk Tracks as an additional platform to increase outreach by telling stories about anything and everything related to elk, hunting and RMEF's conservation mission.

It turned out to be a smashing success. Some of the posts spelled out direct mission accomplishment in terms of acres, dollars spent and subsequent on-the-ground results while others were merely for the sake of entertainment. A few that come to mind include an artist in the Pacific Northwest who used a welding unit to convert an old John Deere tractor and some rifles into a massive 6,800-pound elk, a tweet posted from an elk-loving insomniac in South Dakota, a new RMEF member who gave his race car an elk-related facelift, and a young father battling brain cancer who wanted to take his son on an elk hunt before his expected passing.

Three years and nine months after launch, Elk Tracks rolled over the one million page view mark. And only eight months later, it topped more than 1.5 million page views.

So if something is successful and continually gaining traction, why "turn the page?" Why pull the plug? Well, because we now have something better. Much better! RMEF recently announced a new online digital hub for all things elk and elk country called the Elk Network. It's a highly visual, user-friendly platform with social media functionality and it's mobile-responsive making for effective viewing on any sized screen, anywhere.” Translation: it's innovative. It's cool. And we think users will agree.

From here on out, posts that would've found a home in Elk Tracks will now be posted directly to the Elk Network. And don't worry. Elk Tracks won't disappear. It'll remain at its current location on the worldwide web to serve as an archive.

Click on the Elk Network logo to go to the site.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

RMEF National Convention Gets Off to a Stirring Start

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation kicked off its 2017 National Convention in Nashville with passion, energy, recognition, celebration and commitment. Members cheered several 2016 milestones including RMEF surpassing one million acres in lifetime public access projects and topping seven million conserved or enhanced acres.

RMEF celebrated the return of elk to nearby West Virginia by honoring former West Virginia governor Ray Tomblin with its Conservationist of the Year Award. Tomblin and his staff provided leadership by overseeing a joint effort with RMEF, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other partners to return elk to the Mountain State for the first time in 140 years. Former DNR director Bob Fala and DNR Commissioner Kenny Wilson, both RMEF volunteers, accepted the award, as well as Elk Country Partnership Awards, and thanked the RMEF and all others involved in the effort for helping put elk back on their native range.

Bob Fala, RMEF Chief Conservation Officer Blake Henning and Kenny Wilson
(left to right)
Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris received the first-ever Elk Country Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to creating one of North America’s most recognizable outdoor brands, Morris was also honored for his commitment to conservation and assisting RMEF’s mission. Below are some of his remarks.

Johnny Morris (left) and RMEF President/CEO David Allen
“There’s no doubt in my mind Cabela’s wouldn’t have happened, just like Bass Pro Shops wouldn’t have happened, if it weren’t for great conservation and wonderful organizations like the RMEF and all of you in this room. Just like you in this room, my son’s very proud and I’m very proud to be a member of RMEF. I don’t feel I deserve recognition any more than any other members or supporters that couldn’t be here and are members of this world-class organization or any other members or supporters that couldn’t be here tonight that wake up almost every day trying to drive this organization forward. 

Johnny Morris
“I think all of us share something. We’re proud to do this together not because we have to but because we have a lot of pride and we have a lot of confidence that all of the –whether it’s dollars or effort– whatever we are putting into the RMEF is and has historically done a lot of good and it can do a tremendous amount of good for generations to come. Thank you very much. It’s an honor to be with you.”

-Johnny Morris
Bass Pro Shops Founder

Following dinner, Shane Mahoney, the president and CEO of Conservation Visions and also a RMEF member, delivered a stirring and emotional keynote address on the vital importance of conservation, standing up to challenges faced by hunters and hunting, and the relevance and importance of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. Below are some of his comments.

“It is in the times of greatest challenge that the greatest opportunities present themselves. You need challenge to achieve greatness. This simply is not your daddy’s world anymore. If we (hunters) become too few we will become relevant. We’re seeing vastly changing attitudes toward animals and hunting. Support for hunting cannot be left to memory of those who hunt. 

Shane Mahoney
“I am optimistic because controversies have moved great conservation organizations to look deeply at what hunting has done for animals worldwide. We have locavores. We have people writing books about farm-to-table. We have those seeking organic food. They realize our lifestyle of pushing ourselves (in the wild in pursuit of animals) and harvesting them for good friends and family…they are coming to understand this is something valuable and precious. You don’t go to the grocery store and buy a roast and give it to your neighbor. When you take something wild, the first thing that comes out of your breast is the concept of sharing.

“I am asking the RMEF for a favor. I believe this organization can be the one to take the big steps. We need an organization that others can see and they can follow. People respect and believe in this organization so I ask you…don’t take small steps but take the big steps others are afraid to take.”

-Shane Mahoney
Conservation Visions CEO/President

Recording artists Andy Griggs, Chris Janson and Richie McDonald capped the evening with a spirited guitar pull. The three took turns telling stories, singing songs, poking barbs at each other and interacting with the crowd. They also pulled fellow country music artists Daryle Singletary and Easton Corbin out of the crowd for a closing, impromptu number.

Chris Janson                                                 Andy Griggs                                       Richie McDonald

Andy Griggs, Easton Corbin, Daryle Singletary and Chris Janson
(left to right)
RMEF co-founder Charlie Decker, Johnny Morris and RMEF co-founder Bob Munson
(left to right)

A Road Trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country

Students of all ages love a good field trip. Sixteen students from Green Mountain College (GMC), accompanied by two of their professors, piled into a couple of vans to make the 390-mile trek from their campus in Poultney, Vermont to Pennsylvania’s elk country.

The group applied for and received a grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to assist with the costs of the van rental, gas and camping. The goal was for students to receive a first-hand education about elk, elk habitat and elk biology.

“This sponsorship was a fantastic way to expose my college students to elk management in Pennsylvania, as well as meeting several professionals in the field,” said Dr. Valerie Titus, GMC professor.

The following was posted in the GMC Journal:
Sponsored by a generous grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Fish and Wildlife Techniques class, led by Dr. Valerie Titus (natural resource management) and Dr. Jim Harding (natural resource management) journeyed to Benezette, Penn., to learn about the Pennsylvania elk herd and the management behind the successful program. Students were guided by Tim Foster, senior regional director for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, who introduced the class to the region’s beautiful elk viewing areas. The class was also fortunate to meet and chat with local biologists and conservation officers on how they work with elk, education, tourism and hunting throughout the year.

“We hope to continue work with RMEF in the future,” added Dr. Titus.

Volunteers Lay Down Fencing to Help Wildlife

It’s old hat for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation volunteers to gather together to remove old, unfriendly wildlife fencing. Thousands of volunteers have done it all across elk country and that’s made it easier for elk and other wildlife to migrate unimpeded across the landscape. 

A handful of RMEF volunteers recently took part in a fence project of a different type. They rolled up their sleeves in order to lay down 19 miles of seasonal fencing on the 15,206-acre Bridge Creek Wildlife Area in northeast Oregon. 

The area is key wintering range where there are often more than 1,000 elk. It is closed to public access from December 1 to April 15 in an attempt to keep elk on the wildlife area rather than have them migrate further north onto private property. The fence is laid down to reduce or eliminate damage but it is needed in the spring and summer because the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) allows permittee livestock grazing.

Below is an account of the volunteer project.

We met at the small cabin on the wildlife area at 8 a.m. and following a safety briefing and review of the area map, assignments were made and we embarked on the project. Working in pairs, we either moved ATVs or pickups to eliminate double walking fence. We then worked individually laying down the fence (totaling 19 miles). Once completed, we met at the defined central location. We then finished a small section and met again at the cabin for a late lunch and general discussion of the area, additional volunteer opportunities, learned how our efforts potentially helped ODFW secure Pittman-Robertson dollars via grants that are driven by logged volunteer hours. 

Tim Campbell
Pendleton Chapter Chair/Eastern Oregon Mission Team Leader
Drew Nelson, Kevin Drake (ODFW), Rick Ella, Darin Nelson, Tom Baker, Patti Baker, Tim Campbell
(left to right)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wildfire-Scarred Landscape Gets a Helping Hand

Ritter photo
In July of 2007 lightning strikes ignited six wildfires in south-central Idaho and north-central Nevada. Strong winds teamed up with hot, dry conditions to fuel the flames which created the Murphy Complex Wildfire. Together, the wildfires charred an estimated 652,000 acres and caused extensive damage to natural resources including shrub communities that provide vital calving habitat and thermal cover for elk and other big game species.

Fast forward to several years later and the landscape is still in the process of recovery but the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation joined forces with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) to help Mother Nature get back on track. In 2014, RMEF supplied funding to grow and plant 20,000 bitterbrush seedlings. Two years later, RMEF funds helped cover the cost of the contract to grow and plant the shrub seedlings. 

In mid-October, 2016, crews hand-planted approximately 193,000 Wyoming big sagebrush seedlings over a 4,700-acre area along the Jarbidge River Canyon in the affected burn area. The project is a continuation of BLM and IDFG efforts that, so far, planted more than 213,000 sagebrush and bitterbrush seedlings on more than 5,400 acres of BLM-administered lands in the wildfire zone. 

The hands-on work is a demonstration of RMEF’s commitment to its conservation mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 487 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Idaho with a combined value of more than $63.5 million. These projects have protected or enhanced 426,900 acres of habitat and have opened or secured public access to 24,147 acres.

Veterans Make Memories, Fill the Freezer

“It is our duty to serve those who serve us.”
-Chris Kyle

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports the members of our military, their families and our veterans. 

RMEF provided grant funding and volunteer manpower for American veterans to take part in the Base Camp 40, Warriors in the Wild “Seal on the Mountain” elk hunt in 2016, held in the memory of former U.S. Navy Seal veteran and sniper Chris Kyle who part in a BC40 hunt in 2012. The five-day hunts involved five veterans and took place in Colorado. 

Grant funding provided by RMEF not only purchased five custom engraved Weatherby rifles, hunting licenses and the shipment of processed game meat, but it allows Base Camp 40 to get more veterans out on the ground for additional Colorado cow elk hunts, whitetail deer hunts in Kentucky and fishing outings in British Columbia. 

BC40 provides opportunities for veterans to rediscover, heal and reflect. The organization originated in 2011 with cow elk hunts in western Colorado. It expanded in 2014 by offering hunts in Texas, Kentucky, Alabama, additional ranches in Colorado and fishing in British Columbia.