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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Labor Day 2013: Looking Back, Forging Ahead

Dear RMEF Family,

The first Monday in September is a time for many families and friends to hold that final cookout, campout, vacation or “so long summer” gathering before our kids gear up to return to school. 

Labor Day is a federal holiday with roots dating clear back to the late 1800's. It celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers who have done so much to make this country great.

As Americans and members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, I hope we all recognize the toil, sweat, innovation and successful achievement of those who went before us. At the RMEF we take great pride in being the conservation group of the working men and women in North America. It is that work ethic that made RMEF successful in our habitat work, our elk reintroductions and our hunting heritage legacy. 

While Labor Day falls just once a year on the calendar, I want to let our volunteers know how much we appreciate your dedication and hard work all year long. You are the engine that powers the RMEF machine. To date, your passion lifted RMEF to some lofty accomplishments: more than 6.3 million acres of conserved or protected habitat, 650,000 acres of land opened for public access and the successful reintroduction of elk into Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Missouri, Virginia, and Ontario. Plus many of you freely give of your time and money to volunteer at youth and adult camps to better enhance our hunting heritage, and do so many other things to conserve and improve elk country. 

But we can’t spend our time looking in the rear view mirror. There is much work still to do. So take a moment, pat yourself on the back and then join me and RMEF members nationwide as we roll up our sleeves and labor together toward an even better future. 


M. David Allen
President and CEO

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why Do You Hunt Elk?

Why do you hunt elk? According to a recent survey by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), trophies rank low among the main reasons people take to the field. Top motivations? “Just being outdoors,” “seeing an elk in a natural setting,” “being close to nature,” “viewing the scenery” and “being with friends” make up the top five, followed by spending time with family and putting meat on the table. 

As a hunter, this may come as no surprise. But for anyone who has ever been accused of only caring about putting a set of big antlers on the wall—or of conserving elk just so we can kill them—the survey provides hard data that upends common stereotypes. Just 22 percent of respondents ranked harvesting a mature bull as extremely important, with nearly two-thirds placing it as moderately to not important at all. 

For Idaho Fish and Game, the standout finding was the affirmation of how much Idaho hunters prize the opportunity to hunt elk there every year. 

“The number one thing that we drew from the survey is that people really like to be able to go elk hunting every year,” says Toby Boudreau, Idaho’s deer and elk coordinator. 

It’s been a quarter-century since Idaho Fish and Game conducted such a survey. “We’re rewriting Idaho’s statewide elk management plan,” Boudreau says. “Assessing the opinions and attitudes of elk hunters is critical to writing a good plan that will work for people.” 

The last time IDFG updated its plan, the department held public forums but did not do a comprehensive survey like this one. “We rewrote the 1998 plan sort of in a vacuum, and I think this is a better way of actually managing for what people’s expectations and attitudes are,” Boudreau says. 

IDFG sent the survey out as paper copies to more than 6,000 random hunters who bought Idaho elk tags in 2011 (10 percent nonresidents), giving them the option of filling it out online using a unique login number. Almost half responded, completing 2,786 surveys. The median age of surveyed hunters is now 50 years old, a 10-year increase from the survey taken in 1987. 

The department is currently using the feedback from the surveys along with public forums to help formulate a new elk hunting management plan. In fact, the department recently got back a second survey it sent out, to evaluate how hunters like some of the ideas spurred by the first survey. 

While far from shocking, many results that come out of these surveys are essential in guiding state agencies as they consider changes to management plans. “One of the favorite quotes I read on the written responses was, ‘Go ahead and change what you want—just don’t mess it up,’” Boudreau says. “And we’re trying desperately not to mess it up.”

Stephanie Parker, Bugle Intern

(This is a reprint from the September-October issue of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's Bugle magazine. Click here to get your own Bugle subscription by becoming an RMEF member.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

RMEF Praises Utah Governor for Stance on Book Cliffs Petroleum Development

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation applauded Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s call for a more deliberate, transparent approach to oil and gas development in the Book Cliffs, an area renowned for its prime elk habitat and blue ribbon fishing.

Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands (SITLA), a state agency tasked with maximizing income for Utah’s schools and children, authorized the signing of an oil and gas lease with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation for a roadless, public area in the Book Cliffs known as Willow Creek. If the deal receives final approval, the Texas-based company receives the green light to drill on 96,000 acres of prime elk country. 

Sportsmen are upset with the lease because they had no idea such negotiations were taking place. Media reports indicate the SITLA board discussed details of the contract behind closed doors, then resumed its discussion in public and voted to approve the deal.

“RMEF has a long history of working with energy development and looks forward to participating in an open process to assure important habitat and wildlife issues are considered in the process,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We echo Governor Herbert in his request to slow down what’s happening in the Book Cliffs and let everyone know what is going on.”

“SITLA’s decision to lease the entire Book Cliffs block could be at the expense of a more vital and potentially more valuable land management strategy,” said Governor Herbert. “I am confident a better process will result in a better outcome that serves all concerned. I urge SITLA to reconsider this critical decision and not execute a contract on these terms.”

Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 402 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Utah with a combined value of more than $44.4 million dollars that enhanced or protected more than 938,000 acres.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Celebrating Conservation in the Cowboy State

HF Bar Ranch (Photo courtesy trib.com)
The guest of honor wore no ten gallon cowboy hat, cowboy boots or even one of those big, shiny belt buckles. What she did do, however, is turn the most heads.

She is the HF Bar Ranch—a beautiful Wyoming landmark located along the face of the Big Horn Mountains and the second oldest guest ranch in the United States. Sunday, August 18, 2013, marked an opportunity for admirers to gather and honor her. More specifically, they came together to celebrate the completion of a conservation easement project by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that forever protects 2,166 acres of her thriving elk habitat and beautiful landscapes.

Folks from all walks of life attended the celebration including guests representing family, friends and neighbors of HF Bar Ranch; RMEF staff, board and volunteers; TNC and its constituents, funders and supporters of the project; and political representatives. Presenters at the event highlighted the critical importance of protecting the ranch for its outstanding habitat features and its key location along the Rock Creek drainage and adjacency to the Bud Love Wildlife Management Area and Bighorn National Forest lands. The ranch participates in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Walk-in Access Program, and also provides an access easement to the US Forest Service for public to enter National Forest lands beyond its boundary. Ranch owner Margi Schroth received a bronze plaque commemorating the conservation easement, forever marking the conservation milestone.

The easement work, completed in December 2013, pushed RMEF’s conservation efforts in Wyoming alone over the one million acre mark—the only state with such a designation. 

Atta girl HF Bar, you never looked so good!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

RMEF, USFS Give South Dakota Wildlife Plenty to ‘Guzzle’ About

“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” is one of the oldest English proverbs in existence. How's this for a wildlife-friendly proverb: “If an elk makes its way to a water guzzler, will it guzzle?” 

Elk and other wildlife in South Dakota now have that option thanks to ongoing repair work by volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Black Hills National Forest. Members of the RMEF Gold Country Chapter, based out of Deadwood, are working to fix 5-10 guzzlers per year for the next several years on the Northern Hills Ranger District. When all is said and done, 47 guzzlers will be good to go for wildlife. 

“Guzzlers are intended to improve habitat for wildlife by providing water, mainly in locations where there is not a natural water source,” said Jeff Goldberg, wildlife biologist, Northern Hills Ranger District.

The RMEF and the Forest Service partnered for many years across the country. “They do wonderful habitat improvement projects for wildlife and often the Forest Service just doesn’t have the funds to do some of the projects that we’d like to do,” said Goldberg. “Having partnerships with organizations like RMEF really help us maintain our habitat for wildlife.”

The RMEF provided funding for the project with a $3,000 grant awarded to the Gold Country chapter. RMEF purchased materials, donated products from private companies and provided volunteer labor.

Goldberg said that once the guzzlers are repaired, they are not very difficult to maintain. “Each year they will need to be checked to make sure the drains are unclogged and the fences are still up and in place,” said Goldberg. “With RMEF help, our goal is to get as many of these back in working condition and keep them in working condition by maintaining them on a regular basis.”

Larry Karns, RMEF volunteer, said that most of the volunteers in the group are hunters and spend a lot of time in the woods. “We have come across these sites and always wondered why there was no maintenance done on them and of course budgets are getting tighter and tighter for government entities and so we were of the opinion that coming to the end of our hunting time, it was a real requirement that we put back, give back for what we have had in our generations for the new generations coming.”

Signs will be installed on the newly repaired guzzlers. They will provide an overview on what a guzzler is, why they are important, and who to contact if a guzzler is not functional or if it is damaged.

“The camaraderie is what we are all about. It’s like being in a hunting group – We come to the woods to enjoy each other’s company,” said Karns. 

The repaired guzzlers will provide a watery oasis for big game species, like elk and deer, and also small mammals, birds, and bats.

Now that’s something to guzzle about!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Virginia Elk Reintroduction Gets Another BIG Boost

Courtesy Leon Boyd/RMEF South West Virginia Coalfields Chapter
It was just one line located near the bottom of a news release issued by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. It states, “In other wildlife-related business, commissioners recommended providing 50 elk to Virginia for that state’s elk restoration efforts.” True, the focus of the release was on Kentucky waterfowl licenses and seasons but that one short line has big, positive ramifications for returning more elk to their native range.

Assuming all goes as planned; the addition of 50 elk will cap reintroduction efforts by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to eventually grow Virginia’s elk herd to 400 animals which would promote both wildlife viewing and limited hunting opportunities. It was just this past May when a successful reintroduction of 10 elk, also from Kentucky, hit the ground in Buchanan County. Those elk joined an existing herd of 24 animals. 

Funding provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation helped pay for those previous efforts. And RMEF’s wallet will again be open to assist with the third and final Virginia elk reintroduction. On top of that, RMEF volunteers plan to be on the ground in both Kentucky and Virginia to lend a helping hand.

Our thanks to all for your continuing support that makes worthy efforts like this one possible!

RMEF Response to New York Times Editorial on Gray Wolves

The New York Times Editorial Board recently issued an opinion (August 16, 2013) critical of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, as well as Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for their handling of gray wolf management. Below is a response to that editorial by RMEF President/CEO David Allen: 

“Your recent Op-ed about gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains is a prime example why you publish newspapers and our state wildlife agencies manage wildlife. Gray wolves have far exceeded their recovery goal approved by EVERYONE upon their release by some 500%. Try to stick to the facts and not your metro emotions that do not apply to managing wildlife. You undermine and discredit the wildlife agencies of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho with your remarks that are based on no facts. Who do you think recovered the gray wolf population to this point?” 

M. David Allen
President & CEO
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Thursday, August 15, 2013

National Survey: Public Approval of Hunting at 18-Year High

Below is an Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation news release regarding America's increasing approval rating of hunting. It includes a couple of graphics from the study itself.

MISSOULA, Mont.—A recent nationwide survey indicates 79% of Americans approve of hunting, marking a five percent increase from 2011 and the highest level since 1995. 

“Hunting is a way of life for many of us. Most Americans recognize and agree with that,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Hunting is conservation! It has a tremendous positive impact on wildlife and wildlife habitat.” 

Responsive Management, a public opinion research organization focusing on natural resource and outdoor recreation issues, began to scientifically track nationwide hunting approval trends in 1995. The most recent finding of 79% is the highest percentage to date. Trends remain relatively steady over the years: 73% in 1995, 75% in 2003, 78% in 2006, 74% in 2011 and 79% in 2013. 

The survey also found that more than half of Americans (52%) strongly approve of hunting (79% strongly or moderately approve), while 12% disapprove (strongly or moderately) of hunting. Another 9% gave a neutral answer. 

The increase in acceptance may be linked to results from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report (2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation) that shows hunting participation increased by 9% since 2006 while shooting participation increased 18 percent since 2009. Other Responsive Management studies on public opinion on hunting show the strongest correlation with the approval of hunting is knowing a hunter. 

“Hunting has a tremendous and measureable link to conservation. Hunters deserve to be proud of their contributions to wildlife, habitat and resource management,” added Allen. 

Hunting directly accounts for more than a million jobs in the United States and creates an overall economy of $67 billion per year. Hunters provide the vast majority of funding that allows state wildlife agencies to successfully manage our wildlife resources through license sales and excise taxes on hunting equipment. 

Conducted in February 2013, the Responsive Management survey randomly surveyed 1,306 Americans 18 years of age and older.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
RMEF is leading a conservation initiative that has protected or enhanced habitat on more than 6.3 million acres—an area larger than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains national parks combined. RMEF also is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. RMEF members, partners and volunteers, working together as Team Elk, are making a difference all across elk country. Join us at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

'Competing' for a Love of the Outdoors in New York

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is not just about elk. It’s about enhancing our hunting heritage and instilling a love of the outdoors with the next generation. That’s why RMEF co-sponsored the Leatherstocking Envirothon in Otsego County, New York, each of the last two years. RMEF volunteers in New York raised the money through membership drives and banquet fundraising to assist other partners in helping pay for the event. 

If you’re not familiar with it, Envirothon is a scholastic competition for high school students with a unique approach to environmental education. Its mission is to develop knowledgeable, skilled, and dedicated citizens who are willing and prepared to work toward achieving a balance between the quality of life and the quality of the environment. Envirothon tests students’ knowledge on five natural resources topics: soils and land use, aquatics ecology, forestry, wildlife, and current environmental issues. Teams from school districts across the country compete outdoors where cooperation and teamwork is needed to achieve success. The winning teams advance to state competition and the winner there advances to the national competition that reaches more than 500,000 students across North America. 
Oneonta High School
The 2013 Leatherstocking Envirothon took place at the Gilbert Lake State Park in Lauren, NY. Oneonta High School won the local competition for the fifth year in a row. While only one team sports the title of “champion,” all participants are winners because everyone came away with a better appreciation of the world around them and how they can make a difference for its future. 

And that’s something all of us, RMEF included, can be proud of!

(By the way, the New York state champions, Mount Academy in Esopus, N.Y., also won the national crown. Massachusetts finished second followed by Missouri, New Hampshire and Mississippi.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Converting a Path for Wyoming Elk

Photo courtesy John Walen
Some of the most disturbing sights in the wild are when you come across an animal injured or killed because of some sort of unintentional human-related encounter. Barbed wire fences are among of the biggest culprits out there. The photo to the left shows a bull that met its fate stuck in a barbed wire fence in Idaho. The photo below is of a buck in South Dakota discovered by pheasant hunters who happened to come upon it. These are among the reasons why the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its volunteers are so passionate about clearing migratory routes for elk, deer, antelope and other wildlife.

Photo courtesy Brian
To cite a specific example, RMEF remains part of a continuing collaborative project in south-central Wyoming’s Carbon County to improve wildlife passage and reduce the impact of fences. In 2012, workers toiled to replace and convert 1.1 miles of four-strand, barbed wire mesh fencing to a safer design. They erected three-strand fencing that included a wood post rail-top, two middle strands of barbed wire and a bottom strand of smooth wire. RMEF funds totaling $5,980 paid for the wire used along the western border of what’s called the Pole Canyon Fence Conversion project. That wire will also be used in 2013 to finish up an additional 2-3 miles of fence conversion on the project’s western edge in addition to work along the eastern border.

Wyoming Conservation Corps members (left) and a private landowner (right) clear the path for wildlife

Partners include the Bureau of Land ManagementWyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Governors Big Game License Coalition, Wyoming Conservation Corps and several private landowners. 

Our thanks go out to all of our partners and everyone who cares for and appreciates elk and elk country in Wyoming and across the nation!

Honoring RMEF's First Life Member, Clint Mills R.I.P.

History and nostalgia often accompany each other arm in arm. For example, take this plaque to the right. It's old. It's durable. And it's quite heavy. It belonged to the first-ever life member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. A family member recently delivered it to RMEF headquarters where it will eventually go on display in the Elk Country Visitor Center. It is linked to a unique man who believed in RMEF and had ties to the organization clear back to its founding in 1984. RMEF President/CEO David Allen tells his story in the President's Message of the September-October 2013 issue of Bugle magazine.

Paying Tribute to RMEF’s First True Believer

On March 1st, 1985, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was living hand-to-mouth, headquartered in a trailer in Troy, Montana, that would have made the Unabomber feel right at home. With the RMEF’s first anniversary just two months away, total membership remained well south of 2,000 and the outfit was surviving on prayers and borrowed time. But on that day, a man named Clint Mills became the foundation’s first life member for $600.

“I can assure you, the odds that the Elk Foundation would live to see the end of 1985 were about the same as they are for a wobbly legged newborn elk calf,” says RMEF co-founder Bob Munson. “I can’t overemphasize the boost it gave us to have Clint believe in this dream of ensuring a future for wild, free-ranging elk enough to step up and make that kind of commitment.” 

Clint & wife Gloria of 58 years
So who was this man, the RMEF’s first true believer? Clint Mills grew up on a cattle ranch on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, the beginning of a lifetime spent on the back of a horse. He went on to manage cattle ranches and dude ranches, work the oil fields, log and operate heavy equipment on dirt construction, and—his favorite—work as an outfitter and guide in the Scapegoat and Bob Marshall wildernesses. 

Along the trail, though, Clint served 24 years in the Army, becoming a Green Beret (Special Forces) and doing two tours of duty in Vietnam. He left the Army as a First Sergeant with a Bronze Star and a Joint Commendation Medal from General Westmoreland himself. A master parachutist, Clint made more than 600 jumps, his worst injury a sprained ankle.

Clint’s great-nephew, Brett Mills, says, “I’ve been around some tough men in my life, and he’s one of the few I’ve been in awe of. He was old-school. He was a man of few words and all action. It was never about talking with him; it was always about doing.”

And that’s how it was with becoming Life Member #1. Since Clint Mills led by example 28 years ago, 20,962 others have been inspired to join him as life members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. That means more than one out of every 10 RMEF members are now life members. The price of membership has since increased twice to keep up with inflation (to $1,000 in 1990 and $1,500 in 2006), but our members have remained more than willing to follow Clint’s lead. They hail from all 50 states and 16 countries, ranging from Australia to Switzerland. Newborn babies have been signed up in their first hour on Earth. Octogenarians with way more of the trail behind them than ahead have still gotten in for life. And even though they’ve already made a significant, lasting commitment, life members are consistently among the Elk Foundation’s best donors, showing their passion by making additional ongoing contributions to the future of elk country. 

“Clint was always proud to have been the RMEF’s first life member,” says Charlie Decker, co-founder of the Elk Foundation. “That sure goes both ways. We’ve always been proud to have him as the first.” 

Inspired by the example of his great-uncle, Brett went on to a career in the military himself. 

“Clint was my real-life John Wayne—he always commanded instant respect,” Brett says. “But he had an unbelievably kind heart. He helped a lot of young soldiers along the way.”

Brett says that Clint always savored the isolation and beauty of the outdoors. Where Clint and his wife of 58 years, Gloria, lived in Eureka, Montana, he could literally step out his back door and be in elk country. He went out that door often. 

“He had an innate sense about the wilderness,” Brett says. “He read the tracks and knew the plants. He was a great fisherman, and hunting was almost a spiritual thing with him.”

I expect that’s a trait a whole lot of our life members can relate to. Clint Mills died December 11, 2012, six weeks after his wife Gloria passed. He was 82. At Clint’s request, his ashes will be carried by horseback deep into the Scapegoat Wilderness where he loved to chase elk. They will be scattered on Bugle Mountain.

On behalf of every RMEF life member, Mr. Mills, we salute you.

--M. David Allen, RMEF President and CEO

Young Clint on a successful elk hunt

(Click here if interested in joining RMEF and receiving a subscription to Bugle magazine.)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wyoming: Short on Population, BIG on Accomplishment!

HF Bar Ranch conservation easements pushed Wyoming
over the one million mark 
In December 2012, Wyoming was fortunate to surpass one million acres protected and enhanced. This incredible accomplishment is due to the passion of Team Wyoming. Volunteers from across the Cowboy State have figured out how to pull together as one in our fundraising efforts.

Anyone who attends Volunteer Fun Night at Elk Camp is familiar with the energy and enthusiasm of Team Wyoming. We bring that same level of dedication to each fundraising event across the state. 

While Wyoming volunteers are exceptional at watching the bottom line and continually following the numbers, our success is mostly a result of our teamwork. The entire state comes together to celebrate the success of each individual chapter. Many volunteers will travel up to seven hours to help another chapter have a successful event. It’s not uncommon for over 20 volunteers to show up at another chapter’s banquet. This teamwork allows for volunteers to continually learn, share and improve upon ideas. 

Here's to Trudi!
Las Vegas (March 2013)
Our team also unites any time one of our own is in need. At this year’s Elk Camp in Las Vegas you may have noticed Team Wyoming’s pink T-Shirts. The shirts were donated by volunteers and then sold to the team and anyone in Wyoming. All proceeds were donated to one of our chapter chairs who is currently fighting breast cancer. 

Wyoming’s State Leadership Team has become the nucleus of Team Wyoming. Our team strives to achieve our state goals while keeping the “fun” in fundraising. Many team members and their families have developed strong friendships that extend into hunting season and beyond. 

Although Wyoming has the lowest population in the U.S., Team Wyoming has been able to lead the nation in fundraising two years in a row and came in second for the preceding six years. This success is directly responsible for the dollars we are able to put back onto the ground. The Wyoming Project Advisory Committee is diligent in carefully allocating the dollars that Team Wyoming has worked so hard to raise. This combination of successful fundraising and thoughtful allocation led Wyoming to exceed the 1 million-acre mark in 2012. 

And that’s what it’s all about—putting the dollars to work on the ground for elk and other wildlife. 

Thanks, Team Wyoming, for all you do!

-- Tom Kaness, Wyoming State Chair