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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Clearing the Way for Migrating Elk

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation life member Kevin Leubke came across a most disturbing scene in west-central Montana last summer—a young elk calf that died after getting tangled up in fencing near a popular Block Management Area ranch. He took a photo (on left) and then reached out to RMEF in search of help.

“I realize there are a lot of fences and a lot of elk crisscrossing Montana but this one seems so easy to remedy and in such a high elk traffic/high hunter visibility area that it should be a no-brainer,” Leubke wrote in an email.

RMEF sprang into action by contacting Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). It turned out that the landowner’s husband had recently passed away and, without him, had trouble keeping up with fencing issues so she appreciated the offer for help. As a result, RMEF volunteers will team up with 10 FWP wardens to spend part of their Memorial Day weekend on the Craddock Ranch. They will remove nearly a mile of old fencing and replace it with wildlife-friendly fencing. RMEF will cover the cost of the supplies.

The Craddock Ranch fence project is one of a seven similar efforts planned for 2016 across Montana this spring and summer (see schedule below).

“Our volunteers and members really thrive when they come together for habitat stewardship work projects. They know they’re making a hands-on difference for elk and elk country. It’s really satisfying and it’s a lot of fun too,” said Matthew Ashley, RMEF regional director.

Go here to find out about other RMEF volunteer projects and Rendezvous.

2016 Montana RMEF Chapter Summer Projects:

May 28th- Craddock Ranch BMA Fence Pull and Rebuild (Anaconda)
Greg Harby, Southwest MT Chapter Chair: 406-723-3093 greg.harby@northwestern.com
Joe Kambic, Game Warden: 406-490-1227 JKambic@mt.gov

June 11th – Dome Mountain WMA Fence Pull (Emigrant)
Marcus Lilley, Upper Yellowstone Chapter Chair: mtlilley@gmail.com
Karen Loveless, FWP Wildlife Biologist: 406-333-4211 KLoveless@mt.gov

June 11th- Jenkins Gulch Fence Pull (Townsend)
Joe Cohenour, Elkhorn Chapter Chair: 406-431-1144 joecohenour@gmail.com
Tony Smith, USFS Range Tech, Elkhorn Committee: 406-439-8900 tonysmith06@hotmail.com

TBD June 18th or 25th - Evaro Hill-Butler Creek Fencing Project (Northwest of Missoula)
Project Lead- Bert Lindler: 406-396-0567 blindler@montana.com
Jared Wold. Western MT, Northern ID RMEF RD: 406-370-8352 jwold@rmef.org

June 24th- RMEF Summer Rendezvous Fence Pull (Bozeman)
Craig Freese, Gallatin Chapter Chair: 406-570-9051 jennyluvcraig@aol.com
Matt Ashley, Eastern MT RMEF RD: 406-351-2335 mashley@rmef.org

July 9th- Wall Creek WMA fence pull / RMEF & MTFWP Acquisition Dedication (Cameron)
Kevin Vessey, Vigilante Chapter Chair: 406-580-1843 123kevinv@gmail.com
Mike Mueller, RMEF Land Program Manager: 406-531-8297 mmueller@rme.org
Julie Cunningham, FWP Wildlife Biologist: 406-994-6341 juliecunningham@mt.gov

TBD Fall of 2016- Zekes Meadow Dilapidated Structure Removal (Philipsburg)
Greg Harby, Southwest MT Chapter Chair: 406-723-3093 greg.harby@northwestern.com
Charlene Bucha, District Ranger Pintler Forest: 406-239-4138 cfbucha@fs.fed.us

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pausing and Remembering on Memorial Day

Dear RMEF Family,

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Many of us head to the mountains, rivers, lakes or woods to spend time together as family and friends. Others stay closer to home for picnics, barbecues and other family and community functions. 

The changing of the seasons (and the changing of the weather) is worth celebrating but let us also remember why we have this holiday weekend. 

Memorial Day is sacred in that it is set aside as a day to remember, honor and revere those who died while serving in defense of our country. To them and their families, we owe our eternal gratitude. They gave the ultimate sacrifice.

As a RMEF family, we have many veterans among us—both past and present. Thank you for your dedicated service! Your individual and family sacrifices allow us to live our lives the way we do today. For many of us, that means the opportunity to appreciate and cherish our wildlife and our wild lands. 

Enjoy your holiday weekend and please pause to remember what it’s all about.


M. David Allen
President and CEO

Friday, May 20, 2016

RMEF Hosts National Elk Summit II

They arrived at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s headquarters from all around the nation. Representatives from 19 different state game agencies and two federal agencies gathered in RMEF’s (most appropriately named) Working for Wildlife Board Room for the second-ever National Elk Summit.

The discussion agenda included forestry reform, public access, research, hunting, disease, predator management, government affairs, public lands management, marketing and public outreach, state agency funding, habitat issues and other issues and challenges for state leaders tasked with managing their state’s elk herds and other wildlife.

All in all, the gathering included directors, assistant directors and/or game managers from Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming—all states with wild, free-ranging elk herds. The group also included representation from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the RMEF. 

Below are selected comments from some of the front-line players:

Chuck Roady
RMEF Chairman of the Board
We believe in our mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. It is supported locally, by the state, regionally and federally. Listen to us and use us.

I think we have a moral obligation to actively manage federal lands. RMEF is helping lead the charge. We don’t sit on the sidelines. We don’t straddle the fence. Our members tell us loud and clear that we need to maintain public access.

David Allen
RMEF President/CEO
We are in this together. We’re thrilled to have you here in our home.

Here at RMEF, state-based management is vital. You hear us refer to it and call it out over and over. State-based management is the foundation of our wildlife model. We have the most successful wildlife system in the world. It’s undeniable. The cornerstone of that is and has to be state-based management. The whole system is under stress demographically and fiscally but without state-based management this thing goes nowhere. In fact it crumbles real fast. What would our wildlife system look like without a state-based process? It gets pretty ugly pretty fast. That’s what’s at stake for the next decade or two or three. Keeping this system alive is an absolute must.

Our priorities are two-fold: our members are priority number-one. We continue to show steady growth. We do desire to have a big voice and represent it well. Our number-two priority is our four-fold mission—land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

The biggest challenges we see include the health of state agencies and the health of our public lands. The American people own these lands. No government agency owns these lands.

We are all in on being partners with you and working to help you address the issues you each have individually. We’re committed to that.

Steven Rinella
RMEF Life Member/Guest Speaker
I routinely came across people that are pleasantly surprised that hunting is a regulated activity. Most of the people, 95 percent of Americans, don’t have hunting on their radar. When I explain to people that we eat game as food and we talk about specific species, I find they become very receptive to active game management and the extraction of renewable resources when we have in mind the longevity of wild species.

One of the things I’ve struggled with regarding hunting is the language around trophy hunting. That came into great clarity with Cecil and the (proposed grizzly) delisting in Yellowstone. Trophy hunting has come to embody what it really isn’t. I talk about a passage from the Arctic explorer Stefansson. They would set the polar bear’s head in the lodge so it would see the family. Their thinking is the bear would see how influential the family treats the bear. We need to begin packaging our ideas about wildlife in a way that demonstrates reverence and understanding for the animals.

How serious are the locavores? You can’t overstate the importance of it right now. We have a lot of potential license buyers out there who have been told throughout their life –Disney movies and cartoons– that there’s something wrong with hunting and they’re dying to be told it’s okay. People feel an ancestral link to hunting—physically, structurally, spiritually. Many feel that urge to be told and I think the food movement is reassuring.

What I have found that has always stopped the new hunter is obstacles to initiation, meaning people just don’t know where to go. On public land they feel nervous about reception by other people. That is the obstacle where people feel intimidated to go on public land to hunt on. We recognize the need to bring hunting to a new generation but we don’t want others to be with us in the mountains.
If we want to grow hunting/fishing numbers, finding a way how public access works and how states sponsor getting people onto private land is crucial. A great tool would be a volunteer network for days leading up to application periods where people can help people navigate for a tag. Many people say that alone keeps them from getting a license.

A great area for growth potential is the emergence of women in the outdoors. In some ways, we’re standing at the precipice of a great opportunity to bring in a huge number of Americans who want to come in but feel intimidated.

By being excited, you can make kids get excited. It feels like something that has to happen at the family level. Unless parents take the time to introduce their kids to hunting I don’t see a way around it. We keep a tight grip on our kids. Everything they get comes through us (as parents). If they don’t love it, they don’t realize its importance and if they don’t realize its importance, they don’t love it.

Randy Newberg
RMEF Board Member/Guest Speaker
What is access? There are 15,000 questions on my website related to application questions.

Access to land? Access to elk? Access to opportunity? Elk + land = opportunity

Bad land management is a major factor in the lack of access to elk. “New age” landowners either have no tolerance for public elk hunters or they only allow hunting for family and friends.

There’s a huge reason why we lose hunter access to certain properties—poor hunter behavior.

If we don’t find a way to actively manage lands, our hands are tied on getting elk on accessible land.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

RMEF Conservation Archery Shoot Coming to Utah

If you live in Utah, enjoy archery and support conservation then you will want to check out the 2016 RMEF Conservation Archery Shoot. The gathering is scheduled for June 11-12, 2016, at the Timpanogos Archery Range located up Provo Canyon at the base of Cascade Mountain.

Activities include a 3 3-D mountain course, smoker course, Iron Maiden Longest Yard, raffles, door prizes and a $40 competition shoot. The first 100 shooters to sign up will receive a free RMEF grab bag. Find an RSVP form here. Cost is $25.00 or $40.00 for both days!

Log on to utahrmef.com for additional information.

Wild Horse, Burro Populations Continue to Soar

“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation remains greatly concerned about the growing numbers of wild horses and burros on the landscape and their detrimental impact on wildlife and wildlife habitat. We call on both Congress and the Obama Administration to rein in the population for the sake of our wildlife and wild places.”

Blake Henning
RMEF Vice President of Lands and Conservation

Feral horses chasing off an elk at a natural spring in southwestern Colorado
(Source: Mesa Verde National Park)

Below is a news release issued by the Bureau of Land Management regarding the wild horse and burro populations which are well objective.

Bureau of Land Management                                                   Contact: Kimberly Brubeck
For immediate release: May 11, 2016                                       (202-208-5832)
Wild Horses and Burros on Public Rangelands Now 2.5 Times Greater than 1971 when Protection Law Was Passed

BLM seeks to expand initiatives to address problems with new legislative authority
  • 46,000 Horses Already Being Cared for Off-Range
  • Off-Range Care of Unadopted Horses Would Exceed $1 Billion
  • Necessary Horse Gathers Exceed Available Space and Funding

The Bureau of Land Management announced today that as of March 1, 2016, more than 67,000 wild horses and burros are roaming Western public rangelands – a 15 percent increase over the estimated 2015 population.

The updated numbers show more than twice the number of horses on the range than is recommended under BLM land use plans. It is also two and a half times the number of horses and burros that were estimated to be in existence when the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed in 1971. To help address the problem, BLM is seeking legislative authority for additional initiatives.

"Over the past seven years we have doubled the amount of funding used for managing our nation's wild horses and burros," said BLM Director Neil Kornze. "Despite this, major shifts in the adoption market and the absence of a long-term fertility control drug have driven population levels higher. A number of program reforms are underway, but assistance is needed from our local, state, and federal partners."

While herds of wild horses consistently double in size every four years, there has also been a dramatic decrease in adoptions in recent years. In the early 2000s, nearly 8,000 horses were being placed with private adopters each year. Due to a number of economic factors, that number is now down to roughly 2,500 animals each year, compounding an already difficult management situation.

The total lifetime cost of caring for an unadopted animal that is removed from the range is substantial. Costs for lifetime care in a corral approaches $50,000 per horse. With 46,000 horses and burros already in off-range corrals and pastures, this means that without new opportunities for placing these animals with responsible owners, the BLM will spend more than a billion dollars to care for and feed these animals over the remainder of their lives. Given this vast financial commitment, the BLM is now severely limited in how many animals it can afford to remove from the range.

To address these issues the BLM is taking a number of steps, including sponsoring a significant research program focused on fertility control; transitioning horses from off-range corrals to more cost-effective pastures; working to increase adoptions with new programs and partnerships; and requesting two new pieces of legislative authority -- one to allow for the immediate transfer of horses to other agencies that have a need for work animals and one that would create a congressionally-chartered foundation that could help fund and support adoption efforts. Additional tools and resources are needed to bring this program onto a sustainable path.

The table below shows the 2016 West-wide, on-range population on a state-by-state basis as of March 1, 2016. This year’s 15 percent increase over the 2015 population compares to an 18 percent increase from 2014 to 2015. The BLM plans to remove 3,500 wild horses and burros from Western public rangelands in 2016.

RMEF Yellowstone Grizzly Delisting Letter

Below is the public comment letter submitted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the proposal to remove Yellowstone-area grizzly bears from federal protections and shift them to state management.

May 10, 2016

Public Comments Processing
Attn: Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2016-0042
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

We believe the grizzly population is fully recovered and all management authority should be transferred to state wildlife agencies. The FWS proposal is based on the best available science and reflects the cooperative efforts of state, federal and non-governmental organizations over the past 40 years to better understand the bear’s habitat requirements. The information gained and implemented from these strategies helped grizzlies recover to the point where their populations are sustainable. Removing GYE grizzlies from federal listing and transferring management authority to state wildlife agencies is not only appropriate at this time, but also brings into play a number of strategies—including limited, regulated hunting—that will ensure their long-term viability.

RMEF supports the proposal for four  primary reasons: (1) all grizzly bear recovery goals have been met; (2) studies have determined the GYE grizzly is adaptable to changes in its habitat;  (3) delisting of the bear and transferring its management to state wildlife agencies ensures continued conservation of the species while also increasing funding for grizzly habitat conservation and management; and (4) the conservation strategy includes every possible safety net, including triggers for relisting.

Recovery Criteria Met

The primary reason for delisting the population is recognition that the criteria included in the FWS GYE grizzly bear recovery plans of 1982, 1993 and 2007 have been met. Demographic Recovery Criterion 1 (1982) required a minimum population of at least 500 grizzly bears. That was met in 2002 and populations have grown to an estimate of nearly 800 bears. 

Demographic Recovery Criterion 2 (1993) required a distribution of female bears with young in 16 of the 18 Recovery Zone’s Bear Management Units (BMU), with no two adjacent BMUs unoccupied during a six-year window of observations. This has been exceeded each year since 1999.  

State management will meet Demographic Recovery Criterion 3 which is maintaining the grizzly population around the 2002-2014 modeled (Chao 2) average of 674 bears (95% CI = 600-747) and by maintaining annual mortality limits for independent females, independent males and dependent young. 

State wildlife agencies have the capacity to conduct extensive monitoring on parameters that will be important to ensuring a recovered population. These parameters include but are not limited to reproduction, natural and human-caused mortality, habitat quality and the distribution of breeding females.


The 2013 Interagency Grizzly Bear Food Synthesis Report demonstrated the grizzly bear is extremely adaptable when faced with a reduction in one of its forage components. These findings reinforce the bear population’s resiliency and the ability of proper management to provide for its health into the future. Using this science reinforces state and federal commitments to ensuring healthy grizzly populations.

State Agency and Hunter Contributions to Management

State wildlife agencies in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have collectively spent millions of dollars over the last four decades on programs to study grizzlies and their habitat requirements, monitor their populations and conserve their habitat. These efforts were made possible by the hunters and anglers of these states who purchase hunting and fishing licenses to pursue their passions while helping fund other important wildlife programs. This revenue stream will continue to be available for grizzly bear conservation under state management—and will be significantly enhanced if states are able to sell limited opportunities for grizzly bear hunting.

Given the facts that FWS grizzly bear recovery goals have been met, bears have demonstrated they are adaptable and state resources for continued conservation are in place, the time is right to remove GYE grizzlies from federal protection. This position is supported by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee; the recently retired FWS grizzly bear recovery coordinator; the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming; and more than 220,000 RMEF members.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on this proposal.


M. David Allen
President & CEO 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

‘Little Man’ Stands Tall, Wins BIG at RMEF Banquet

Quade Robinson was the biggest man in the house! Or at least he felt that way. And who could blame him. Sporting a black cowboy hat, plaid shirt, belt buckle, blue jeans and his cowboy boots, the determined two-year-old stood on top of a table with right hand thrust as high as he could reach and wearing a smile as big as his family’s southern Utah ranch.

Quade attended the Cedar City Chapter Big Game Banquet with other members of his immediate and extended family. It’s a Robinson tradition of sorts to attend and he is the youngest to fall in line. In fact, Quade’s father Marcus is a volunteer for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, as are his parents Cal and Debbie and others among the Robinson clan. They served as past chapter committee members and step up most every year by buying a table at the banquet.

When Quade arrived at the 2016 banquet, the toddler was hyper-focused on a certain Hunting Is Conservation Red Ryder Daisy BB Gun

“Me and my wife got there before my dad so I showed him the gun and told him it was a live auction,” said Marcus. “So as soon as my dad, his grandpa, got there, Quade took him over, showed it to him and said, ‘That’s my gun Grandpa.'”

Quade didn’t have to wait long to get in on the bidding. The BB gun was the second item up for bid during the live auction. 

“I stood him up on the table and told him to raise his hand. He was bidding back and forth with another little boy a couple of tables down,” said Marcus.

There were lots of smiles and laughs as the bidding duel continued. In the end, Quade came out on top and could not wait to claim his prize. 

“The people liked it pretty good. We know the auctioneer from having livestock and that. He thought it was pretty neat, too,” said Marcus.

Can you just picture Quade riding the range with his father and grandfather while working the livestock on the family ranch? Can you picture him with that lever cocking, spring air action Daisy Red Ryder Model 1938 featuring a stained, solid wood stock engraved with RMEF and Hunting Is Conservation logos, smooth bore steel barrel and adjustable open rear sights? Yes, this 2.2-pound rifle with a 650-BB shooting capacity and 195-yard maximum shooting distance with a stamped metal receiver, saddle ring with leather thong is a real man’s man of a firearm—even if the little man doesn’t turn three until August.

“We’ve taken him out a couple of times and let him shoot it,” said Quade’s proud papa. “We had a lot of fun. Keep on doing what you guys (RMEF) are doing.”