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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cleaner Water, Better Wildlife Habitat Coming to Pennsylvania

Below is a news release issued by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Feb. 10, 2016
For Information Contact:
Travis Lau

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation secures grant to clean up acid-mine drainage on game lands. 

An abandoned coal mine that has been seeping harmful acid drainage into waterways on and downstream of state game lands is being cleaned up with a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Work has begun on a reclamation project on State Game Lands 100 in Snowshoe Township, Centre County. The project is funded through the Growing Greener Watershed Protection program with a $1,003,139 grant sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Acid mine drainage is a major problem for water quality in the bituminous coal fields of Pennsylvania. It is a result of past unregulated coal mining, and mines that never were reclaimed to restore habitat. 

The acid mine drainage on State Game Lands 100 discharges into Contrary Run, which is a tributary to Beech Creek.

The project will reclaim the abandoned mine land and neutralize the acidic water in Contrary Run by adding a limestone filter to passively treat the water discharging into the stream.

Berner Construction Inc., a Women Business Enterprise located in Gap, Pa., was awarded the construction contract through a competitive bid process. The project will include reclamation of 40 acres of abandoned mine land with 3,300 linear feet of dangerous highwalls. These highwalls are steep, exposed cliffs that create unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. The high-quality grassland to be established as part of the reclamation will provide excellent habitat for elk, white-tailed deer, turkeys and other game and nongame species. 

The project area is adjacent to several other previously abandoned mine areas that recently were reclaimed, resulting in over 180 acres of improved wildlife habitat. 

Due to the many habitat-improvement projects, an expanding elk herd exists on State Game Lands 100 and surrounding areas. For the first time in modern history, the Game Commission issued five elk hunting licenses in 2015 for the hunt zone including State Game Lands 100, resulting in the successful harvest of two bull elk.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. For over 25 years, RMEF has been an important conservation partner in Pennsylvania’s elk management program by funding the preservation or enhancement of nearly 21,000 acres of valuable habitat in the northcentral region. 

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, RMEF was able to apply for and receive the grant through which the work is being done. 

More information on RMEF is available at www.rmef.org.

The project was designed and is being managed by Alder Run Engineering LLC, with oversight from the Centre County Conservation District and DEP. Construction and revegetation of the site should be completed in 2016.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Going Viral

Social media is a funny thing. It’s also a very powerful thing. Just posting one photo or video or link opens the door to the potential of reaching millions upon millions of people around the globe. Let’s offer three examples from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Facebook page.

In December 2013, we came across a comic that plays off the 1992 tongue-in-cheek Christmas song by Elmo Shropshire, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” It shows a banged up, yet seemingly still grumpy grandma sitting in an armchair, reading her edition of the Daily Times newspaper with a wall mount of the guilty reindeer behind her. The December 19 post quickly went viral. More than 3,000 Facebook followers liked it while another 36,000 shared it. To date, it’s reached more than 1.9 million people.

Fast forward to January 2015. Stevie Beard posted a rather creative engagement photo taken by Joshua Rainey to the RMEF Facebook page. With a beaming yet victorious smile on her face, a high-powered rifle in her hands and wearing a white dress, denim jacket, cowboy boots and a scarf, she poses with her prey –an upside down fiancĂ© Brady Hogevoll– hanging from the bucket of a front-end loader. In the foreground is a sign containing the simple phrase The Hunt is Over! 9/15/15.

Courtesy Joshua Rainey
The post went viral not once, but twice! It received 163,000 likes, more than 4,000 comments and followers shared it more than 31,000 times. In all, the photo reached more than 6.8 million people. One Facebook follower commented, “Excellent…good capture, rut must have been on. Clearly let his guard down and forgot everything else.” Stevie and Brody’s photo also spawned a flurry of other outdoor-related engagement photos from followers who posted their pictures in the comment section

As the photo continued to gain traction on social media, the story itself took on a life of its own among traditional media outlets on the Internet. It spread like wildfire from Oregon to Los Angeles to Chicago to New York on a multiplicity of TV, radio, magazine, blog and other online sites. It soared across the Atlantic Ocean where nearly all of England’s media outlets jumped on the bandwagon. Almost every single one of the online outlets, including the Cosmopolitan’s love and sex section back in the U.S., provided a link to the RMEF Facebook page where it all began. (By the way, Stevie successfully bagged her man and they tied the knot.)

Photos may make waves but videos can become viral tsunamis! In July 2015, we triggered such a movement. We came across a video created by a group called Archery Attack, located in Australia. It features a group of people divided up into two teams, toting bows with protective masks over their faces, and shooting arrows with large, padded tips. Set to music and brilliantly edited, the two sides take shots at each other in what can perhaps best be described as a cross between dodgeball and tag. Recognizing that a significant segment of RMEF members are bowhunters and may get a kick out of watching it, or possibly participating, we posted it to our Facebook page. 

Archery Attack
Our Facebook followers watched the video, commented on it and shared it again and again and again, causing it to take on a warp speed viral life of its own. Statistics showed the RMEF page reached 70-million people in just one week and picked up 20,000 new followers. We received Facebook messages, emails and voicemails from curious video watchers from across the United States, Australia, China, Pakistan, Canada, France, Brazil, Belgium, Central America, Hungary, South Africa and many places in between. They wanted to know how they could get involved and where they could go to play. We gladly directed all of them to Archery Attack. 

The numbers as of early February 2016 are astounding:
  • 3.5 million reactions, comments & shares
  • 42.4 million video views
  • 125.4 million people reached 

In mid-December 2015, we posted a video forwarded our way by Facebook follower Haley Nicole Gowen out of Montana. It’s rather short but comical in a sense. So far, it’s reached more than 9.1 million people.

Courtesy Haley Nicole Gowen
We have had many other videos, photos and links go viral but these four posts highlight a couple of things. First of all, RMEF's Facebook followers have vast and yet similar interests and, secondly, social media gives us the opportunity to spread our message to an ever-widening audience. And that’s a powerful thing!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

RMEF Among Groups Honored with Forest Service Award

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and a group of partners recently received recognition for their combined efforts regarding the George Washington National Forest. Below is the U.S. Forest Service news release.

Local Collaborative Receives Prestigious Forest Service Award
Release Date: Jan 10, 2016
Contact(s): JoBeth Brown (540) 265-5102, Marek Smith (540) 839-3599

(January 6, 2016) Roanoke, VA – The USDA Forest Service presented the George Washington National Forest Stakeholder Collaborative, a partnership of 19 local organizations and other individuals, with the 2015 Partners and Community Engagement award for their efforts on the George Washington National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Plan) and Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project.

This regional award honors one partner group selected from among 17 National Forests in 13 southern states. The award recipients were recognized for their innovative and creative approaches to building partnerships and implementing Forest Service projects.

The award recipients represent: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; Society of American Foresters; Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition; Virginia Wilderness Committee; James River Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society; Shenandoah Mountain Touring; Bath County Board of Supervisors; Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited; The Nature Conservancy; Virginia Forestry Association; Quality Deer Management Association - Rockingham Branch; Southern Environmental Law Center; Friends of Shenandoah Mountain; Virginia Chapter Sierra Club; Virginia State Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation; Alleghany County Board of Supervisors; Virginia Bear Hunters Association; and Virginia State Leadership Team, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

This diverse group of stakeholders united in 2010 with the goal of developing recommendations for the management of the George Washington National Forest. The Collaborative built trust among diverse interests and found common goals. Through open dialog and use of resources such as the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, representatives from the participating organizations built consensus around a suite of issues that have traditionally been contentious and polarizing.

The Collaborative is convened by a six-member steering committee: Al Bourgeois and Jay Jeffreys (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries), John Hancock (Virginia Forestry Association/Society of American Foresters), Kyle Lawrence (Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition), Mark Miller (Virginia Wilderness Association), and Marek Smith (The Nature Conservancy).

The product of their efforts was the submission of joint comments on the George Washington National Forest Draft Plan. The Final Plan, released in November 2014, reflected many of the recommendations and received broad public support as a result of the diligence of the Stakeholder Collaborative. The Forest Plan recommended additional acres of Wilderness and a National Scenic Area, as well as additional areas and objectives for management activities such as timber harvesting, controlled burning, and other habitat management techniques.

According to John Hancock, one of the steering committee members who helped initiate the group, “We realized early on that each us had work we wanted to see accomplished on the forest, and while those goals were often very different, they were not mutually exclusive. The old model was to talk to the agency to try to persuade them to do what we individually wanted them to do. This new model is to talk to each other first, reach some consensus, and then work with the agency to try to achieve a suite of outcomes that works for us all. The Forest Service has the authority and responsibility to meet the objectives set out in the Forest Plan, and our group is helping them to that end.”

Following release of the Forest Plan, the Stakeholder Collaborative continued their work with the Forest Service through collaboration on the 117,000-acre Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project. This project was the Forests’ first-ever large landscape and integrated resource planning effort. The Stakeholder Collaborative participated in public workshops, encouraged public and county engagement, and provided input to identify priority restoration efforts and management activities. Their efforts produced a plan which outlines a roster of restoration and management projects to take place over the next ten years. These proposed projects include timber management, road restoration and management, fish and aquatic organism passage improvements, wildlife habitat management, American Chestnut restoration, non-native invasive species control, recreational trail development, and prescribed fire.

These projects reflect the unified Vision Statement of the partnership:

“We envision a well-connected network of core, relatively unfragmented, forested areas embedded within a landscape of diverse age and structural character that supports a variety of wildlife species, builds ecological resilience, and provides essential ecological, social, economic, and recreational benefits for people.”

George Washington National Forest

Friday, January 29, 2016

RMEF Expresses Concern over Proposed National Monument Designation in Arizona

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently sent a letter (see below) to President Obama and other federal and congressional leaders regarding its concern over a proposal to create a Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. Such a designation may restrict or halt hunting opportunity and necessary wildlife management.

January 27, 2016

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Re: Proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument

Dear Mr. President:

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, representing 220,000 members nationwide, fully supports the State of Arizona Game and Fish Commission in its opposition to the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. We work to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

The Commission’s letter to you on January 15, 2016 outlined several reasons for its opposition to monument designation, each of which support their argument that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and State of Arizona already manage the lands in question for multiple uses with wildlife and natural resource conservation as top priority.

Arizona already has 18 national monuments—more than any other state. These areas include public recreational opportunities—including hunting—yet often have restrictions that impede hunter opportunity and the ability of the Arizona Game and Fish Department to manage wild game. The fact is, many of these areas are managed as wilderness yet were not subject to Congressional review and approval. We are concerned the Grand Canyon Watershed and Kaibab National Forest could be shut down for hunting and recreational shooting without public comment—usurping the management authority of the state.

National monument designation can also create funding problems for state agencies. State and federal land within a monument that produced revenue from taxation, timber, mining, grazing and other uses becomes unavailable for the state’s general fund, schools and infrastructure. Monument designation should first include detailed analysis of its economic impacts.

We also have concerns about the following threats to the area identified by the proponents of monument designation on their website (www.greatergrandcanyon.org).

Uranium Mining - The Department of the Interior (DOI) instituted a 20-year moratorium on new mine development in the proposed monument. There is no immediate proposal for new mine development. The Kaibab Game Preserve (Kaibab Plateau) and some lands south of the Colorado River are already protected against hard rock mining by Game Preserve status. This status has been tested many times in court without exclusion. The threats related to health are noted to have occurred in the “Grand Canyon region.” We assume the proponents’ website is referring to the old mine sites from the 1950s around Tuba City. As far as we know, no such sites exist on the Arizona Strip. The mining that began in the mid-1980s has followed entirely different plans of operation and have left clean mine sites when mines were closed. Based on the above information we do not see any threats to lands in question, especially in light of the DOI Moratorium and the Game Preserve.

Logging - As stated on the proponents’ website, timber management has changed dramatically in the past 15 years in the ponderosa forest in the proposed monument area. In fact there has been little harvest other than salvage from wildfires. The current forest plan adequately addressed the old growth issue. The plan gives direction towards restoration of the ponderosa forest which will include removal of small diameter trees. Monument designation will no doubt hinder this effort by further restricting restoration plans. Fortunately, the North Kaibab Ranger District still has a good old growth component while the lands south of the Colorado River (with the exception of the Coconino Rim) are in need of treatment to begin recovery of the old growth component. Wildfire remains the biggest threat to old growth and wildlife. Restoration activities are badly needed to curb this threat.

Livestock Grazing - Most of the livestock operations north of the Colorado River have recently been conducted by the Grand Canyon Trust. The Trust has taken a very progressive stance in dealing with grazing issues. As such, it  is making many improvements to the range resource. Most past grazing problems have healed. The most significant of late, the Kanab Creek Allotment, was closed in the late 70s. As for south of the Colorado River, many of those lands have been ungrazed for many of the past 40 years. Again as with timber management, the current forest plan adequately addresses future grazing activities. Likewise the current BLM Resource Management Plan has taken steps to improve the range resource.

Primitive Roads - Both the USFS and the BLM have taken actions to reduce the number of existing roads and otherwise properly manage access. Recent actions again developed through extensive public input have served to eliminate cross country travel and wildcat road development. Future timber management on the North Kaibab Ranger District will include closure of many of the existing roads created by past timber sales. Proliferation of roads in the areas proposed to be included in the monument was never a real issue because of the low levels of use and lack of proximal population centers. Out-of-season illegal taking of wildlife in Arizona seems more related to proximity of large human populations rather than primitive road density.

Wildlife Migration Corridors - Wildlife migration corridors have been managed for nearly 40 years in this area. A study conducted by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Arizona Game and Fish Department in the late 1990s addressed the most significant wildlife migration corridor (mule deer) in the area—Highway 89. Studies conducted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in the late 1970s identified likely mule deer migration corridors along Highways 67 and 89A. State wildlife agencies, state highway departments, the USFS and BLM are acutely aware of the need to maintain travel corridors and actively engage in this concern.

We are confident in the wildlife, recreation and land management abilities of the State of Arizona and federal agencies working in the Grand Canyon Watershed and see no reason for national monument designation both north and south of the Colorado River. The multiple public land uses in the area are already subject to state and federal land management review and permitting. We strongly support the multiple use management administered by the Kaibab National Forest and the BLM, Arizona Strip District. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recognizes America’s legacy of wildlife and wildlands is a direct reflection of our national wealth, which is ultimately derived from our natural resources. As such, we strongly support responsible use of both renewable and non-renewable resources and cannot support any actions that will unnecessarily restrict use. Monument designation will serve only to complicate land and wildlife management objectives.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully submitted,

M David Allen
President & CEO

CC:      Arizona Game and Fish Commission
            Governor Doug Ducey
            Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell
            Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
            Sen. John McCain
            Sen. Jeff Flake
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick
            Rep. Martha McSally
            Rep. Raul Grijalva
            Rep. Paul Gosar
            Rep. Matt Salmon
            Rep. David Schweikert
            Rep. Ruben Gallego
            Rep. Trent Franks
            Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Thursday, January 28, 2016

RMEF, Partners Recognized for Conservation Work

Leanne Marten, Regional Forester for the Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) recently recognized and honored USFS employees and partners –the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Tenderfoot Trust and Bair Ranch Foundation– for their conservation work with a Region 1 Regional Forester’s Honor Award.

The Conserving Open Space award recognized those involved for their efforts in protecting undeveloped forests, grasslands, working farms, ranches and timberlands from conversion to other uses. Specifically, the recipients were honored for their work on the Tenderfoot Project in central Montana.

Below is a synopsis of the award from the USFS.

Conserving Open Space
Through a collaborative effort, 8,220 acres of forested lands along Tenderfoot Creek within the Smith River watershed in Montana were secured for recreation, resource protection, and efficient management of National Forest System lands. These former Northern Pacific Railroad lands were interspersed checker board style with land in the National Forest System. 

This project took six years to complete. Due to the efforts of the Tenderfoot Trust and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), this purchase received the support of Montana Senators Baucus, Tester and Daines. The Bair Ranch Foundation had held the former railroad lands in trust. They are to be commended for their patience.

Outcomes and accomplishments:
Acquisition of these lands meets the goals and objectives of the Forest Service Strategic Plan and Forest Land and Resource Management Plans on many levels. The acquisition connects to a larger network of recreational opportunities in linking to existing trail systems and securing public access. This project further strengthens Montana's vast outdoor recreation economy. In addition to recreational benefits, consolidating public and private ownership contributes to the agency's overall efforts for improved forest management, treatment of invasive species, fire prevention, improved local economies, and wildlife conservation by preventing further habitat fragmentation from development.

Two items were unique to this transaction: RMEF secured five percent of the value in grants and donated funds, providing the United States a bargain sale overall; and The Bair Ranch Foundation will donate five percent of their net profit to the Forest Service for forest management in the Tenderfoot watershed.

The Tenderfoot project is a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and partnership success story.

Congratulations to:
Bob Dennee, Team Leader, ESLZ Team Leader and Project Manager (retired), Forest Service
Kim Lange, ESLZ Title Examiner (retired), Forest Service
Carol Hatfield, White Sulphur Springs District Ranger, Lewis & Clark National Forest, Forest Service
Bill Avey, Forest Supervisor, Lewis & Clark National Forest, Forest Service
Kimball Frome, Region One, Senior Review Appraiser, Forest Service
Janné Joy, Region One, Land Acquisition Program Manager, Forest Service
Robin Edwards, Region One, Regional Title Program Manager, Forest Service
Mark Lodine, Office of General Counsel
Wayne Hirsch, The Bair Ranch Foundation
Glen Hough, The Bair Ranch Foundation
Butch Marita, Tenderfoot Trust
Ernie Nunn, Tenderfoot Trust
Mitch Godfrey, Tenderfoot Trust
Mike Mueller, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Grant Parker, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Ron Marcoux, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (retired)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Raise Your Voice about California's Wolf Plan

To All California RMEF members,
UPDATED INFORMATION: We just received word from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that comments regarding California’s wolf plan (see below) will no longer be accepted via the email address they previously provided. Instead, GO HERE to comment.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding public informational meetings right now about its new gray wolf plan. It is urgent that we let the state agency know how we feel about wolves and their looming detrimental impact on California’s elk population and hunting opportunity.
Important points:
· California has too little baseline information about deer/elk populations where wolves may establish territories.
· California’s Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk population (est. 7,000) is too small to sustain CDFW’s plan of 9 pairs of wolves, which equates into approximately 125 individual wolves. (Oregon has est. 120,000 elk while managing for 11 pairs of wolves.) We find no science to sustain California’s numbers.
· CDFW must manage elk and deer for optimum numbers so predators have their needs met while maintaining a surplus for hunters to pursue and wildlife watchers to view.
· Key is to bring about a balance based on the latest science to manage habitat, prey and predators so all can thrive without diminishing ungulate populations that Americans worked for more than a century to resurrect.
All meetings will be held from 5-8 p.m. Dates and locations are as follows:
Sacramento: Feb. 1, 2016 (final meeting)
Double Tree Hotel
2001 Point West Way, Sacramento, 95815
If you cannot attend, please submit a written comment. Again, it is vital that sportsmen and women weigh in on this issue for the sake of California’s elk population and the future of hunting. Please make an effort to do so.

M. David Allen
RMEF President & CEO

Monday, January 18, 2016

Remain Engaged on Colorado Wolf Issue

Colorado RMEF members,

First of all, we want to say ‘thank you’ for your public comments that led to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voting 7-4 last week to oppose the release of both Mexican and gray wolves in your state.

Having said that, it is extremely vital that we all remain actively engaged and vigilant. I can promise you that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will do exactly that! The commission vote was merely symbolic and is not binding in any fashion. In fact, it is likely that pro-wolf groups will push for ballot initiatives and/or file lawsuits in order to force their will on the landscape.

As we have witnessed first-hand, there are many lessons to be learned from the reintroduction of wolves in the Northern Rockies. The impacts on elk, other wildlife and cattle remain significant in many places. You only need to visit the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to witness that. The bottom line is we cannot afford to let history repeat itself.

Thank you for your support.

M. David Allen
RMEF President & CEO