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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Laying the Groundwork for a West Virginia Elk Reintroduction

The table is set, the welcome mat is rolled out (although not officially) and now all that’s needed is for the invitations to go out and be accepted. That about sums up what’s going on in West Virginia, the latest state looking to reintroduce elk within its borders.

Truth be told, there are already elk in West Virginia—a few of them anyway. Some elk from Kentucky’s nearby thriving herd of 10,000-plus already crossed state lines but West Virginia wildlife officials want to bolster a herd to call their own. 

Sgt. Terry Ballard, RMEF Regional Director
Bill Carman, RMEF WV State Chair Brian
Satterfield and DNR Biologist Randy Kelley
(left to right)
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is doing its part to support the return of elk to their native range in the Mountain State. RMEF recently presented the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with a $50,000 seed grant to be applied toward reintroduction. The donation is the most recent move to further the cause. 

In 2014, RMEF designated West Virginia an “elk state” by awarding $20,000 for a habitat project to enhance forage and create wildlife water sources at the Panther Wildlife Management Area. In 2011, DNR completed a “passive” elk management plan and declared an “elk zone designation.” In 2005, RMEF carried out a feasibility study or, in other words, a biological assessment of potential habitat and the social feasibility of restoring elk to West Virginia’s landscape.

Historically, the elk population in West Virginia declined throughout the 1800’s because of subsistence hunting, market hunting and wide scale timber removal by European settlers. The last native elk on record was in Pocahontas County in 1873 and the Webster Springs area of Webster County in 1875. A 1913 effort to reintroduce 50 elk into West Virginia from Yellowstone Park ultimately failed.

Holding pen used during Virginia's elk restoration
That brings us back to 2015 when returning elk to West Virginia’s southern coalfields is not yet a done deal but does look promising. Two public hearings held in 2014 show 95 percent of those who submitted public comment did so in favor of reintroduction. There is also a bill before the legislature to enable the process. Negotiations are underway with land companies to allow public access to where the herd would be located plus the quarantine pen used in Virginia’s elk restoration effort would need to be moved across the border to West Virginia. However the biggest task for DNR is reaching an agreement with Kentucky to trap and transport elk.

“Restoring these things is not an easy task. It’s all going to depend on how many elk we can secure to release,” said Curtis Taylor, DNR wildlife resources section chief. “There is a passion in the southern part of the state for wildlife of any kind — elk in particular.”

And RMEF remains ready to stand by to offer more assistance in the effort.

See West Virginia’s proposed Elk Management Plan here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Patriotic Salute from 2,700 Miles Away

It was a uniquely patriotic opportunity—an opportunity that Mike Goe jumped at, or should we say bid on. Goe was among those who attended the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s North Central Oregon Chapter Big Game Banquet in April of 2014.

U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-Oregon) provided the chapter with an American flag. Attendees then had the opportunity to bid on the flag and have it flown over the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. on the date of their choice. 

Mike Goe, a long-time Hood River resident and orchardist, won the flag and chose to honor his recently deceased uncle, Don Goe, by having it flown over the Capitol on Don’s birthday, July 7, 2014. Later that summer, the flag was presented to Don’s wife, Helen, on August 28 by Risa Wonsyld, an aide to Congressman Walden.

Below is a letter Rep. Walden sent to North Central Oregon Chapter volunteers:

Rep. Greg Walden
Oregonians know how important it is to protect our beautiful state, preserve access to public lands, and educate others, especially young people, about our proud hunting heritage. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation works hard on these goals and more, here in Oregon and nationwide. That’s why I was proud to donate an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol to the North Central Oregon RMEF chapter to be auctioned at their annual banquet.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is active all over Oregon. You have over 14,000 members in our state, have raised over $21 million, and have conserved over 750,000 acres in Oregon. Keep up the good work!

I am proud to support these important efforts around the state, and I’ll continue to work on behalf of Oregonians to grow and strengthen rural communities, protect access to public lands, and stand up for our Second Amendment rights.

Greg Walden

Risa Wonsyld, Helen Goe and Mike Goe (left to right)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Senate Unveils Sportsmen's Act

Senate Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus Members Introduce Sportsmen's Act

February 5, 2015 (Washington, DC) - Today, leaders and Members of the Senate Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) introduced the Sportsmen's Act of 2015 as a comprehensive sportsmen's package of legislation aimed to benefit America's sportsmen's community.

“This is a vital piece of legislation that should resonate with all sportsmen and women,” said David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. “It addresses conservation funding, mandating public access to federal lands to hunt, fish and otherwise enjoy, as well as other crucial issues such as protecting our outdoor traditions.”

Introduced by CSC Members Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), with original cosponsors, CSC Co-Chairs Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), and CSC Vice-Chairs Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), this package of legislation starts out with strong bipartisan support in the 114th Congress.

The bill includes 14 provisions, several similar to those within the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014 from the 113th Congress. Among other provisions, the bill makes the existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, and adds lead tackle to the exempted products, leaving regulatory authority to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies; Requires federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting; enables states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands; and directs 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to enhancing public recreational access for hunting, angling, and recreational shooting, otherwise known as Making Public Lands Public (MPLP).

"The Bipartisan Sportsman's Act is not only an access bill, but also a way to promote economic growth in our country. Sportsmen and women across the country spend billions of dollars each year on outdoor activities. In Alaska alone there are more than 125,000 individuals who engage in hunting each year. This economic activity not only helps local communities but aids conservation efforts as well," said Sen. Murkowski. "This commonsense, bipartisan legislation supports conservation efforts while also improving access to recreational hunting and fishing on federal lands."

"The number one issue for sportsmen and women across the country is access. This widely supported, bipartisan bill will open more areas to hunting and fishing and grow America's thriving outdoor recreation economy. Hunters and anglers alone spend more than $465 million per year in New Mexico, and outdoor recreation as a whole is directly responsible for 68,000 jobs in our state," said Sen. Heinrich. "As an avid hunter myself, I remain deeply committed to preserving our outdoor heritage and treasured public lands for future generations to enjoy."

On Wednesday, February 4, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) hosted the annual "Welcome to Congress" reception on Capitol Hill, welcoming new and returning Members of the CSC, and giving the CSC and sportsmen's community an opportunity to discuss the introduction of the Sportsmen's Act. "Getting a sportsmen's package passed in this Congress is vital to the future of the nation's hunting and angling opportunities. We have great bipartisan CSC support so far, but need to get as many Members of Congress involved as possible," said CSF President Jeff Crane.

"Whether sportsmen and sportswomen go hunting or fishing to put food on the table, or for sport, or to pass down a tradition to their family, or for game management purposes, there is something in the Sportsmen's Act of 2015 for all of them," said Sen. Risch. "With more than 39 million sportsmen and sportswomen of all ages in the United States, this legislation will ensure all can continue to access their favorite hunting or fishing spot. As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, I cannot put into words how important sporting issues are to so many Americans and their families. Hunting and fishing give us a great reason to be in the great outdoors, a great reason to hand down traditions, and a great reason to support this legislation."

"As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and as an avid sportsman, it makes me so proud that we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to preserve America's beloved outdoor traditions," Sen. Manchin said. "I've worked hard on these priorities ever since being the inaugural Co-Chairman of the Governors Sportsmen's Caucus, and I am continuing that work here in the Senate. Outdoor recreation is vital to sustaining our economy, preserving our family traditions, and maintaining our way of life. This comprehensive package will boost opportunities for hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, and conservationists alike; improve access to federal lands; and strengthen the overall outdoor recreation industry. I truly believe that the American people should be able to enjoy the great outdoors, and this bill expands people's ability to do just that."

The House CSC leadership is also currently working on a similar legislative sportsmen's package that they are likely to introduce in the upcoming weeks.

The text of the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2015 is available, here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hunting Ranks High for Women Who Own Guns

A new study indicates hunting is the second most popular activity for women who own guns. The report, titled Women Gun Owners –Purchasing, Perceptions and Participation and commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), indicates the number-one reason females own guns is self or home defense while shooting with friends and family ranks third.

"In the past decade, the number of women owning firearms and participating in target shooting and hunting has soared,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti.

Data released in 2014 from studies conducted by the National Sporting Goods Association showed a 10 percent increase in women who hunt from just four years earlier.

The new NSSF report shows women are also an increasing integral part of the outdoor industry marketplace. More than half of women (55.6 percent) surveyed said they intend to purchase at least one firearm in the next 12 months. Women also spend an average of $870 per year on firearms and an additional $405 on firearms accessories. In 2013, retailers estimated 20 percent of their shooting- and hunting-related sales were attributed to women, marking a five percent increase since 2010. 

"The women's market is a force in our industry, and manufacturers, retailers and shooting ranges are making changes to their products and services to satisfy women's tastes and needs,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director of Industry Research and Analysis.

The increasing growth of women gun owners was personalized at the news conference unveiling the report by two successful women who related their stories. One of them was national and world shooting champion Julie Golob who said she used to tell people when she was a little girl that she wanted to grow up to be a professional shooter. Today, she is a national and world shooting champion. She has seen great changes over her lifetime.

“When I go to the range (now) I see a variety of women…and that’s such a great thing,” said Golob. “I’m a product of what we’ve seen in this industry.”

The other storyteller was Lucretia Free, the owner and publisher of American Woman Shooter magazine. She overcame a “distorted view and perception of guns” from her peers to make a 180-degree change in her life.

“I was asked to go to a range a couple of years ago by a dear friend and after some internal debating, I went. And I’m so glad that I did because it changed my life,” said Free. “Alice Walker, who wrote The Color Purple said, ‘The most common way we give up our power is by thinking we don’t have any.’ Ladies, we have power!”

Laura Kippen (report author), Lucretia Free and Julie Golob
(left to right)
The NSSF study, conducted in 2014, focused on women ages 18 to 65 who owned at least one firearm. Over a third of women in the study were new gun owners, having purchased their first firearm within the last three years. This group of new gun owners, who are primarily between the ages of 18 and 34, reflects the changing demographics among women choosing to own firearms and the fastest growing segment of the shooting sports.

Among the report’s findings:
  • Nearly all women (95 percent) have tried target shooting, and more than half (58 percent) have hunted.
  • The most commonly owned firearm by women is a semiautomatic pistol, with 56 percent of women reporting they owned at least one. Shotguns ranked second, with 50 percent of women owning at least one.
  • Women say their purchases are mainly influenced by fit, quality and practicality.
  • The majority of women report they are not driven to buy a gun on impulse but rather considered their purchase for months before deciding.
  • More than 42 percent of women have a concealed carry permit for their state of residence.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of women reported having taken at least one training class. (See more details in the “Girl Power” infographic below.)
The report shows women are attracted to shooting activities such as practical pistol, clay target shooting, long-range shooting and plinking; they were not as active, however, in gun collecting or 3-gun and cowboy action shooting.

According to the National Sporting Goods Association, female engagement was up 85 percent for hunting to 3.3 million participants between 2001 and 2013, and grew 60 percent to 5.4 million participants for target shooting to 5.4 million during that same period.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

RMEF Executes ‘Game Plan’ at SHOT Show

RMEF Booth at SHOT Show
To put it simply, a number of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation staffers find themselves among the masses (64,000 to be accurate) at the largest gathering of the firearms and outdoor industry on earth. It’s the perfect place to solidify RMEF’s relationships with its conservation partners for the present and into the future.

To better understand that, you need to have a feel for the enormity of this event. The 37th go-round of the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show runs daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. January 20-23 at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas. More than 60,000 exhibitors, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, buyers, wildlife conservation organizations, media members and other industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 different countries are on hand. (67,000 attended a year ago.) More than 2,400 members of the outdoor and mainstream media cover the show to view and promote the products they see in their print, Internet, radio and TV stories.

The show is for trade only and is not open to the general public. Consumers will see the products unveiled here on retailer’s shelves during the course of the year.

The exhibit floor is massive! Exhibit space totals more than 630,000 net square feet. If you do the math, that’s more than 13 acres or roughly the same area covered by the New Orleans Superdome or the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza. SHOT Show features 12.5 miles of aisles which lead to displays of a wide range of products, including firearms, ammunition, gun safes, locks and cases, optics, shooting range equipment, targets, training and safety equipment, hunting accessories, law enforcement equipment, hearing and eye protection, tree stands, scents and lures, cutlery, GPS systems, holsters, apparel, leather goods, game calls and decoys.

RMEF Team Elk members Lee
& Tiffany Lakosky with RMEF
President/CEO David Allen 
Firearms and ammunition are an $8 billion industry. The total economic impact of the industry is nearly $38 billion, which supports more than 245,000 jobs. The market for firearms, ammunition and accessories remains strong, with statistics showing more people going target shooting and hunting.

RMEF carries out a SHOT Show approach of “divide and conquer.” Sales, marketing, public relations, merchandising and publications personnel hold meetings with sponsors, associates, peers, journalists, outdoor personalities and other key groups and organizations. In this day and age of texting, email, Skyping and other forms of high tech communication, there’s still something to be said for meaningful face-to-face meetings and a good, old fashioned handshake. 

SHOT Show is also an opportunity to learn more about marketing and other industry trends, hunting and wildlife-related research, and to rub shoulders with so many folks with like-minded vision. These established ties with conservation-minded partners help RMEF carry out its mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. 

After all, members of the vast world-wide outdoor industry may live a world apart when it comes to distance, but when it comes to creating and maintaining more public access, and conserving our wildlife and wild landscapes, we’re all on the same page.

Monday, January 19, 2015

RMEF Helps Sponsor Poster Program that Supports Public Access

Below is a news release issued by Tread Lightly!, an organization that promotes responsible outdoor recreation through ethics education and stewardship programs. It also developed a campaign to proactively protect recreation access and opportunities in the outdoors. RMEF helped sponsor the Tread Lightly! poster program.

Tread Lightly! and Partners Successfully Saturate Nation with Key Educational Signage

Salt Lake City, Utah—January 20, 2015—The national nonprofit Tread Lightly! is celebrating the successful completion of the 3rd year of an interpretive education program aimed at protecting and enhancing access and recreational opportunities for a wide variety of outdoor activities ranging from recreational shooting to off-highway vehicle recreation. 

By bringing high quality, research-based educational messages to trailhead kiosks, visitor centers, public shooting areas, campgrounds and other hubs of outdoor recreation, Tread Lightly! is fostering a stronger sense of individual stewardship throughout the nation’s recreation community. The poster program, part of Tread Lightly!’s Respected Access is Open Access campaign, was made possible through grants from the Right Rider Access Fund, Dallas Safari Club, Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (see bottom of post).

“I cannot express what a relief it is to be able to post such a positive message out there,” said Patty VerWiebe, US Forest Service Ranger at the Hiawatha National Forest. “It would have taken many seasons for us to pay for this many signs. I am very grateful and happy that we were able to take advantage of this program that promotes education and awareness so clearly…they are fantastic!”

As of today, Tread Lightly! has produced and delivered nearly 5,000 Outdoor Education Posters across 44 states at no cost to the recipient. Public agencies, enthusiast clubs and Boy Scout troops that submitted requests for these posters were able to customize each print using issue-specific messages and recreation tips. A QR code could even be added directing scanners to designated route maps. 

Statistics gathered from each recipient suggest the posters distributed in 2014 will be viewed by more than 10 million people per year.

Messages were pulled from Tread Lightly!’s celebrated Respected Access is Open Access campaign and target multiple outdoor enthusiast groups including hunters, recreational shooters, and equestrians. They also utilized the campaign’s RIDE ON Designated Routes messages to resonate both with off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts and with the 4 out of 5 sportsmen who use OHVs to reach a destination to enjoy activities like hunting and fishing.

“This swift saturation of our crucial messages straight on the ground is unprecedented in our 25 years as a nonprofit,” said Lori McCullough, Tread Lightly!’s executive director. “The feedback we’ve received from the educational poster recipients across the country is phenomenal. As Tread Lightly! continues to add more corporate partners and individual members, our organization’s reach is expanding and recreational access is improving.”

“The posters are a great asset,” said Aaron Angeli, Park Ranger at the Chappie-Shasta Off-Highway Vehicle Area. “They draw attention and state great practices for people to follow in a non-threatening way. They seem to get more of a draw than the typical finger-shaking, don’t-do-this-or-that type of prints that are more commonly found on such info kiosks.”

Although free posters are not currently available, posters can still be customized and purchased from Tread Lightly!’s website at treadlightly.org/programs/educational-posters-program. An interactive map showing the placement of each poster in the country can also be found at this site.

The Respected Access is Open Access campaign was developed to proactively protect recreation access and opportunities in the outdoors by educating users to minimize environmental impact and social conflict. The campaign’s messages address litter, trigger trash, the use of improper targets, riding on designated routes and other specific issues.

Taking Shape at SHOT Show

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is spending the week forming new relationships and solidifying others, attending news conferences and conducting outreach with many friends and businesses  at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas. SHOT Show runs from January 20-23.

RMEF's home base is booth #1214 in the Sands Expo Center. Its transformation from the cement floors and pillars of a glorified "parking garage," for the lack of a better term, to a first-class showroom is rather remarkable. The three-man RMEF set-up crew is charged with assembling what old schoolers may refer to as a hybrid between a mutant Erector Set and Tinkertoys.

Pictures tell the rest of the story.

Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, the carpet is laid

Structure parts are sorted and laid out to simplify construction 
A change in elevation...
...stretches the structure skyward

"Nuts" and "bolts" are tightened with a "wrench"

RMEF meeting room walls start to go up

Audio-visual equipment is assembled...
...and banners are  hung

Let there be light
Things are starting to take shape

...and wrinkles are steamed out
Fabric walls are hung...

Mission accomplished...bring on SHOT Show