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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Silver Celebration

More than two decades. That’s how long the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Habitat Council (HC) has been around. The group, which first officially gathered way back in 1992, is comprised of philanthropic souls who truly believe in RMEF’s conservation mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. They actively support that mission by giving with their hearts and their pocketbooks.

One hundred and seven attendees, an all-time high, from 25 different states recently traveled to Branson, Missouri, for the 2016 Summer Habitat Council Retreat. Many of them attended a Habitat Partnership reception the evening before the three-day event in Springfield, Missouri. More than 60 people were at the White River Conference Center, which is part of the world headquarters of Bass Pro Shops, a valued RMEF conservation partner. 

HC members boarded 10 large vans the following afternoon for the kickoff event, a convoy into the heart of Branson to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, home of “the world’s most visited dinner attraction.” More than a thousand people bellied up to long, bench-like dinner tables for a no-utensils feast of rotisserie chicken, pork loin, corn on the cob, potato wedges, soup, cheddar biscuit and dessert. (Some HC members snuck in their own forks.) Trick riders on horseback performed stunts, races, sang, danced and acted out scenes from the old Wild West.

Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands & Conservation
Day-two began with a four-hour meeting. RMEF staffers presented a financial overview and a mission update including RMEF initiatives, land projects, habitat stewardship work, elk restorations, and hunting heritage outreach and advocacy projects and efforts. HC members asked questions and learned details about upcoming events and opportunities.

“As I go around the country, there’s a culture within RMEF that permeates this organization. It’s salt of the earth people that belong to this group. When Elk Foundation people get together, they make new friends. We have the greatest people in this great country that belong to this organization. It’s God, family and country. We cannot thank you enough. We just love you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” said Charlie Decker, RMEF co-founder and Habitat Council co-chair.

Charlie and Yvonne Decker
“I’ve been a volunteer a long time and I’m always amazed of the time and money that volunteers put in,” said Yvonne Decker, Habitat Council co-chair.

“You are the ambassadors that really make a difference for this organization. You folks have gone above and beyond and done things that really count,” said Bob Munson, RMEF co-founder and Habitat Council co-chair. 

“It’s not without sacrifice that you come. You leave your family, friends and some of the responsibilities of home. I think it’s important to recognize you have a vested interested in RMEF. We need to be collectively good stewards of those resources you invested,” said Vicki Munson, RMEF Habitat Council co-chair.

Bob and Vicki Munson
“The health of the Elk Foundation is the best it’s ever been—advocacy, membership, membership and politically. Our national presence is huge. We have without question elevated the level of advocacy in DC and in every state around the country. We are asked and do provide input to our congressional leaders, senators, governors and others,” said Chuck Roady, RMEF chairman of the board.

“The board of this organization is different. All of us are volunteers. We all have the heart and the head for this organization. The money you put into this organization is well-spent. The people on the staff have a heart for this organization,” said Philip Barrett, RMEF board member.

In the early evening, HC members left the meeting room and their 15-seat passenger vans behind for four-seat golf carts. Once behind the wheel, the foursomes took part in a 45-minute, two-and-a-half mile trek covering the Top of the Rock Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail. Travelers weaved along the small roadway through the natural beauty of the Ozarks, over covered Amish bridges and into caves featuring natural rock formations and waterfalls. One highlighted stop was at a small bar nestled near cascading waterfalls in Lost Canyon Cave. 

From there, HC members remained on site but made their way to the End of the Trail All-American Wine Cellar. In addition to a fine meal and plenty of friendly conversation, diners witnessed the sinking sun which led to a breathtaking view from both the reflection pool immediately outside the dining area and beyond to a shimmering Table Rock Lake in the distance. Bagpipes played and a cannon fired into the evening to mark the setting of the sun.

The highlight of every summer retreat is a trip to a RMEF field project. The 2016 gathering was no different. The 10-van convey headed across the state line and into Arkansas’s Buffalo River country. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists gave an update on the local herd numbering 600-700 in size. They also talked about habitat stewardship projects (70 projects since 1998), Chronic Wasting Disease, food plots to minimize conflict with private landowners, other wildlife, hunting regulations, research and various other issues. HC members also looked across the landscape that includes the first-ever RMEF conservation easement in Arkansas established by a HC member. 

The departure dinner took place at the Keeter Center at the College of the Ozarks, a non-denominational, tuition-free liberal arts college with an enrollment of approximately 1,400 students that commercially operates both a restaurant and hotel. Students pay no tuition because, despite whatever their educational pursuits, they are required to put in 15 hours a week raising crops, tending animals, working in the kitchen, serving as waiters and waitresses, manning and maintaining 15 hotel suites, marketing their products and services, and carrying out other duties. With an emphasis on Christian values and character, hard work, and financial responsibility, the school proudly dubs itself “Hard Work U.”

One hundred and ten students, including the professor who oversees the Culinary Arts department, manned the kitchen and worked the night of the HC dinner. Every item served as part of the farm-to-table menu was raised on campus. Highlighting the evening was a surprise appearance by “Kenny Rogers” and “Dolly Parton” (aka former HC co-chairs Howard and Nancy Holland) who serenated on-lookers and friends with a lip sync performance that those on hand won’t soon forget. 

The 2017 summer retreat will take place in Seattle. Many who attend will also join RMEF founders Bob Munson, Charlie Decker and their wives for the RMEF Founders Alaska Cruise

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Wonderful Day at Wall Creek

Sleeves rolled up and the fencing came down on an early summer morning in Montana’s Madison Valley. Approximately 20 volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, joined by a handful of other Montanans, kicked off a day-long celebration by removing more than 1.25 miles of old fencing on the newly expanded Madison-Wall Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

RMEF previously purchased and then transferred 631 acres of prime winter elk habitat on what is now part of the 7,188-acre WMA to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) as a way to permanently protect the land and open access to it for hunters, anglers, hikers and others to enjoy. The southern edge of the property borders the existing WMA while the eastern edge borders Bureau of Land Management land that runs clear to the Madison River. The project included removing a 3,096-square foot house

Following the fence pull, attendees gathered on the WMA for a barbeque lunch and a dedication ceremony to celebrate the new addition. Attendees included members of the RMEF board of directors, chapter chairs and representatives of FWP, the state of Montana and other groups and organizations. Speakers celebrated the land project and talked about the immediate history of the area as well as its importance to wildlife and Montanans. RMEF also presented Elk Country partnership Awards to FWP employees (photo below) who had key roles in the project.

Howard Burt (FWP) & Matt Ashley (RMEF), Mike Baugh (RMEF) & Julie Cunningham (FWP), Larry Irwin (RMEF) & Dean Waltee (FWP) (left to right)

The Madison-Wall Creek project celebration helped ring in Montana Open Land Month which is designed to treasure Montana’s open spaces by getting families outside to experience the land and wildlife, and enjoy access to unique outdoor recreation.

The dedication sign held (from left to right) by: Shane Brozovich (FWP game warden), Dean Waltee (FWP biologist), Matt Ashley (RMEF regional director), Lt. Governor Mike Cooney, Sam Sheppard (FWP regional supervisor), Julie Cunningham (FWP biologist), Larry Irwin and Mike Baugh (RMEF board of directors), Howard Burt (FWP regional wildlife manager), Mike Mueller (RMEF lands program manager) and Fred King (FWP WMA manager, retired).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Conservation Partners Power Elk Country Legacy Program

There’s a reason why the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation refers to its sponsors as “conservation partners.” That’s because those supporting businesses truly believe in RMEF’s mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

“We find again and again that these outdoor industry leaders are ‘all in’ on what we’re about. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder in assisting us to carry out our conservation programs that benefit elk and elk country,” said Steve Decker, RMEF vice president of Marketing.

Current Elk Country Legacy program sponsors include Browning, Winchester, Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak, Cabela’s, Sitka and Grand View Media.

The Elk Country Legacy program focuses on four core RMEF programs:

Permanent Land Protection
RMEF aims to keep the most vital elk habitat wild and open to the public through permanent land protection. We achieve this through acquisitions, conservation easements, land exchanges and land donations. Founded by public-lands hunters, RMEF takes pride in each new acre we conserve and open, retiring “No Trespassing” signs and replacing them with ones that say, “Hunters Welcome.”

Habitat Stewardship
RMEF practices habitat stewardship by working with federal, state, tribal and private partners to deliver boots-on-the-ground projects like prescribed burning, forest thinning, noxious weed treatments, water development efforts and other projects that improve essential forage, water, cover and open space for elk and other wildlife.

Elk Restoration
RMEF works to restore wild, free-ranging elk to their native range from coast-to-coast and to ensure those populations not only survive, but thrive. To date, RMEF assisted with restoration projects in seven states and provinces.

Hunting Heritage
RMEF upholds the opportunity for every American to hunt wild, free-ranging animals in healthy landscapes and works to maintain our proud hunting heritage. We strive to educate the public about hunters’ crucial role in wildlife restoration and habitat conservation in the past, present and future. And we work to instill the passion in tomorrow’s hunters and conservationists.

“Through the Elk Country Legacy program, RMEF is improving and protecting habitat for elk and other wildlife, restoring elk to their native ranges and driving home to millions of people the value of our hunting heritage and that Hunting is Conservation,” says Steve Decker, RMEF vice president of marketing. “We are very thankful to our Elk Country Legacy sponsors. These companies are leaders in our industry, investing in the future of hunting and conservation.”

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day! July Fourth truly is a grand holiday. And it’s an opportunity for all of us to come together as family and friends to recognize our past, present and future.

Our founding fathers certainly were inspired in establishing this great nation 240 years ago. On July 4, 1776, they officially adopted the Declaration of Independence which boldly affirmed United States’ independence from Great Britain. 

Independence Day calls on all of us to recognize and honor the freedoms we all enjoy. Our way of life is not one we should take lightly or for granted. Much was sacrificed for us to enjoy the freedom and independence we have. Let’s honor it and protect it today and tomorrow for all who follow in our footsteps.

On behalf of all of us at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, have a safe, enjoyable and memorable Fourth of July.


David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

Monday, June 27, 2016

RMEF, FWP to Host to Montana Land Project Celebration

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will host a celebration and dedication of the Madison-Wall Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) addition on Saturday, July 9, 2016. It will take place at the WMA in the Madison Valley approximately 24 miles south of Ennis.

Activities begin with a 9 a.m. volunteer fence removal project followed by burgers and refreshments (please RSVP) at noon. The dedication ceremony will begin at 1 p,m.

RMEF acquired 631 acres of grassy rangeland immediately adjacent to the WMA in late 2014. The entire southern edge of the property borders the existing WMA while the eastern edge borders Bureau of Land Management land that runs clear to the Madison River. RMEF conveyed the property to FWP in 2016 which enlarged the overall acreage of the WMA by approximately ten percent.

Find directions here. (The house, shown in the link, has since been removed from the property.)

To RSVP & for more information, contact:

Mike Mueller, RMEF, at 406-493-6650, mmueller@rmef.org
Matt Ashley, RMEF, 406-351-2335, mashley@rmef.org
Julie Cunningham, MTFWP, at 406-994-6341, juliecunningham@mt.gov

Thursday, June 23, 2016

PLAN to HUNT Workshop Coming to RMEF

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will host the first of a series of PLAN to HUNT Workshops in Missoula, Montana, presented by a host of partner sponsors. Below is a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks with further information.

Region 2 · 3201 Spurgin Road · Missoula, MT 59804
Contact: Vivaca Crowser, Information Officer, (406) 542-5518, vcrowser@mt.gov, fwp.mt.gov/regions/r2/

Missoula to Host ‘Plan to Hunt’ Adult Education Series

Missoula will host a Plan to Hunt workshop series from June through October for adults that are new to hunting or just want to expand their skills and understanding in order to hunt more confidently in Montana.

These free workshops will offer hands-on training and access to local experts and mentor hunter instructors. Attend all or just one, and no pre-registration is required.

Workshops are hosted and instructed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Garden City Harvest, The Trail Head, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The complete schedule includes:

The hunting experience you want
June 28—6 pm—Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (5706 Grant Creek Rd)
Discover how to decode the hunting regulations and what permits, licenses, gear, mapping and other tools are available to help you plan and prepare for your hunt.

Getting into the game 
July 12—6 pm—Pattee Canyon Picnic Area
Experienced hunters will share how to map, scout, track and better understand the behavior and movement patterns of the game you are pursuing.

Packed and sighted-in 
Aug. 2—6 pm —Deer Creek Shooting Center (E. Missoula, off Deer Creek Rd)
See what gear is in the pack of Montana’s hunters and the firearms and archery equipment you need for the animals you are pursuing. Shoot at the range under the direction of experienced hunters.

From field to freezer
Aug. 23—6 pm —-MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks (3201 Spurgin Rd)
Learn the steps—from field dressing, to transport, to wild game processing, that help you move an animal from the field to freezer. This workshop includes hands-on field dressing and other demos.

Locally grown and served
Sept. 13—6 pm —PEAS Farm (3010 Duncan Dr)
Local hunters and Missoula farmers will show you how to take your harvest and turn it into easy, healthy and creative wild harvest meals. Enjoy a meal as you learn.

Pre-season questions
Oct. 4—6 pm —The Trail Head (221 E. Front St)
Join us for an open-session Q&A with local experts to help ensure you are ready for opening day.

Celebrate the hunt!
Dec. 6—6 pm —The Loft (119 W. Main)

A post-season potluck filled with locally harvested and gathered ingredients. We’ll share stories, talk about what we learned and plan for the 2017 season, all while enjoying food and refreshments.

Students can also opt to receive additional training and access to local expertise by enrolling in a more intensive field training and mentorship program. This option is also free, but space is limited. To enroll, email vcrowser@mt.gov or call 406-542-5518.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Volunteers Help Out Aspens, Elk in Oregon

There is nothing better than leaving the woods knowing you left them better than you found them. We had a fantastic weekend with staff from the North Fork John Day District of the Umatilla National Forest by building and repairing Aspen enclosure fencing.

Although it was a scorcher, seven cases of water kept us hydrated and on task. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation volunteers built nearly 200 yards of new buck and pole fence and repaired the remainder of a five-acre enclosure to protect historical Aspens. A large enclosure was split into two smaller enclosures creating a travel corridor for the elk with the hopes the on-going destruction to the enclosure will be minimized. 

RMEF members joined forces with two volunteers from Oregon Hunters Association, a Forest Service vet crew, Forest Service employees and their families. RMEF volunteers contributed 110 hours towards this conservation project. 

Special thanks to Mr. Ian Reid, District Ranger, and Diane Shirley, Forestry Technician and Aspen Program Manager, for planning this project with us and keeping us plenty busy for nearly two days.

Tim Campbell 
Pendleton Oregon Chapter Chair 
Mission Team Leader Eastern Oregon