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


Monday, July 21, 2014

Making a $45,000 Difference for Conservation

One person can make a difference. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation members, volunteers, donors, sponsors, partners, staffers and other supporters make a difference for elk and elk country every day. And when it comes to furthering RMEF’s mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage, one person can make a $45,000 difference!

Here’s the deal. Our friends at Nationwide Insurance came up with the idea of a voting competition for its outdoor lovers to choose the conservation effort he or she is most passionate about. The winner receives $45,000. We think we represent a pretty good case. Here’s our pitch: 

Celebrating its 30th year of ensuring the future of elk, elk country and our hunting heritage, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation conducted nearly 9,000 projects to date, enhancing or protecting more than 6.4 million acres of habitat. Along the way, RMEF also opened or secured public access to 713,000 acres for hunters and others to enjoy. In addition, RMEF helped restore elk to their native range in six states and helped protect winter and summer ranges, migration corridors, calving grounds and other crucial areas for wildlife.

The competition begins on Monday, July 21, and runs through October 13. You can vote one time each day. You can also check the daily standings to see how RMEF stacks up against the competition. 

Go HERE to cast your vote for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and, as always, thank you for your continuing support!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Support the Conservation Easement Incentive Act

To RMEF Members,

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation considers the Conservation Easement Incentive Act (H.R. 2807) of vital importance for conservation, elk and elk country. It is scheduled to come to the House floor for a vote this week as part of a larger charities package.

First passed in 2006, the easement tax incentive has since led to the conservation of roughly one million acres per year by the nation’s 1,700 community-based land trusts including RMEF. 

  • Through a limited tax deduction, landowners are able to place their most prized assets – historical sites, forests, family farms and ranches – in protected easements to ensure a legacy of natural abundance, enjoyment and agricultural production for future generations.
  • Land placed in easements can be farmed, grazed, hunted or used for recreation and the conservation of natural resources. It can also be passed on to heirs or sold but the land is kept safe from future development.
  • Valuable open spaces or farmland can be protected by an easement for a fraction of the cost of buying it, making easements by far the most cost-effective approach to land conservation. For example, federal acquisition of land costs taxpayers roughly $12,000 an acre compared to just $400 an acre for an easement.
  • The enhanced incentive expired last year, and conservation easement enrollments are expected to plunge by at least 300,000 acres per year, or roughly one-third.

This program expired several times since its first passage. This vote provides the opportunity to make it permanent. You can reach your representative by calling the House switchboard at 202-225-3121. 

View a text of the bill here

Making the enhanced incentive permanent is about ensuring a legacy. Please call your representatives to ask them to support this worthy legislation. Thank you for your consideration.





David Allen
RMEF President/CEO



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Celebrating a Conservation Victory in Oregon Elk Country

The sun shone down brightly, perhaps in a sense of approval, on a small gathering in northeast Oregon. The day was July 10, 2014. The occasion was a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Habitat Partner Tour in celebration of the organization’s premiere project of 2013. RMEF took part in a team effort to permanently protect and open access to 13,082 acres in the Headwaters of the John Day River. The transaction also secured access to tens of thousands of acres of nearby public land.

Some 50 to 60 people representing the RMEF, U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Walmart (funder), volunteers and local supporters came together as project partners to recognize the major conservation accomplishment. They looked back on all the hard work it took to bring the project to a successful conclusion. They looked ahead to a future of unencumbered public access for hunters, hikers, anglers and others. All the while, they paused in the present to look around and soak in the majesty and beauty of some of Oregon’s finest elk country. 

But this is no narrow victory. Elk are certainly not the only winners here. The Headwaters are vitally important because tributaries provide life-giving cold water inputs to the John Day River for salmon, steelhead, bull trout, redband and cutthroat trout. Four federally listed birds and four federally listed mammal species also live on the land as do mule deer, black bears, pronghorn, mountain goats, grouse, quail and a host of other wildlife.

This is a win-win. And on this day, protecting and securing access to thousands and thousands of acres of crucial wildlife habitat is most definitely a victory worth celebrating!

RMEF staffers Bob Springer, Blake Henning, Grant Parker, Jennifer Doherty and Bill Richardson
(left to right)



In Search of Public Access

“No trespassing.” The lettering on the sign appeared to stare as intently at me as I stared at it. There it was hanging on the same stretch of barbed wire fencing I’d crossed many times into what was my favorite closest-to-home hunting spot in western Montana. I wasn’t angry. I was mostly stunned. And then reality set in. I was no longer welcome on a tract of land where my son took his first doe at age 12 and where I shot a 5x6 whitetail buck whose antlers (see below) still grace my office wall. In my particular case, a regional timber company that historically allows hunters, hikers, huckleberry pickers and others to enjoy their land started selling off large chunks of it as a way to better cope with a declining timber market. Bottom line: I was now permanently on the outside looking in.

Unfortunately, this scenario is being played out time and time again involving too many hunters around the nation. In fact, a lack of public access is reported to be the number one cause why hunters stop hunting. Many simply can no longer find a place to hunt so they give it up or, worse yet, decide it’s no longer worth it to pass on their hunting heritage to the next generation. And that decision has much more than just individual consequences. Fewer hunters mean the purchase of fewer guns, ammunition, bows, arrows and hunting licenses and fees which translates into less revenue generated specifically to fund land and wildlife conservation which is not good for habitat or the critters that rely on it.

The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Since 1984, RMEF protected or enhanced more than 6.4 million acres of habitat. If you do the math, that’s more than 588 acres per day, every day over its 30-year existence. A key part of that mission is an emphasis on public access. To date, RMEF opened or secured more than 716,000 acres for hunters. Again, if you do the math, that’s 65 acres opened or secured per day, every day since 1984.

In this “what have you done for me lately” world, RMEF remains active and vigilant. Staffers work with state agencies, federal agencies, landowners and other partner organizations and groups in seeking access to private land and through private land to landlocked public land. Below are five recent projects highlighting RMEF’s emphasis on public access:

July 2014
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) accepted a $50,000 grant from RMEF for expanding its Access Yes! program that will enroll approximately 40,000 acres of land to provide access to private land for sportsmen and women. IDFG is in a one year time frame between the expiration of a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for access and applying for a second USDA grant. 

“RMEF is stepping up and helping out so we don’t have to terminate a number of agreements with landowners during this fall hunting season,” said Virgil Moore, IDFG Director. “We truly appreciate RMEF’s efforts to maintain recreational access for the citizens of Idaho.”

May 2014
RMEF teamed up with a group of conservation partners to acquire more than 4,000 acres of what was formerly private forestland in Washington and placed it into public ownership. It will now be managed and opened to public access with an emphasis on forest health and public recreation.

“This transaction was seven years in the making and involved a great deal of cooperation,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “The lands acquired from Weyerhaeuser are now permanently protected and transferred to public management thanks to support from the Stemilt Partnership, a group of 25 conservation-minded partners.”

April 2014
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) accepted a $45,000 grant from RMEF to secure access for hunting and fishing through its Access Yes program. Every dollar provides access to 4.2 acres of land so the grant opens the door to approximately 189,000 acres for sportsmen and women. 

“RMEF is an outstanding partner and supports a variety of wildlife related projects in Wyoming,” said Scott Talbott, WGFD director. “Sportsmen will see many acres become available to them with this amazing RMEF donation.” 

December 2013
RMEF headed up a group effort to permanently protect and open access to more than 13,000 acres in the Headwaters of the John Day River in northeast Oregon. The transaction also secured access to tens of thousands of surrounding National Forest System lands.

"This is a victory for hunter-conservationists, anglers, hikers and anyone who wants public access to more than 13,000 acres of what was previously inaccessible private land in the heart of Oregon's elk country," said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

September 2013
RMEF improved access to nearly 18,000 acres of National Forest land in central Montana after acquiring a 40-acre tract with a common 30-foot border with public land. RMEF purchased the property for $190,000 and sold it to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for $50,000, in effect donating the remaining balance. 

“This strikes at the heart of what RMEF is all about,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We are committed to opening more land for hunting and other year-round recreational public access and now the gate is open for hunters to more easily access thousands of acres of elk country previously almost impossible to reach.”

My little slice of western Montana hunting heaven may now be off limits but there are continuing efforts to maintain and improve what we have as a whole. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with sportsmen and women seeking to ensure and strengthen their hunting tradition for now and for generations to come.

Mark Holyoak 
RMEF Director of Communication

Go to www.rmef.org for more information.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Habitat Council Celebrates Momentum, Views Successful Project, Plans to Do More

Yvonne & RMEF co-Founder Charlie Decker, Habitat Council
co-chairs Nanch & Howard Holland, Vicki and RMEF co-Founder
Bob Munson (left to right)
It was a record-setting weekend to remember for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Eighty-seven members of RMEF’s Habitat Council (HC) –the most ever for such a gathering– came together June 19-21, 2014, in Vancouver, Washington, for the annual summer retreat and meeting. Some made the cross country trek from as far away as Connecticut, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In all, HC attendees represented 18 different states.

But this was not any sort of formal, stuffy meeting. When the HC comes together, laughter, smiles, handshakes and hugs abound. In reality, it is a gathering of “family.” Members are bound together through friendship, common bonds and shared belief in family, country, God and RMEF’s mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. 

On board the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

A caravan of ten RMEF-marked passenger vans transported the group across the Oregon-Washington border to Cascade Locks, Oregon, for a dinner cruise on the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler. In addition to the on-board meal, HC members walked the three decks of the paddle-wheeler to take in breathtaking 360 degree views of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. They also watched Native Americans continue their centuries old tradition of fishing for salmon from along the many riverside platforms.

The following morning, the convoy headed south to Portland for a tour of Danner, a sponsor-partner and friend of the RMEF. Participants witnessed the hustle and bustle and yet controlled precision of a state-of-the-art facility that cranks out American-made boots for hunters, hikers and others to enjoy. There are approximately 253 steps to make one single boot and the factory churns out about 1,200 boots per day. Then it was off to the nearby “candy” store. That is, a Danner store where racks and racks of boots of all styles, shapes and sizes, plus other Danner hats and apparel, were available for purchase. 

The business portion of the weekend took place on Friday afternoon. It included State of the RMEF and mission update reports as well as an overview of the following day’s field trip. 

“We are the strongest that we’ve ever been in our 30 years,” said Lee Swanson, chairman of the RMEF Board of Directors. “If I were a corporate stockholder I would say ‘I want to buy more stock in this company’ because the RMEF is that good.” 

The main focus of the meeting shifted to an HC strategic plan review followed by a brainstorming breakout session.

“You are the investors. You put your assets forward expecting a return,” said Nancy Holland, HC co-chair. “Our goal with our strategic plan is to harness the passion you have and push that out and grow the levels of members within the Habitat Council up the donation chain.”

“Eighty-eight percent of you in the room have donated in the last 36 months. That says a lot about the passion and drive and quality of everyone here today. Forty percent of you already made gifts in the first five months this year.” added Holland. “We have a tremendous trend started. It means what we’re doing is working. It means people really like the mission of this organization. They are committed to this organization.”

The breakout session allowed individual members to chime in on action items designed to move the HC and its strategic plan forward. That was followed by individual presentations and a group discussion.

“My vision is to elevate the business model of the organization. My other focus is to increase the development area including a larger Habitat Council, more activities and recognition of those who have supported the RMEF,” said Swanson. “This organization should grow proportionately with the rest of what we do. My view is it’s going to grow.”

The highlight of the weekend was Saturday’s project field tour designed to give HC members a first-hand look at wildlife habitat management on land conserved by RMEF and PacifiCorp in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens. With input from RMEF, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service, PacifiCorp manages more than 13,000 acres of forestland. 

“We purposely look for land to create high nutrition forage for elk,” said Kirk Naylor, PacifiCorp principal scientist of Wildlife and Forestry, and also an RMEF life member. “If you don’t have significant forage for elk in the summer, they are not going to survive the winter and produce calves in the spring.”

The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, though devastating in many respects, was also extremely beneficial for elk and other wildlife. The blast created an abundant amount of forage. However, as time passed and the forest canopy above shielded sunlight from the forest floor below, that forage disappeared and gave way to ferns and other plant life not palatable by elk.

Mt. St. Helens
“Today 80 to 90 percent of forage is not favorable for elk. Minimum nutritional levels are not being met for most elk,” added Naylor. 

PacifiCorp acquired land below Mt. St. Helens to connect habitat, assist big game migration corridors and thwart the threat of nearby development. Naylor also oversaw thinning projects and the implementation of a series of clearcuts and subsequent planting and seeding specifically designed to improve feed.

Clearcuts (left) provide plentiful forage for wildlife but thick forest canopy provides little feed on forest floor
“We supply grass seed at 20 pounds per acre. Where possible, we mow and fertilize meadows and our transmission right-of-ways to provide permanent forage for elk,” said Naylor. “We plant trees but also prune trees to allow light to the understory. There is no light to the understory after eight or nine years in typical forest plantation. Pruning allows light to the understory for 15-16 years and that allows more forage production. Pruning, unfortunately, has also increased the amount of bear damage to trees because they have access to the tree trunk and they like it to get to the cadmium by stripping off the bark. While this impacts our tree production, the program is designed for enhancing all wildlife habitat while also retaining a sustainable forest."

We spotted several elk on the PacifiCorp land


The RMEF-PacifiCorp relationship is a solid and successful one. PacifiCorp is a gold benefactor of the RMEF, thanks to about $560,000 in contributions. The two groups teamed up to conserve nearly 1,000 acres of habitat in 2011 and more than 2,000 acres more in 2012.

“The future of elk in this area is good but not what it’s been in the past. What we’re doing is extremely important to maintain all our species—not just big game,” added Naylor. 

Following lunch, a number of vans headed toward much cooler temperatures underground at the popular Ape Caves in the Mt. St. Helens National Monument. Measuring 13,045 feet or more than two miles in length, the caves make up the longest lava tube in the continental United States. It formed about 2,000 years ago when lava poured down the southern flank of Mt. St. Helens in streams. As lava flowed, the outer edges of the lava stream cooled forming a hardened crust which insulated the molten lava beneath allowing it to remain hot in a “lava tube” as it flowed for months during the eruption. The lower cave, as pictured, is approximately .75 miles long and took us about 45 minutes to cover from one end to the other. 



At the farewell dinner that evening, friends shared goodbyes and made plans to meet again at upcoming RMEF events scattered across the nation later in the year (see below). They also shared the satisfaction that together they are making a significant difference for elk and elk country.

“This is not a distinct or separate group of the RMEF. This is the RMEF. The difference is we choose to provide charitable giving to the organization in addition to the other roles we fill,” said Holland.

And that, for the Habitat Council and other members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, is what donating to further the organization’s mission is all about.

To learn more about RMEF’s donation programs, go here





Below is a list of 2014 Habitat Partner Receptions/Stewardship/Cultivation/Rendezvous Events:

January 6-8        Cultivation Event Duck Hunt in NC
January 11         Habitat Partner Reception in Evansville, IN
January 17-18    Texas State Workshop
January 22-24    Cultivation Event in South Carolina
January 23          Habitat Partner Reception in Thermopolis, WY
January 24          Habitat Partner Reception in Kentucky
January 24-25    Wyoming State Winter Workshop in Thermopolis, WY 
February 14       Habitat Partner Reception in Columbus, OH
February 19       Habitat Partner Reception in Rancho Mirage, CA
February 21-22  RMEF Board Meeting in Phoenix, AZ 
February 22-24  Habitat Council Meeting & Retreat in Phoenix, AZ
Feb 28 – Mar 2  Habitat Partner in Reception in Rochester, NY
March 1             Habitat Partner Reception and BGB in Pittsburg, PA
March 21           Founders Breakfast in Sioux Falls, SD
March 17-20     4th Annual Southern Strutters Turkey Hunt in FL
March 27           Habitat Partner Reception in Grandville, MI
March 28           Habitat Partner Reception in Denver, CO
April 2                Habitat Partner Reception in San Antonio, TX
April 2-6            Stewardship Event Texas Turkey Hunt in San Antonio, TX
April 10              Habitat Partner Reception in Catskill Mountains, VT
April 11              Habitat Partner Reception in Alamo, CA
April 25              Habitat Partner Reception in Hood River, OR
May 5-9             Stewardship Event Montana Volunteer Turkey Hunt in MT
June 19-22         Habitat Council Meeting & Retreat in Vancouver, WA
June 19-21         Country Jam VIP Event Reception in Grand Junction, CO
June 28               Habitat Partner Reception in Cross Plains, WI 
July 10                Project Celebration/Tour of Headwaters of the John Day River in Prairie City, OR 
July 11                HP Reception in Atlanta, GA
July 11-13           Oregon Rendezvous in OR
July 24-26           RMEF Founders Tour in Troy & Missoula, MT 
August 9-10        Habitat Partner Tour & Reception in Boise, ID
August 15-17      Washington Rendezvous in WA
August 16-17      Cultivation Fishing Trip in VT
August 15            Habitat Partner Reception in Branson, MO
September 6        Habitat Partner Reception in WV
September 6-7     Bugle Days in WI
September 12-14 Habitat Partner Reception in PA
October 9-11       Step Up Event in Sunday River, ME
October 22-26     PBR World Finals in Las Vegas, NV
November 17       Stewardship/Cultivation Event – Whitetail Hunt in IL
December 4-7      Elk Camp in Las Vegas, NV

Numbers Don’t Lie, RMEF Charges On

Numbers and statistics can be fickle. You can twist and manipulate them in numerous ways to tell numerous stories. Just ask a baseball player. He can have a great batting average but a lousy slugging percentage. He can have a great on-base percentage but the team may have a losing winning percentage. A pitcher may have a stellar earned run average and a solid walk to strikeout ratio but still have a winless record.

One glance at the latest Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation project history summary shows one simple fact—numbers don’t lie! Dating back to RMEF’s humble beginnings on May 14, 1984, through June 30, 2014, here’s a numerical look at some of RMEF’s cumulative accomplishments:

6,473,344 acres of habitat enhanced or protected
713,176 acres opened or secured for public access
8,795 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects
203,703 members (as of December 31, 2013)
504 RMEF chapters
10,000+ RMEF volunteers
$918,611,443 = total value of RMEF efforts

What’s the bottom line? RMEF continues to charge forward in its quest to accelerate a mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Join us as we work together to make a difference for elk and elk country!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

RMEF Says "No" to Buffer Zone around Yellowstone Park

An Oregon congressman recently called on the Interior Department to create a buffer zone around Yellowstone National Park to reduce wolf hunting in bordering states. RMEF President and CEO David Allen issued the letter below as a response.


Representative Peter DeFazio
2134 Rayburn Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman DeFazio,

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation disagrees with your recent call for creating a buffer zone of additional land surrounding Yellowstone National Park (YNP) to provide increased protection for gray wolves. Your request is unfounded by any science and contradicts what the entire wolf reintroduction and ESA listing represent.

You referenced these wolves as “Yellowstone wolves” as if they are a unique species due some special amnesty rather than be managed by the ruling state wildlife agencies as is the case for all other wildlife. The reality is there is no special class of wolves from YNP or any other national park.

At issue is how wildlife is managed in this country. Our belief is based on more than 100 years of the most successful wildlife management model in the world that our state agencies are to manage wildlife within their respective borders. That includes management of gray wolves along with other predators.

You point out a decline in the population of “Yellowstone wolves” as a reason to establish a buffer zone. There are sound scientific reasons for declines in wolf numbers in Yellowstone Park. One is the fact that their prey base (primarily elk) has declined significantly. Wolves leave Yellowstone Park in search for food, and the elk population has decreased dramatically in the Northern Yellowstone herd from 19,000-plus in 1995 to nearly 4,000 today—an 80 percent reduction! Another reason, as highlighted in a recent study, is wolves kill one another when an area has a population too high in relation to a sustaining prey base and adequate habitat. 

Yellowstone Park officials themselves concur that the hunting of wolves just outside the park is not a contributing factor to declining wolf numbers in the park. Both Montana and Wyoming have strict management quotas for wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Montana limited its 2013 combined hunting/trapping sub-quota (unit 316) to four wolves near Gardiner. Wyoming biologists indicate its harvest units and quotas near the park to be strategically small by design to provide the proper agreed upon management. Once again, this is an example of how the states are the appropriate authority to manage their wildlife.

Additionally, you ignore the fact that the gray wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rocky Mountains not only met minimum recovery goals nearly 15 years ago, but since surpassed that benchmark by 500 percent! Those original recovery goals were established and agreed to by all parties including those that continue to oppose management of wolves today. Since then, no party has presented any new science that disputes the original recovery goals established prior to the 1995 reintroduction. 

The reintroduction never included a strategy to create a special population of gray wolves designated as “Yellowstone wolves” or for any other specific region of the United States. The reintroduction was classified as “non-essential and experimental” from the beginning.

The continuing drumbeat of individuals and organizations to halt any form of state based management of wolves shows a total disregard for the state based management system, the originally agreed upon recovery goals and the 10th Amendment which delegates such matters to the states. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,






M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO


cc: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer D-OR)
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)
Senator John Walsh (D-MT)
Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT)
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)
Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Senator James Risch (R-ID)
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Roy Elicker (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife director)
Virgin Moore (Idaho Fish and Game director)
Jeff Hagener (Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks director)
Scott Talbott (Wyoming Game and Fish Department director)