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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Saluting our Troops, Honoring RMEF

The date was November 10, 2012. The Stars and Stripes proudly flapped in the breeze over Camp Leatherneck in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. But on this particular day the American flag flew on behalf of Gunnery Sergeant Geoffrey A. Barisano of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Not only is Geoffrey proud to be a Marine, he’s also a proud member of the RMEF. 

Ten months earlier Barisano, already a member, called RMEF headquarters seeking information about possibly becoming a life member—a membership he could not afford because of his military duties. He struck up a conversation with a member service representative who expressed her appreciation for his service. Geoffrey said he received an assignment for a July deployment to Afghanistan to take part in Operation Enduring Freedom. The rep promised to call him prior to his departure so, six months later; she did just that, “surprising” him right before he left.

Originally from Los Gatos, California, Geoffrey joined the USMC in January 1997. “I have been a Marine for almost 17 years and have loved every second of it—almost as much as hunting,” said Barisano. His first elk hunt was in October 2003 following his first deployment to Afghanistan. Some pals invited him and he was hooked! He even had a comment selected by the Bugle magazine (link) staff so he received a Bugle hat. “My wife will tell you I never take it off,” Geoffrey added. 

As for his latest assignment, he served as the 3d Marines Aircraft Wing Aviation Ordinance Chief. His unit had the responsibility for aircraft logistics (parts, tools, weapons, etc.) and sustainability (aircraft life cycle) in support of aviation operations in the Helmand Province for the USMC. Given his pressing day-to-day duties and his passion for elk and elk hunting, you can imagine what it was like to be a hunter stationed in another country on the other side of the world during elk season. 

Sgt. Geoffrey Barisano (third from the left)
RMEF tried to ease that “pain” by sending some a box of Bugle magazines and some other RMEF goodies to Barisano. He received the care package on September 10. “Got your package in the mail today...AWESOME! Thank you kindly to you and the rest of the team,” Geoffrey wrote in an email. “I kept a couple of stickers, but the rest is here for the taking. I sent out an e-mail and contacted all my hunting brothers out here. I can't tell you what this means to me and the rest of the miserable hunters who aren't hunting wapiti this fall because we're out here. Once again, may your kindness be repaid a hundredfold. I humbly submit my thanks.” 

Barisano followed up his thanks with action by offering to fly the American flag over Camp Leatherneck in honor of RMEF but the day of his choosing wasn’t just any random day. It was November 10. Any Marine will tell you that specific date marks the anniversary of the founding of the Marines! “I hope that the entire team there in Missoula enjoys it and recognizes that it was flown for all that you do in support of the wapiti and the United States Armed Forces,” he wrote. 

Thank you Sergeant Barisano for your kindness and your service. Semper Fi!

(Barisano flew another flag over Camp Leatherneck for the husband of Julia Kolb, the RMEF member service representative who corresponded with Geoffrey throughout, and still does today.)

Driving with RMEF Pride

There are all kinds of ways to show your friends that you’re a proud member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. You’ve got stacks of Bugle magazines, hats, shirts, jackets, firearms, and all kinds of other RMEF gifts and goodies you can purchase online at the Elk Country Trading Post.

And when you hit the road, you can show your pride on your car or truck with RMEF license plates. Six different states offer their own versions of the plates—Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota. Word has it that Missouri is about to join the ranks too. Not only are they stylish, but purchasing a plate is an easy way to make a continual donation to help RMEF carry out its mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. 

You want a clear example? Let’s break down the numbers by taking a closer look at the state of Montana, the home of RMEF headquarters, where the RMEF plate was first issued in July of 2002. Statistics about generic specialty license plates provided by the Montana Motor Vehicle Division show RMEF is the king of the hill. Well, pretty close to undisputed king anyway. Over the last five years, Montanans ponied up $974,329 just for the opportunity to display RMEF plates on their vehicles. That total includes an all-time high of $196,185 in 2012 alone. Okay, we have to give props to Glacier National Park (GNP) which has a plate that brought in $1,099,445 in revenue over the last five years, but $9,675 less than RMEF in 2012. Also, for the sake of accuracy, we need to point out that the University of Montana’s popular Grizzly Scholarship Association (GSA) plate edged out RMEF by a mere $1,840 in 2012 but trails RMEF by more than $202,000 in revenue over the past five years combined. 

If you compare 2013 to a drag race, RMEF jumped at the green light and bolted off the starting line to again lead the field. Montanans already paid out $52,055 for the coveted plates with GSA running a close second and GNP a not as close third. What’s the bottom line? Montanans love the RMEF.

The same goes for RMEF volunteers, members, elk lovers and hunters around the country; however not every state offers an RMEF license plate. So what to do it if your state is left out of the race? Well, each state has different regulations regarding specialty license plates but it’s the voice of the people that triggers change. If you want an RMEF plate in your home state, call the local DMV and ask what needs to take place to make it happen so you can better show your RMEF pride as you drive.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day: A Day of Honor, Memory & Tribute

Dear RMEF Family,

This is a big weekend for Americans all across the country. It marks the unofficial start of summer but, of course, it is much, much more than that. Monday, May 27, is Memorial Day.

I hope we all pause to remember and honor those who died while serving our great country. Did you know Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day? You can trace its roots back to the 1860s when it commemorated both Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. When the 20th century rolled around, Americans used Memorial Day to honor all Americans who died while serving in the military.

We have many veterans among our ranks—family members; friends; RMEF volunteers, staffers and members. Our thoughts and thanks go out to each of them and their families. Their sacrifices opened the door to the freedoms we enjoy; freedoms that allow us to do the things we do on a daily basis as individuals and as an organization.

To all our vets, both present and those who since passed on, we offer our sincere gratitude. 


M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Missouri Elk Restoration Gets a Boost

Photos courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation
The numbers just didn’t add up. Thirty-nine elk boarded a livestock trailer in Kentucky bound for Missouri. When they arrived at their final destination on the Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) Peck Ranch Conservation Area, 40 elk got off. Somewhere along the nearly 500-mile trek, a newborn bull calf entered the world.

The relocation is the latest effort backed by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to restore elk to their native range. RMEF provided funds and bodies in the form of RMEF volunteers to help at holding facilities in both Kentucky and Missouri. RMEF also helped pay for the capture and care of the Kentucky elk (see video below). 

RMEF Volunteers
As many as 10 million elk once covered almost the entire United States and parts of Canada. Explorers, trappers and settlers depended on elk for food and clothing. Eventually overhunting coupled with habitat loss took a harsh toll. Elk herds were completely wiped out east of the Mississippi River by the late 1800s. By 1900, approximately 90,000 elk remained mostly in Yellowstone Park and a few other western hideouts. 

Prompted by requests from its citizens, the MDC conducted an elk restoration feasibility study in 2000. Results showed the public supported elk restoration and that portions of the Ozark Mountains were biologically feasible for such an effort. However, fears over chronic wasting disease (CWD) temporarily delayed on efforts. Several things changed for the better just a few years later. Researchers developed a live elk test for CWD; workers improved habitat; successful elk restoration efforts took place in Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania; and renewed interest from citizens combined with support from the RMEF triggered action. In July 2010, the MDC Commission summarized the situation and directed staffers to reinstate the reintroduction plan. 

Absent since 1865, elk returned to the Ozark Mountains in May of 2011 and relocation efforts continued with additional shipments in May 2012 and again in May 2013. Since 2011, the MDC released 109 elk to the 12,000 acre Peck Ranch Conservation Area which lies within the 221,000 acre elk restoration zone. Missouri’s goal is to release up to 150 elk and grow the herd to 400-500 animals.
That brings us back to the latest shipment of elk from Kentucky—20 adult cows, 16 yearling cows, three yearling bulls and the newborn calf. “The animals were very rowdy on the double-decker cow hauler and the truck was literally rocking as it backed up to the unloading dock,” said Dave Pace, RMEF Missouri state chair. “Once off the truck, the animals were segregated into separate pens with the three bulls being penned separately. The cows settled pretty well and started eating the knee high clover. But the young bulls were very unsettled and were still running around in their pen when we left the area.” 

The elk will stay in holding pens for several weeks as they get used to their new surroundings. Several cows are expected to deliver in the pens with several dozen new calves expected this spring. The refuge will remain closed to the public until July but will open for driving tours later this summer. 

Leave it to Dave Pace to sum things up for his fellow RMEF volunteers and his home state, “Missouri sportsmen and other outdoor lovers owe a great big THANK YOU to the MDC, the RMEF and to YOU GUYS for your hard work in making these reintroductions a success! It was another great day in MISSOURI ELK COUNTRY!”

Lekse Lovin' Life in the RMEF & NASCAR's Fast Lane

Fred Lekse
Life is a twisting turning road, and when Fred Lekse graduated from law school in 1996, his goal wasn't a career with NASCAR. But a few winding curves put him in the driver's seat as president of Kevin Harvick Inc., representing one of the biggest names in NASCAR racing. 

"It's a lot more fun than the traditional practice of law," he says. "I've been fortunate and really lucky. I hooked up with some good people, and fortunately they've been successful. So I've been successful." 

Kevin Harvick wins Toyota Owners 400
(April 27, 2013 - Richmond, VA)
It's easy to lose touch with things in the hustle and bustle of the NASCAR circuit, but one thing that remains close to Lekse's heart is the great outdoors. Growing up in rural Indiana, Lekse found the natural world ever alluring. Much of his young life he spent hunting the fields and fishing the streams of the Hoosier state. 

"Hunting is just something I've always done," he says. "Since I was able to drive I was out hunting or fishing every moment I got. I wouldn't trade it for anything, that's for sure." 

Lekse's deep passion for hunting caused him to pursue a variety of wildlife across diverse terrains, from cougars in the mountains and winding canyons of Utah to Canadian moose in their willow and spruce flat haunts. But he embraces a special fondness for hunting elk. 

"I love it," he says, "especially bowhunting. There's just something about being out in the woods at that time of year and during the peak of the rut." 

Each fall, as the vibrant green of the aspen leaves transitions to brilliant yellow and orange, Lekse and a group of friend’s pilgrimage to Colorado for an elk hunt in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. "It's just a public land, archery, walk your-legs-off type of hunt, and it's a lot of fun," he says. "You put in a hell of a lot of work, but a lot of times you get more satisfaction from some of those 5x5s you kill on public land in Colorado than the monsters you can run into on a paid hunt." 

For a man as passionate about elk hunting as Lekse, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was a natural partnership. "I went to a banquet in North Carolina and thoroughly enjoyed it," he says. "Then I bought a hunt in Kentucky from one of the first Elk Foundation banquets I ever went to." 

That hunt turned out to be the catalyst for an even deeper partnership with the RMEF. "When I bought the hunt, I didn't really know what to expect," says Lekse, who until then hadn't considered Kentucky a great elk state. "But to see the numbers and the quality of elk on what used to be a coal mine was pretty impressive. It immediately convinced me I needed to do my part with the Elk Foundation." 

Lekse had become good friends with David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, back when they both worked in NASCAR. "Through David, and as I elk hunted more and more, I was able to see the work the organization was doing," he says. "Recently I bought a ranch in Colorado and decided I needed to become a bigger supporter. I just developed a sense of responsibility. I'm enjoying this resource, and I feel like I need to do more to help preserve it." 

And do more he has. Lekse has become a Habitat Partner at the Bronze Benefactor level, donating more than $100,000 to RMEF's mission, and he's also a member of RMEF's President's Council. But he still wants to do more. 

"Fred has been extremely generous with his donations and serves on a committee of our board of directors," says Allen. Part of what he does is help RMEF with major fundraising. This is a task few are more qualified for than Lekse, who secures endorsements and contracts regularly for Kevin Harvick, Inc. "He brings an interesting perspective to us coming from the sports business world, and he is a great fit," Allen adds. 

Lekse has also become a familiar face at banquets all across the country. "I try to hit as many banquets as I can every year," says Lekse, "especially the Grand Junction banquet in Colorado. It's always an impressive event, and I do enjoy the auctions." 

But it's the camaraderie that really draws Lekse to RMEF events. "I love the atmosphere," he says. "After you've been going for a few years, there are a lot of familiar faces. And it's nice to visit and share everyone's hunting stories from the year." 

Gary West, RMEF major gift officer, who is a friend and hunting partner of Lekse's, says, "Fred's a real fine gentleman, and his greatest passion is to hunt. He brings that same passion to this organization, and to our mission to protect habitat and keep the hunting tradition alive." 

Lekse's commitment to RMEF continues to grow, promising a partnership for years to come. "What I like about the Elk Foundation is that you don't have to be someone who can just write a check. It's dependent on the volunteers who have their feet on the ground as much as it is the people who can write checks," says Lekse. "I'm fortunate enough to be able to write a check, so I'll do that. But I want to do more."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

RMEF Recognizes 2014 Premiere Art Program Artists

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is an original elk painting worth? Answer: plenty!

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation appreciates fine wildlife art and the talented artists who create it. In fact, RMEF established its art program back in the early 1990s with a goal of recognizing quality artwork and then offering that work to RMEF members around the country via its big game banquet program. 

Below is the announcement highlighting the selections for 2014:

2014 Featured Artist - Jim Hautman; Through the Aspens
(2014 Cabela's Conservation Edition Print)
On behalf of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, we thank you for submitting such outstanding artwork for the 2014 Premiere Art Program. We reviewed over 100 pieces from over 50 artists and after a long review process; we have chosen the three pieces/featured artists that will comprise the 2014 Art Program; Through the Aspens by Jim Hautman, Pre-Wreck by Craig Tennant and Ladies First by Cynthie Fisher. Please find enclosed the final selections and honorable mentions for your reference. 

2014 Featured Artist - Craig Tennant; Pre-Wreck

We appreciate your interest and continued support of the RMEF Premiere Art Program and we hope you will consider submitting again in the near future. It is because of artists like you that we continue to have a quality art program which in turn helps us accomplish our mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

2014 Featured Artist - Cynthie Fisher; Ladies First

Thank you again for your interest, superb submissions and your ongoing support of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. 

Yours in Conservation, 

Christina McBane 
Merchandise Program Coordinator

Honorable Mention
Bruce Miller, Elk Mountain
Allen Jimmerson, Base Camp
Rod Lawrence, Distant Challenge
Adam Smith, A Royal Pair 
Eddie Leroy, Lake Edge Elk
Lona Damstrom, Majestic

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Colorado Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Mule Deer Benefit from RMEF Habitat Project

There’s a definite danger in not seeing where you’re going, especially if you’re a bighorn sheep. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation just made the going a little easier for bighorns thanks to a habitat project in Colorado. 

Here’s the deal. Bighorn sheep are primarily animals of open and semi-open habitats like alpine meadows, open grassland, rock outcrops and cliffs. The bottom line is they must be able to see in order to survive. Dense forests provide poor visibility making it difficult for sheep to detect predators. 

That’s where the RMEF teamed with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to continue their collaborative work of prescribed burns and mechanical treatment to thin dense sapling and pole-sized lodgepole pine trees in west-central Colorado. The area, located in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, is a known sheep migration route on the way to lambing grounds and summer range. The treatments retain aspen and large diameter conifers but clear the smaller trees to create better visibility and habitat near the forest’s edge by improving forage for bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer. 

It’s called the Taylor Canyon Prescribed Burn project. RMEF brought $10,000 in funding to the table in conjunction with $22,000 in matching funds, $10,000 from money raised in big game raffle funds and $12,000 from the US Forest Service. The work covered 160 acres. In the spring of 2012, two smokejumpers from Idaho worked with fire personnel on the ground by using chainsaws to conduct thinning. In November 2012, seasonal employees used chainsaws to carry out more thinning work, specifically by cutting, lopping and scattering juniper trees that created very dense conditions. 

Before Treatment (on left), and After Treatment

The project is part of a larger scale management project within a 20,000 acre planning area between Spring Creek and Taylor River, a popular area for hiking and camping. The goal is to continue the project into the foreseeable future. And that’s a good thing for bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer and other birds and critters on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Deer Tale to Top ALL Deer Tales!

There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire swapping hunting stories. Brent Cutlip of Orlando, Florida, certainly has a tale to tell. It may be a bit difficult to believe but Brent doesn’t have to convince you. After all, he’s got the video, the photos, and the shoulder mount hanging on his wall to prove it.

First, a little background. Brent is an Ohio native who split the last couple of decades living in either Florida or Colorado. He was first introduced to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation years ago when he saw a copy of Bugle magazine in a relative’s Colorado cabin. “I read and enjoyed it,” said Cutlip. “When I moved to Florida, I ran across the organization and started investigating and realized they had a chapter here in Orlando and I got involved. Obviously, there are no elk in Florida but it’s amazing how many people around here are also involved with it.” 

Brent's Colorado Buck
Through Brent's Scope
Cutlip owns a little piece of property that borders on miles and miles of Pike National Forest land about 25 minutes west of Colorado Springs, Colorado, on the back side of Pike’s Peak. It’s a treasured place where he spends time hunting in the backcountry with his brother-in-law. He put in for a 2012 elk tag but did not get drawn so he focused on deer instead.

It was just before dusk on the second day of his hunt when he saw a nice 5x5 mule deer buck. The buck didn’t pay any attention to the nearby hunters who patiently looked on. In fact, it mated with a doe three times right before their eyes. “To see that right in front of you, they didn’t care if you’re anywhere near,” Cutlip said. “Funny how they are 51 weeks out of the year and then just one week they seem to throw completely no caution to the wind or are virtually brain dead.” Cutlip eventually raised his 7 mm-08 and fired. It was a clean and effective kill shot. He then summoned his energy to drag it out of the forestland to his brother-in-law’s place on private land. They took a few photos and set up a flood light to begin field dressing. Then everything changed. Grunting noises filled the air and things really got wild when another buck wandered out from the darkness into the light.

“I was just laughing. I was so dumbfounded this thing would come anywhere near us,” said Cutlip. “The buck kept coming and sniffing around. When he got close to that buck I told my brother-in-law ‘He’s going to attack this deer!’ Sure enough, he flipped and pushed that thing about 50 to 60 feet down the hill.” (See video below.)

Eventually after a lengthy and very much one-sided duel, and apparently feeling quite victorious, the buck slowly returned into the darkness leaving its victim behind in a crumpled mess with multiple puncture wounds.

“It was a pretty neat experience. And to have such a nice buck, the story and the video to go with it too.” 

"Monster" buck
But the tale does not end there. After taking the meat for processing and visiting a taxidermist, the time eventually came for Brent to pack his bags for his return trip to Florida. Five minutes before departure, his brother-in-law called him to the picture window. Off in the not too far distance they saw a big bodied, 7x9 majestic buck. A real “monster” as Brent put it. 

As the months pass since his never-to-be-forgotten experience, visions of that monster buck remain in Cutlip’s head. Who knows? Maybe around the flames of a campfire next winter, Brent will have a new 7x9 tale to tell. Or better yet, one that involves a nice bull elk.

Youth, RMEF, Michigan Team Up to Enhance Elk Viewing

Below is information highlighting a collaborative project that helps visitors get a better view of elk in Michigan.

Press Release from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

May 15, 2013

Contact: Katie Keen, (231) 775-9727

Cadillac-area students impact elk viewing in northeast Michigan

The Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Center (CTC) recently helped improve residents' and visitors' elk-viewing experience in northeast Michigan.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) partnered to increase awareness of elk in Michigan and to promote and enhance elk viewing. One way to encourage elk viewing is to build information stations, where visitors can learn facts about elk in the areas where they are routinely found. The first step of this project was to construct the information stations.

(Courtesy DNR)

Frank Tilmann, building trades instructor at the CTC, thought this would be a great project for his students to work on. “It was something fun and different,” said Tilmann.

Students from several surrounding schools, who attend the building trades class, built the three information stations from scratch. The stations will be used to help show visitors where elk can be found and how to view them responsibly.

Cadillac-area students will be invited to visit Michigan’s elk range, northeast of Gaylord, to help place the stations they built. The stations will be installed in July of 2013 in order to be ready for the popular fall viewing season. September and October are the best months to view elk, during the breeding seasons, when elk can be seen feeding in open, grassy areas and males – called bulls – will be bugling.

(Courtesy DNR)
The presence of elk in Michigan is a true conservation success story. Historical accounts indicate elk were once common in the Lower Peninsula, but the population disappeared by the late 1800s. Seven elk were released in the Wolverine area in 1918. Those animals were the founders of today’s herd. Today elk management involves many partnerships, including habitat-management projects supported by the DNR and RMEF, and now informational stations provided by the CTC.

“RMEF’s Michigan chapters are proud to be a partner with the DNR and the Wexford-Missaukee CTC,” said Michigan’s RMEF Regional Director Doug Doherty. “We can truly make a difference when we can work together like this, and it’s bonus to have students involved on this project.”

For more information on how to view elk in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/elk.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

RMEF, Coalition Partners Debunk Media Report

Below is a copy of a news release from the National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition, of which RMEF is a member of, issued in response to a recent media report.

Advocating for commonsense, ecologically-sound approaches to managing horses and burros to promote healthy wildlife and rangelands for future generations


Contact: Terra Rentz, NHBRMC Chair
Phone: 301-897-9770 x309 / E-mail: horseandrange@gmail.com

Horse and Burro Coalition Statement on NBC’s Wild Horse Stories

Washington, DC (May 15, 2013) – The National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition issues the following statement in response to two stories released by NBC News today on wild horses:

“Recent stories by NBC News (Today Show: Wild horses: Endangered animals or menace, and Cruel or necessary? and NBCNews.com: The true cost of wild horse roundups) portray only select facts and a narrow part of the reality surrounding wild horses and burros on the western range.

While regarded by many as icons of the American West, free-roaming horses and burros are in fact non-native species that threaten rangelands and native plant and animal species. But managed at appropriate population levels, wild horses and burros are not a “menace,” even to those with whom the range is shared. Nor is it accurate in any way to call wild horses and burros “endangered.” In fact, the problem is an overpopulation of horses and burros in and beyond many herd management areas. It is inaccurate for these reports to depict only healthy horses or rangelands. While this exists, so do unhealthy horses and degraded range. Finally, considering the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Federal agency tasked with managing most of the wild horses and burros in the West, has gathered tens of thousands of horses over the past decades, it is an unfair portrayal of those gathers to focus on a few instances of potentially inappropriate gather methods. While not perfect, the BLM works hard to maintain humane gather methods.

The BLM faces a daunting task. Current herd sizes, which greatly exceed manageable levels, stand to jeopardize other multiple uses called for by law; they do so by trampling vegetation, hardpacking the soil, and over-grazing. Current overpopulation of horses and burros on the range results in great suffering for the animals, many of which are dying of thirst or starvation. Other multiple uses that depend on healthy rangelands are suffering as well. Despite protection under the law, for example, BLM reports that since horses and burros became protected in 1971, ranching families have seen livestock grazing decline by 30 percent on BLM lands. Meanwhile, the horse population is 42 percent above the scientifically-determined Appropriate Management Level (AML) – which is the population size that BLM can graze without causing ecological damage to rangeland resources. More than 37,000 wild horses currently reside on the range, over 11,000 more than the west-wide AML of 26,500 individuals. Without management, horse and burro herds can double in size every four to five years.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 was enacted to protect “wild, free-roaming” horses and burros, as well as guide their management as part of the natural system on BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands in the western United States. The Act requires those agencies to maintain a “thriving natural ecological balance” and protect existing rights on those lands, based on the principle of multiple-use. The Act, as amended, also authorizes the agencies to use or contract for the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles for the purpose of managing horses and burros. This aids BLM to reach AML. When AML is not reached, the animals and other multiple uses, such as wildlife habitat and livestock grazing, are negatively impacted.

Appropriate, scientifically sound management of wild horses and burros on the range is in the interests of all those who care about the health of the animals, the sustainability of the range and the well-being of the rural communities in the West. The NBC stories unfortunately neglect to address these legitimate issues and provide an incomplete picture of the challenges facing policymakers, ranchers, and the conservation community.

For the sake of animal welfare and multiple-use—and in keeping with the Act—the Coalition supports actions that will bring herd sizes in line with AMLs, and emphasizes the following positions:

     The Coalition appreciates BLM’s efforts to find ways to reduce reproduction rates, increase adoptions and otherwise find solutions to a problem that continues to burden the BLM, taxpayers, and ranchers and create concerns for the welfare of horses and burros and the health of wildlife and the habitats on which they depend. About 70 percent of the total program budget ($74.9 million) is currently being spent on the over 50,000 horses and burros being held in corrals and pastures. These levels are unsustainable. We support innovative strategies such as adjusting sex-ratios, and we encourage more research into effective fertility control treatments. Aside from population suppression, offering trained animals for adoption is important to increase demand for excess horses and burros. We encourage cost-effective initiatives to partner with entities such as universities, prisons and the Mustang Heritage Foundation.

     The Coalition applauds the BLM’s implementation of humane handling and holding practices. BLM is now supplementing their already-sound practices with a new Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program. As reported by the American Association of Equine Practitioners in 2011, BLM’s “care, handling and management practices” are “appropriate for this population of horses and generally support the safety, health status and welfare of the animals.”
     The Coalition believes horses and burros should continue to be cared for in a humane manner both on and off the range; integral to this goal is managing herd populations at scientifically determined AMLs and removing old and injured animals. Management decisions should be science-based and increase the ability of rangelands to support healthy horse and burro herds along with other multiple uses, including sustaining native plant and wildlife communities and livestock grazing.

The rangeland resource should be managed for multiple-use in accordance with the law and the land’s scientifically proven capability to accommodate a variety of uses, including the presence of horses and burros and the biodiversity of the landscape. The consistent application of sound science and economics in relation to animal and rangeland management should be used throughout the horse and burro program.”

The coalition is a diverse partnership of 13 wildlife, conservation and sportsmen organizations, industry partners, and professional natural-resource scientific societies working together to identify proactive and comprehensive solutions to increase effective management of horse and burro populations and mitigate the adverse impacts to healthy native fish, wildlife, and plants and the ecosystems on which they depend. For more information, visit www.wildhorserange.org.

American Farm Bureau - Masters of Foxhounds Association - Mule Deer Foundation
National Association of Conservation Districts - National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
National Rifle Association - National Wildlife Refuge Association Public Lands - Council Public Lands Foundation - Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation - Safari Club International - Society for Range Management - The Wildlife Society

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

RMEF, Partners Honored for Pennsylvania Restoration Project

There’s nothing more majestic than seeing elk in the wild. That is, unless the elk are thriving on a landscape you helped restore that was once considered somewhat of a barren wasteland. 

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has a 22 year on-the-ground work history in Pennsylvania. It began with a conservation project, RMEF’s first acquisition east of the Mississippi River, that protected 1,359 acres in State Game Lands #311, or what’s more commonly known today as the Dents Run Watershed Restoration Project. Dents Run is a 25 square mile watershed located in the appropriately named Elk County that is in the center of the habitat range for Pennsylvania's elk herd. The upper portions of the watershed boast a blue ribbon wild trout stream, but extremely acidic mining discharges with highly elevated metals concentrations from both surface and underground mines took a severe toll on the lower stretch of the stream. 

Enter RMEF and its working partners of Bennett Branch Watershed Association, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, P & N Resources and Domtar Paper Mill of Johnsonburg, Pa. Together they joined with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers Riparian Restoration Team to carry out a rehabilitation plan. The work included using materials to help “cure” the land, surface and groundwater. Crews reworked the grade of the land and replanted vegetation across 320 acres of scarred landscape to benefit wildlife. They also did away with 23 mine openings and 10 highwalls, and improved the drainage to treatment systems so downstream sections of Dents Run are running clean and clear for the first time in a century. 

Dents Run
Because of those efforts, and the efforts of its partners, RMEF recently received the 2013 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The award highlights the best in environmental innovation and expertise throughout Pennsylvania via a cross-section of initiatives from cleaning up watersheds, saving energy, eliminating pollution, reducing waste and more.

Dents Run
2013 marks the 100th anniversary of reintroduction of elk to Pennsylvania, but to better appreciate the present you need to take a glimpse into the past. Elk once roamed throughout Pennsylvania; however the last was killed off by 1867. The state released 145 elk brought from Yellowstone National Park into seven counties between 1913 and 1926. By 1998, the herd grew to 312, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission relocated some animals to establish a new herd in the Sproul State Forest. About 850 wild elk roam Pennsylvania today.
RMEF is proud of its Pennsylvania present and past. Since 1991, RMEF contributed more than $114,000 toward acquiring property and enhancing habitat in SGL #311. Across all of Pennsylvania, RMEF and its partners completed 281 conservation and hunting outreach projects with a combined value of more than $21 million. 

Thank you for the honor and here’s to Pennsylvania elk! Long may they grow and flourish across this revamped part of their native range.

2013 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence

Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy 29th Birthday RMEF!

What a difference 29 years makes! On May 14, 1984, four hunters from Northwest Montana pulled the trigger on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, an organization dedicated to elk, elk hunting and elk habitat.

Charlie & Yvonne Decker, Bob & Vicki Munson
(Spokane, 1985)
To make it happen, the Charlie Decker, Bob Munson, Bill Munson and Dan Bull –a logger, a realtor, a drive-in owner, and a pastor— drained their bank accounts and borrowed whatever other funds they could get their hands on to get started. They printed 32,000 copies of the premier issue of Bugle magazine. By the end of 1984, membership grew to almost 2,500. RMEF had its first convention in April of 1985 in Spokane, Washington. At that gathering, Anheuser-Busch announced a $500,000 gift for the fledgling organization. That year also marked the first-ever RMEF habitat project—a grant that helped pay for a prescribed burn in the appropriately named Elk Creek on the Kootenai National Forest near Libby.

By 1988, RMEF had 12 staffers, 2,000 volunteers, 70 chapters, 32,000 members and enhanced more than 110,000 acres of elk country. Busting at the seams of office space in three separate locations, RMEF packed its bags and moved 180 miles south and east to its present day home of Missoula. The first stop was a converted warehouse that also became overcrowded after time because of tremendous growth. 

Fast forward to May 14, 2013, and the ball keeps rolling as RMEF celebrates its 29th birthday. Coming off the best year in its history, the organization can proudly proclaim it enhanced or protected more than 6.3 million acres of habitat across the country. Riding its fourth consecutive year of record membership, RMEF now boasts more than 196,000 members and 10,000+ volunteers in more than 500 chapters around the country. But one thing that remains the same from May 14, 1984, to now is the lingering passion for and dedication to elk and elk country. 

Happy birthday RMEF! Here’s to an even stronger future of enhancing the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Friday, May 10, 2013

For the Love of Elk…on Permanent Display

Dave, in memory of his best friend
Tattoo, tattoo.
So auto-bio-graphic.
Here’s a little secret to make you think:
Why is the crazy stuff we never say, poetry in ink?

--"Tattoo," Van Halen,  (January 10, 2012)

Poetry in ink. Sure, it’s a lyric in a song by a classic rock group. It’s also a more popular way than ever for some to show off their flamboyant style. In fact, it seems the days of the old greenish “I Love Mom” and Navy anchor tattoos are long gone in favor of a "new" wave of body art. New colorful designs seem to be popping up every day in many cities and towns, and in many locations on the human body. You could say this form of body modification, and the love of it, is much more than just skin deep.


The same goes for elk lovers—some of the most passionate folks you’ll find anywhere. We recently passed along the tale of a man from Idaho, Mark Barnard, who professed his love of elk and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation with a permanent statement on his right bicep. An even more recent post of an elk tattoo on the RMEF Facebook page prompted an almost immediate deluge of all kinds of elk tattoos in all kinds of places. 
Greg, Nick, Austin, Joe, Ian, Shaun, Elka (from upper left and rotating clockwise)

Of course, tattoos are anything but new. They have been around for centuries—from the Eurasians in the Neolithic times to ancient Egypt’s high society to tribes in the South Pacific and eventually to North America. Whether carbon, dyes, or war-inspired ink-like designs, the tattoo survived through time. 

The tattoo may still be taboo for some, but it lives on, even if demonstrating a nice 6x6.