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

Friday, April 12, 2013

RMEF Gets a South Dakota Surprise

Everybody likes a surprise. And that’s exactly what happened when a couple of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation representatives showed up at a two-day South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) monthly meeting in Winner. 

RMEF Regional Director Tom Slowey and Volunteer State co-Chair Jerry Hirrschoff made a point to attend because the GFP Commission planned to discuss informational reports about elk and mountain lions. What they did not know is they too were on the agenda. Before they knew it, they got the call to come up front and receive a plaque for ongoing cooperation between GFP and RMEF. 

There are several ongoing cooperative efforts between RMEF and GFP. South Dakota issues a limited number of elk tags for Custer State Park. These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to hunt "any elk" in the park. In 1990, GFP gave one of these tags to the 18 RMEF chapters to raffle. All of the net proceeds go to assist elk via on-the-ground elk habitat projects in the Black Hills. The tag normally raises more than $20,000. Because of the declining number of elk in the park the commission redefined the tag last year so it is good anywhere in the Black Hills. In May, RMEF will draw for the tag. In July, the funds raised will be combined with the money RMEF already allocated to South Dakota’s Project Advisory Committee. This year, RMEF will have more than $85,000 to put toward on-the-ground projects. 

RMEF volunteers in South Dakota also helped stretch project dollars by volunteering for numerous GFP projects. Each year during the summer rendezvous (annual gatherings of RMEF volunteers that take place in each individual state) in June, volunteers meet in the Black Hills and get their hands dirty on projects arranged by GFP or the US Forest Service. These efforts may be centered on fence removal or improvement, water guzzler repairs or whatever the agencies come up with. At least one evening of the rendezvous is spent with biologists and other agency staff over steaks and burgers. A regular guest is the biologist conducting an elk study in the Southern Hill/Custer State Park area that RMEF helped fund since 2010. 

GFP Outdoor Campus-West (Rapid City)
Two years ago, GFP also used RMEF funds to help build a new Outdoor Campus-West in Rapid City which is used to educate youth and adults about outdoor skills, wildlife, conservation and management practices in order to preserve South Dakota’s outdoor heritage. 

RMEF and GFP have a relationship that dates back to 1990. Since then, RMEF and its partners completed 196 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects with a combined value of more than $32.3 million. That work includes prescribed burns, forest thinning, aspen regeneration, fence replacement, water development, elk and predator research, hunting heritage education for kids and adults, and protecting and enhancing nearly 62,000 acres in South Dakota. 
Tony Lief (GFP Director of Wildlife), Tom Slowey, Jerry Hirrschoff & Jeff Vonk (Secretary of GFP)
(left to right)

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