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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Leave No Trace for Hunters

Cloud Peaks (Courtesy William Matthews)
The fog was beginning to clear, revealing a meadow surrounded by snow-covered peaks. A light breeze stirred a nearby patch of aspen in full autumn color. Last night’s freeze had left delicate patterns on the grass and the needles on the pine and spruce trees. Occasionally, the frozen stillness was interrupted by birdsong. 

As the sun appeared over the mountains, the valley was suddenly brilliant with light. The sun climbed higher, warming my cold fingers and toes. I could hear the sound of rippling water.

I was waiting for the bull to lead his harem into the open. But where were they? 

My eyes were drawn to the stream. What I saw wasn’t an elk. It was an abandoned campsite. A fire ring full of melted aluminum cans, Styrofoam, plastic bottles, and partially-burned logs smoldered only inches from the crystal clear waters of the stream. More cans, food scraps, and other trash were scattered over the heavily-trampled wildflowers. The smell of human waste hung in the air. I realized no elk would come here today.

Courtesy William Matthews
Who would do this? Could people really be this careless?

The truth is any one of us could be the culprit. Even the best intentioned of us can unknowingly cause damage. Often, this damage leads to restrictions or closures on public lands. Fortunately, there is a solution that can both protect natural areas and allow people to enjoy their favorite outdoor places. By practicing the outdoor ethic known as Leave No Trace, outdoor enthusiasts can help ensure the places they love will still be there in the future. Leave No Trace consists of seven principles that help people make good decisions and reduce their impacts, making outdoor experiences a lot more enjoyable.

Seven Principles of Leave No Trace:

Plan Ahead and Prepare
Get information about your hunt area and route from the land manager.
Prepare for bad weather and unsafe road conditions with extra food, clothing, first aid kit and signal mirror.

Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces
Appropriate vehicle use protects wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Prevent erosion and trail widening by using the existing tread surface.
Place vehicles, camp kitchen, tents and stock on areas where obvious signs of prior use exist.
Camp at least 200’ from watering holes, lakes and streams.

Pack It In, Pack It Out
Pack out everything you brought in with you--spent brass, shotgun shells, cigarette butts, etc.
Keep the wild in wildlife, don’t bury food or leave it behind.

Courtesy Pat Bower
Properly Dispose of Human Waste
Bury human waste in catholes 4-8” deep at least 200’ from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole. Do not leave toilet paper on the ground.
Clean water means better fishing; carry your wash or dish water to your camp.

Leave What You Find
Leave historical or cultural artifacts as you find them.
Use dead and downed trees for poles and hangs; dismantle when finished.
Signs are expensive; please don’t use them to sight-in firearms.

Minimize Use and Impact of Fires
Stoves are often the best option. Campfires, fire rings and wood collection can scar the backcountry.
Collect only dead and downed wood or bring your own.

If you are interested in learning more about Leave No Trace or becoming a trainer, go to https://lnt.org/about and contact the Center or your State Advocate. 

 Enjoy the hunt!

Sara Evans Kirol 
Trails/Special Uses
Forest Service
Bighorn National Forest

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New Report Highlights How ‘Hunting Is Conservation’

The firearms and ammunition industry is thriving in the United States and that is great news for conservation. A new report indicates the total economic impact of the industry jumped from $19.1 billion in 2008 to $42.9 billion in 2014. That’s an astounding 125 percent increase! 

The ripple effects from such tremendous growth are many. Among the biggest is the benefit for the nation’s wildlife and wild landscapes.

“Wildlife conservation is the real winner here, as we increased federal tax payments by 108 percent, Pittman-Robertson excise taxes that support wildlife conservation by 145 percent and state business taxes by 106 percent,” said Stephen L. Sanetti, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) president and chief executive officer.

The Pittman-Robertson Act, officially called the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, was originally passed and then signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937. It places an 11 percent excise tax on firearms, ammunition, bows, arrows, parts and accessories. The funds, generated by hunters and recreational shooters, do not go to the U.S. Treasury. Instead, they are given to the Secretary of the Interior with the specific and designated purpose to distribute them to each state wildlife agency based on the area of the state and its number of licensed hunters. 

Hunters also generate $796 million annually for conservation efforts by purchasing state licenses and fees. They add an additional $440 million a year for conservation by making donations to groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Pittman-Robertson funds help state agencies introduce and manage wildlife species, conduct research, enhance habitat, acquire and lease land, conduct hunter education programs, develop access facilities for public use, build and operate public shooting ranges, and improve public access. 

To date, the tax has raised more than $7.2 billion to help fund on-the-ground conservation efforts. The NSSF report indicates recreational and shooters generated excise taxes to the tune of $864 million in 2014.

The bottom-line impact of the firearms and ammo industry on America’s job market is also substantial. The total number of full-time jobs* directly linked to the industry rose from about 166,000 to more than 263,000. If you do the math, that is a 58 percent increase. 

"In our nation's economic recovery since that year (2008), our industry has been a standout, increasing our direct workforce by 78 percent, adding jobs that pay an average of more than $52,000 in wages and benefits,” added Sanetti.

It is also interesting to note that despite the increase in demand for firearms and ammunition, both the criminal and accidental misuses of firearms continue to decline.

*These include jobs in companies supplying goods and services to manufacturers, distributors and retailers, as well as those that depend on sales to workers in the firearms and ammunition industry.

Monday, April 6, 2015

RMEF Grants to Assist Elk Restoration, Research, Habitat Enhancement in Wisconsin

Below is a complete listing of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s 2014 grants for the state of Wisconsin. Find more information here.

Ashland County—Enhance elk forage on 320 acres on the Chequamegon National Forest through maintenance of existing forage openings and accelerated restoration of aspen forage habitat via mowing, hand-clearing, prescribed fire and timber sale (also affects Sawyer County); and provide funding to cover the cost of electricity fees associated with the Clam Lake interactive elk information kiosk.

Bayfield County—Provide funding for the Wisconsin RMEF Bugle Days Rendezvous which promotes the celebration, history, and future of the Wisconsin elk herd, and also includes opportunities for volunteers to take elk bugling tours and participate in an elk habitat work project as well as other activities.

Bedford County—Host a SAFE (Shooting Access for Everyone) Challenge booth at the Kicking Bear event in West Salem.

Burnett County—Provide funding and volunteer support for the annual Coyland Creek Youth in the Outdoors Day in northwestern Wisconsin for a series of hands-on activities and demonstrations including shooting, archery, canoeing, fishing, orienteering, pack mules, survival skills, building a campfire and education about the state’s elk herd (also affects attendees from Barron, Polk, St. Croix and Washburn Counties).

Chippewa County—Provide funding and RMEF volunteer support for the Indianhead Hunter Safety certification class and field day.

Columbia County—Provide funding for more than 1,400 students from around Wisconsin to participate in dozens of outdoor skills activities at the first annual Midwest Outdoor Heritage Expo in Poynette where they learn about wildlife habitat, conservation, the value of hunting, ethics, wildlife management, forestry, natural history and Wisconsin's outdoor heritage.

Dunn County—Provide funding for the NRA’s Women on Target program which offers women an introduction to shooting sports where they learn safe gun handling, how to accurately shoot, and learn a sport they can enjoy for a lifetime (also affects Eau Clair and Chippewa Counties).

Eau Claire County—Provide funding to assist the Eau Claire High School Trap Club with purchasing guns, shell bags, safety glasses, ear protection, shell belts and other supplies; and provide funding for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Rod and Gun Club which promotes conservation and shooting sports to the next generation of outdoorsmen and women.

Grant County—Provide support to encourage youth participating in the Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League to enjoy the outdoors and learn about gun safety and discipline through hunting and shooting.

Jackson County—Provide $300,000 in funding over three years to help continue the ongoing restoration of Wisconsin’s elk herds and expand the herd into new areas (also affects Ashland and Sawyer Counties); and improve early successional habitat by treating, and then seeding, 30 acres adjacent to potential release sites for the Black River elk reintroduction thereby maintaining high quality habitat near the core of the Black River elk herd range.

Kenosha County—Provide funding to assist the Central Falcons shotgun team to attend the Scholastic Clay Target Program National Championship in Illinois; and co-sponsor and provide volunteer support for the Halter Wildlife Youth Day which offered youth ages 5-15 a gun safety course, rifle shooting, sporting clays, fly casting, duck calling, duck identification, dog training and conservation, and habitat lessons.

LaCrosse County—Use the Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) to fund an elk education trunk; provide funding for the Boy Scouts of America Gateway Area Council Trailblazer Spring Camporee which offers hands-on instruction in firearms safety, fishing, archery, trapping and more;; provide funding for the Youth Outdoor Fest where children get hands-on experience from professionals in camping, fishing, archery, air rifle, canoeing, kayaking, boating, bird watching and animal identification; provide funding and RMEF volunteer support for the West Salem Rod and Gun Club Youth Day which offers turkey and deer calling, treestand safety, a "floating target" archery station and RMEF’s SAFE Challenge BB gun range; and provide support for the RMEF LaCrosse Chapter’s youth events.

Marathon County—Provide funding and volunteer support for Marathon County Sporting Heritage Youth Day which offers education in hunting, fishing, and trapping; and provide support for classes taught by Weston Hunter Safety instructors.

Monroe County—Provide funding to cover the cost of ammunition, transportation and program promotion for the Tomah Warrens Shooting Alliance’s youth shooting club.

Oneida County—Provide support for the Oneida County Sheriff's Department’s hunter education classes that focus on safe gun handling and encouraging new hunters to be safe, ethical and responsible while in the field; and co-sponsor the Northwoods Youth Deer Hunting Challenge which includes indoor archery, educational displays, awards, prizes, dinner and other activities (also affects Iron and Vilas Counties).

Outagamie County—Provide funding for a SAFE Challenge booth at a youth event in Shiocton.

Polk County—Host a SAFE Challenge booth at the Richardson Sportsmen Club Youth in the Outdoors event in Clayton.

Price County—Provide funding for the Phillips Sportsmen’s Club Youth Day which exposes youth ages 10-16 to outdoor activities including archery, shooting, and fishing; and provide support for the 14-week summer schedule of the Phillips Sportsmen’s Club Youth Trap League.

Racine County—Provide funding for the Union Grove High School shooting sports program to encourage more youth to participate in the shooting sports, fundamentals, safety and sportsmanship.

Richland County—Contribute to reward fund set up to help solve vandalism done to Richland Center High School’s FFA pheasant program after raising pens were damaged, 39 birds were killed and others escaped.

Sawyer County—Use radio telemetry and trail cameras in both the Clam Lake elk range and Black River elk range to estimate post-release survival, recruitment, and habitat selection in order to provide information for future elk releases and management (also affects Price and Jackson Counties); provide funding for the Hayward Outdoor Youth Day which offers disadvantaged youth an opportunity to learn about the outdoors including archery, fishing, outdoor cooking, plant identification, dog training, BB gun shooting and trapping demonstrations; and provide TFE funding to enhance 450 acres through a variety of treatments including prescribed fire, mowing, and planting on the Flambeau River State Forest and Kimberly Clark Wildlife Area (also affects Price County); and provide funding for the construction of two four-acre acclimation pens within the Clam Lake elk range for the placement of supplemental elk being brought in to improve genetic diversity and augment herd productivity.

St. Croix County—Provide support and volunteer coaching for the recently organized Scholastic Clay Target Program’s Hudson Raider Shooting Club shooting team.

Statewide—Provide funding to support the Wisconsin High School Rodeo Association’s involvement in its shooting sports activities; provide funding for the refurbishing and reinforcement of an elk head mount and base that is used at youth and SAFE events, exhibits, and RMEF big game banquets; provide TFE funding for the donation of 4,000 RMEF youth membership knives to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to assist its Hunter Education courses throughout the year; provide funding to pay for repairs to the Clam Lake kiosk computer system; and provide funding to help cover the cost of the 2014 Wisconsin hunting regulations manual.

Partners for the Wisconsin projects include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and various sportsmen, wildlife, civic, tribal and government organizations.

RMEF uses proceeds from the TFE solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Toast to Protecting Washington’s Elk Country

It was a modest gathering of just a little more than a dozen people but they came together to recognize and celebrate a major accomplishment. At one point, representatives of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy (CCC) paused in unison to raise a glass, filled with either champagne or sparkling apple cider, to salute a joint effort to permanently protect and secure access to nearly 2,900 acres of elk habitat in south-central Washington. 

North Fork Cowiche Creek project
(located in green)
The North Fork Cowiche Creek project is located about 15 miles northwest of Yakima on the east slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Nearly 3,000 elk migrate eastward through the area from publicly-owned summer range toward Cowiche Mountain. The elk must also cross several miles of privately-owned grounds undergoing significant development pressure so the project thwarts a possibly similar fate to this crucial migration corridor. In addition to elk, the project also benefits mule deer, bighorn sheep and a wide array of other species connected to the shrub-steppe and riparian habitats. 

The tour included three stops that allowed participants the opportunity to walk in the mountains, soak in the scenic landscapes and view nearby past projects while also celebrating the North Fork Cowiche Creek project. They found themselves surrounded by abundant bunchgrass, Ponderosa pine, Oregon white oak, aspen and beautiful blue skies.

Among those on hand included Washington State Chairs Rick Barlin and Greg Ganick, contractor Rance Block and Lands Program Manager Bill Richardson of the RMEF; CCC Director Betsy Bloomfield and several board members; and South Central Regional Director Mike Livingston, Oak Creek Wildlife Area Manager Ross Huffman and contractor Jeff Tayer of the WDFW.

Go here to learn more about the North Fork Cowiche Creek project and here to view a national map of RMEF’s conservation efforts.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Volunteering for the RMEF is a Win-Win

Volunteering your time and effort for something you believe in is always a winning formula, especially for volunteers of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. President/CEO David Allen proclaimed many times over the years that volunteers are the fuel that fires the RMEF engine.

Volunteers can feel both great pride and satisfaction for their part in helping the RMEF protect or enhance more than 6.6 million of acres of vital elk habitat over the organization’s three-plus decades of work. They organize and execute chapter banquets and membership drives which raise the funds for projects that benefit elk and elk country in their own backyard and across the country. They also volunteer at youth camps or other mentoring clinics and roll up their sleeves for boots-on-the-ground projects such as fence pulls, wildlife water guzzler projects, noxious weed treatments and other efforts to benefit elk habitat.

But sometimes their reward is more than just a pat on the back.

Congratulations to Ken Johnson of Knoxville, Tennessee. As one of 1,577 new or recruited volunteers last year, Johnson had his name drawn as the winner of RMEF’s 2014 “New Committee Member” contest and received a UTV donated by our conservation partners at Cabela’s. Johnson received the keys at the Cabela’s story in Acworth, Georgia. 

RMEF Atlanta Chairman Ernie Swift, Acworth Cabela's Retail Marketing Manager Alicia Ferguson,
Ken Johnson, Acworth Cabela's Power Sports Manager Randy McBride and RMEF Georgia State Chair
Glenn Williams (left to right)
In addition to the grand prize, there are actually 23 more new RMEF committee members who also received prizes—eight Buck Knife package winners (five different Buck Knives), five Danner boot package winners (one pair of Danner boots, socks and hat), five Team Elk Pack winners and five Vortex binoculars winners.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to all of our more than 11,000 dedicated and passionate volunteers. Your hard work allows the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to make a measurable difference as we work together to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Thank you!

Go here to learn more about becoming an RMEF volunteer.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Kentucky Elk are on the Ground in Wisconsin

Below is a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Elk from Kentucky have reached their new home near Black River Falls, Wis. in the first year of elk reintroduction efforts in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and a number of other key partners.

In all, 26 elk were transported to Jackson County after completing a 45-day quarantine period in Kentucky as part of a five-year agreement between Wisconsin and Kentucky that will provide Wisconsin with up to 150 wild elk. In 2015, all elk will be released in Jackson County, while future years will see animals released in both Jackson County and Clam Lake.

Special precautions are being taken to help make sure elk received from Kentucky become accustomed to their new home in Jackson County. A seven acre acclimation pen has been built within the Black River State Forest near Black River Falls, Wis., and all elk brought to Jackson County from Kentucky will be held in the pen for a minimum of 75 days to satisfy health testing requirements and allow the elk to become familiar with their new surroundings.

In addition to the closed area surrounding the acclimation pen, individuals are asked to voluntarily avoid the general vicinity of closed area until the elk are released in early summer. Minimizing human disturbance near the release site will allow the elk to adjust to their new home and will help maximize the success of reintroduction efforts.

Funding for Wisconsin’s elk translocation efforts is a result of key partnerships and support from the Ho-Chunk Nation, Jackson County Wildlife Fund, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and many others. The department has committed to using only funds received from partner groups.

For more information regarding elk in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “elk.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Buzzed to Benefit Elk Country

Cinfio (left) and Bob Munson
Ralph Cinfio knew something was up. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s vice president of Fundraising Services recently visited St. Cloud, Minnesota, for the 25th big game banquet anniversary of the Northern Lights Royal Chapter. RMEF co-founders Bob Munson and Charlie Decker were also on hand and that, in itself, spelled “trouble” for Cinfio.

You see, it was some 12 years earlier in the same town at the same banquet that Cinfio walked away with a freshly shaven head. The loss of his hair was the RMEF’s gain to the tune of $4,443.

“I was pretty nervous about it back then because I was part of a wedding scheduled to take place just two months later,” Cinfio recalled. “It turned out to be just fine though because it involved a lot of military personnel and I fit right in with the new hair style.”

Decker shows his barber "skills"
Fast forward to 2015 and Ralph’s return to St. Cloud where a déjà vu kind of challenge murmured its way through the crowd. Before he knew it, he found himself up on stage in front of everyone with two more-than-eager RMEF co-founders hovering over him with shaving shears in hand. Munson and Decker got the “green light” after banquet attendees ponied up $3,700 for them to do the deed. 

"Bob was like a kid in a candy store and Charlie said ‘Hey, save me some hair!’ He then gave me a nice, tidy reverse mohawk,” said Cinfio.

Thanks Ralph for literally putting your head (and your hair) on the line—all to help ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Go here to find an RMEF banquet near you.

Cinfio, holding a photo of his Northern Lights Royal Chapter haircut from 12 years earlier,
gets a comforting kiss from wife Jodie