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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Fitting Farewell for a True Conservationist

Rance Block
Rance Block doesn’t just know that the mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to enhance the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. He lives it!

Never one to toot his own horn, hundreds did so for him as he recently stood before an appreciative throng of applauding admirers at the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition’s (WWRC) annual breakfast in Seattle. Rance accepted the Joan Thomas Award for his dedication to protecting and conserving wildlife habitat. 

“To stand in especially this room looking around, I am deeply, deeply honored and humbled and want to offer a sincere ‘Thank you’ to the coalition,” said Block. “This award really doesn’t belong to me but instead to the 16,000 Washington Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation members, but really especially to our 300 volunteers around the state that, whenever I have needed something, they’re there.” 

Rance recently retired after a 20-year RMEF career during which he had direct involvement in conserving more than 130,000 acres of wildlife habitat. He served as lands program manager for Washington, with an emphasis on the eastern part of the state, and director of lands nationally. He adhered to the RMEF mission while dedicating himself to securing access for sportsmen, conserving wild places around the West and also assisted his fellow lands program managers with their individual projects. It’s interesting to note that he semi-retired five years ago, but could not stay away from doing what he loved.

Rock Creek Project -- Block was instrumental in transaction that protects more than 10,000 acres of habitat on the east slope of the Cascade Mountains
During his acceptance speech, Rance held up a coffee mug and said, “It’s a symbol of the most important aspect of conservation, and that’s the ability to listen. It’s important to have a cup of coffee and listen to the needs of elected officials... It’s important to have a cup of coffee and listen to the needs of potential partners… In tough economic times, partnerships are the key to showing broad support for projects. It’s important to have a cup of coffee and listen to the needs of outdoor users… It is important to realize that people utilize our lands differently and it’s important to find a way to incorporate their support.” 

He closed with a plea of sorts to his fellow conservationists and those who will follow. “We need to take time to listen to the younger generation and find out and craft programs and projects that are going to appeal to those future conservationists. With that said, I appreciate your time and I’d like to thank you for joining me today for a cup of coffee.” (See the video of his entire speech here.)

Though he worked in the field with a home base in eastern Washington, he casts a tall shadow in the halls of RMEF’s national headquarters.

“Rance Block, through his years with RMEF, became known as the guy who could put together and pull off the large landscape conservation projects; projects that were tens of thousands of acres and had a multitude of partners and complexities,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “Known for his attention to detail, thoroughness, and perseverance, I always knew a project that Rance worked on would be done to the highest standards. Known as a leader, fundraiser, and good thinker, Rance was sought out by his peers for advice and guidance, which caused him to have an impact on elk country beyond the primary states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho that he worked in. Additionally, Rance knows where the RMEF came from, the vision of the founders, and the role of the volunteers and how important they were to getting conservation done on the ground. Rance is very deserving of the recognition he receives.”

Thank you Rance! And good luck in retirement chasing elk in your home state.

Rance and WWRC Board President Peter Dykstra
(It should be noted, and it’s really not that surprising, that Rance is still not fully retired because he willingly still has his fingers in a number of land conservation projects.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

RMEF to Sponsor Inaugural Wyoming Women's Antelope Hunt

Missoula, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will sponsor the First Annual Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt scheduled to take place October 3-6 in Ucross, Wyoming. The goal of the hunt is to promote mentoring through hunting and recreational activities by women from Wyoming and around the country.

“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is pleased to be able to support this first Wyoming Woman’s Antelope Hunt through the Wyoming RMEF State Grants Program,” said Jill Tonn, Wyoming senior regional director. “RMEF is committed to supporting efforts to increase our hunting heritage. This program will encourage women to step forward and learn about hunting while enjoying time together in the field.”

RMEF contributed $2,500 to assist with the event which takes place at the Ranch at Ucross, located approximately 30 miles southeast of Sheridan in the northeast part of Wyoming. Participating hunters will enjoy a weekend of friendly competition, fundraising, and other exciting activities with an emphasis placed on safety, hunting ethics, and social interaction.

"We share the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's commitment to conservation and are thankful for their support,” said Shelley Simonton, Wyoming Women's Foundation vice-chair and co-c-chair of the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt committee. “By hosting a women's-only hunting event, we have the opportunity to talk specifically about the importance of camaraderie and sportsmanship in the field, as well as encourage the growth of more women hunters while preserving our Wyoming hunting heritage, wildlife and open spaces for future generations." 

Monies raised at the event will aid the Wyoming Women's Foundation's mission to invest in the economic, self-sufficiency of women and the future of girls. The Wyoming Women’s Foundation is a component fund of the Wyoming Community Foundation.

Go here for more information.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
RMEF is leading a conservation initiative that 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.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The "WOW" Factor; Women Soak Up Outdoor Skills in Washington

Below is a first-hand account of an RMEF employee, Sales & Marketing Assistant Kirsten Johnson, who took part in a recent RMEF-sponsored camp in Washington.

RMEF scholarship recipients and Eastern WA Regional  Director
Barry Nilson (Photos courtesy Stephanie Pelham)
More than 150 women ranging in age from 18 to 72, from more than 75 different cities, recently came for the Washington Outdoor Women’s (WOW) Fall Workshop. Since 1998, WOW has taught women outdoor skills through hands-on experiences. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is an avid supporter of WOW’s mission and endorses its vision to help women access the outdoors and gain confidence in their skills to do so. From year one, WOW received RMEF funding to provide scholarships for first-time attendees. Each year about a dozen scholarships are awarded to women that may have otherwise not been able to attend. This partnership connects like-minded women from around the Northwest and fosters the growth of generations of respectful, outdoor stewards.

Fly casting anyone?
The workshop offered a variety of clinics like backpacking 101, soap making, fly tying, after the catch, fresh water fishing, tracking 101 and big game hunting. Those are just to name a few! Tucked away in the green forests of Washington at Camp Waskowitz in North Bend, the gathering took place on a State and National Historic Preservation site with the south fork of the Snoqualmie River running adjacent to the camp and Rattlesnake Lake only a short drive away. Early risers and night owls even had the opportunity to watch elk roam through the camp site. It was the perfect setting to ignite everyone’s interest in exploring the outdoors.

Fresh water fishing course
I ventured to WOW from Missoula, Montana, to spend three days participating in this weekend workshop. Participants had the chance to sign up for three different sessions, all taught by volunteers from around the state of Washington. I had the opportunity to develop my fresh water fishing skills, learn how to plan and pack for a backpacking trip, and even tried fly tying for the first time! I had a wonderful time interacting with all the awesome volunteer staff and eager women all ready to learn how to enjoy the beauties of the Northwest. 

Backpacking 101
On Saturday evening, WOW surprised participants with an incredible guest speaker, Helen Thayer! Thayer was the first woman to travel solo to the North Pole. At the age of 50, she pulled her sled through the storms and bear-infested territory of the Artic with her devoted bear dog, Charlie. Her story was terrifying yet magnificent and portrayed just how far you can push your body with proper planning, training, and mental prowess. Her message left all WOW participants energized and determined to push their limits as “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” (Neale Donald Walsch).

First attempt at fly tying
In all, this weekend truly was an experience of a lifetime. I am appreciative to have participated in a program with such a vital mission for women and send my sincere thanks to all the volunteers that make it possible. WOW and the RMEF make a great team! Together we have the ability to impact the lives of many more women to come, all while protecting the wilderness and wildlife for many more generations to enjoy. 

If you are interested in participating or volunteering in this weekend workshop or other clinics offered by WOW, check out their website

For more opportunities to get involved with RMEF in Washington, contact Eastern Washington Regional Director Barry Nilson and check out the RMEF Washington State Chapters Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Bruce McGlenn

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

RMEF Volunteers Beat the Rain, Improve Michigan Elk Country

“Rain, Rain Go Away!" You know, sometimes Mother Nature is just going to do her thing no matter what you have planned. That is exactly what happened at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Michigan Rendezvous. RMEF members representing nine different chapters from all around the state came together for Michigan’s annual gathering of volunteers. They endured a passing thunderstorm and persistent day-long showers but that didn’t stop their desire or their work to enhance the future of elk and elk country in the Great Lakes State.

The rendezvous took place in northern Michigan at the Pigeon River Country State Forest, which includes nearly 100,000 acres of native hardwoods and pines. It is also home to the region’s largest free-roaming elk herd.

The goal was to remove an acre of high fencing originally installed to protect young English Oak seedlings from wildlife. The fence went up two decades years ago but came down in a record time of 55 minutes. As is the case when RMEF volunteers get together, they also enjoyed great food, camaraderie and hunting stories around the fire. Weekend activities also included camping, elk viewing and a tour of past projects.

The group consisted of volunteers from the following Michigan chapters: Alpena, Dundee, Grand Haven, Lansing, Livonia, Mt. Pleasant, Petoskey, Saginaw and Traverse City. 

Go here to learn more about the RMEF in Michigan, and here to follow RMEF-Michigan on Facebook.

Friday, September 13, 2013

RMEF Members "Step Up North"

Friends, food, fun, a whole lot of camaraderie and an eye focused on enhancing the future of elk, elk habitat and our hunting heritage highlighted a recent Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation gathering in Wisconsin. Hosted by RMEF Chairman of the Board Lee Swanson and wife Jacqui, the “Step Up North” event took place September 5-7 in Cable, located in the northernmost stretches of the state. The goal was to gather Life Members and current Habitat Partners from the region to further philanthropic and planned giving opportunities.

Root Beer-colored water at Copper Falls State Park / Lake Namakagon cruise / Elk Zone Tour

The turnout was a good one. Founders Bob Munson and Charlie Decker, and their wives, along with 40 participants from Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri, took in the three-day event that included three early mornings of elk bugling, a visit to Copper Falls State Park, a tour of the Apostle Islands aboard a glass bottom boat and an RMEF project tour. After entertainment provided by “GQ,” a barbershop quartet, several attendees stepped up their Habitat Partner giving levels and several others become new members of the Trails Society making for a successful event and a weekend to remember. 

For more information on RMEF fundraising efforts, or to become an RMEF member, go here.

RMEF Volunteer Honored for Helping Virginia Elk Restoration

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is committed to enhancing the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. That is a given. It is who we are and what we strive to accomplish as an organization of some 200,000 members strong. BUT we cannot do what we do without the hard work, passion and dedication of our more than 10,000 volunteers. They are the force that propel us forward. They are the fundraising mechanism that raises dollars we put back on the ground for conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects making a difference across elk country and around the country.

There is no way for RMEF to give the credit to every individual volunteer by name. Just know that we appreciate it in the greatest of ways! We also appreciate it when our partners recognize RMEF volunteers who step up for the greater good. Below is a snapshot from the latest edition of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Outdoor report.

As stated, Leon Boyd has been instrumental in helping RMEF in its effort to assist VDGIF in returning elk to their native Virginia range. Thank you VDGIF. Thank you Leon and our RMEF volunteers who helped and continue to help with this vital effort. And thank you to all our RMEF volunteers for all you do!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September 11th: Remember, Honor and Serve

Dear RMEF Family,

There are few events in our lifetimes when we can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. The terrorist attacks that struck our country on September 11, 2001, certainly qualify. I clearly recall where I was and the feelings I felt when I first heard about and saw the destruction that took the lives of 2,977 people in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Those attacks caused us to collectively buckle at the knees but they strengthened our resolve to reach out to those around us and stand tall together as Americans. 

September 11 is now designated as Patriot Day. We are asked to fly the Stars and Stripes at half-staff at our homes. The American flag will also fly at half-staff at the White House, the United States Capitol and all government buildings nationwide and abroad. There will be a White House ceremony, as there is every year, with the President asking Americans to observe a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. (ET), the exact time that the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. 

Patriot Day is also a day of service. It is a day to look beyond ourselves and volunteer to help those around us. That is something we, as an RMEF family, know too well. We have more than 10,000 dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to further our mission to enhance the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. 

Take a moment with me on September 11 to pause, remember and honor those we lost 12 years ago. Then let’s continue to move forward, recognize the freedom we enjoy as Americans and make a difference by serving each other and the land and wildlife we love.


M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

Friday, September 6, 2013

16 Years Later: Mission Accomplished

Poison Creek, Wyoming
(Photo via Kim Fadiman)
1997 is known for a lot of things. Among them are the following:
  • Bill Clinton was inaugurated for his second term
  • China took possession of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom 
  • Tiger Woods won the Masters (1st career golf major)
  • Scottish scientists cloned an adult sheep named Dolly
  • The Dow-Jones closed above 7,000 for the first time
  • Timothy McVeigh sentenced to death for the Oklahoma City bombing
  • Woolworths closed after 117 years in business
  • Lady Di died after a crash in Paris
(Photo via Mimi King)
Also in 1997, the month of May to be exact, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided $20,500 in funding to assist the Jackson Hole Land Trust with the purchase of a small tract of land known as the Poison Creek property. (Poison Creek received its name because of sulfur springs that exist at the mouth of the stream that runs through the land.) Located about 20 minutes south of Jackson, Wyoming, the 37 acre parcel provides vital winter range for elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose and other wildlife. It also offers a key public access point to the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Gros Ventre Wilderness. 

Fast-forward to 16 years later when the ultimate goal of the original transaction finally came to pass. On August 27, 2013, the Poison Creek parcel was conveyed to the Bridger-Teton National Forest – as was the goal all along – via funds provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund

It truly is a win-win for all involved – elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mule deer, hunters, hikers, nature lovers, our children and grandchildren. We will all be able to better enjoy the beauty of the Greater Yellowstone landscape for centuries to come.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Honoring a True American Hero

Bo & Landon at RMEF headquarters
The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to enhance the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Though not a stated part of our mission, there is another cause that lies closely to our collective heart. RMEF is a staunch supporter of our servicemen and women who serve both abroad and at home to keep our nation safe and free.

We recently had the opportunity to welcome a real life American hero to RMEF headquarters. Here is his story. 

Bo Reichenbach is from Billings, Montana, where he grew up as an avid ice hockey player. At age 15, he left home to pursue his dream of being a goaltender in the National Hockey League. He traveled north of the border to play junior hockey in Canada for the Thunder Bay Wolverines. 

Four years later, in March of 2008, Bo decided to serve our country and enlisted in the Navy. That same year he became the father of a baby boy, Landon. In May of 2010 he received a promotion to Navy SEAL and became entrusted with serving some of the most dangerous missions in the military. Bo’s unit received deployment orders to Afghanistan on January 3, 2012. Six months later, Bo and his five man unit walked down a road when he triggered an underground explosive. 

“I hit the ground and was awake immediately. My left leg was completely gone. My right leg was damaged pretty bad. I just knew I had to stop the bleeding. I tried getting a tourniquet on and I couldn’t because my right arm was pretty mangled.”

Bo suffered horrific injuries. He lost his left leg and his right leg below the knee. He also suffered a 40 to 60 percent hearing loss and has severe nerve damage in his right arm. 

(Photo via Montana Grizzlies
see video below of the jump)
RMEF recently teamed up with other partners to support Bo and his family during a visit to Missoula to take part in multiple fundraising efforts for a trust account to build the Reichenbachs a handicap accessible home. (Go here to make a tax deductible donation.) 

In addition to visiting RMEF headquarters, he took part in several meet-and-greet events around town and capped off his visit at the 2013 home opener for the University of Montana football team. Six former Navy SEAL Leap Frogs from the Navy’s premiere demonstration jump team, which included several of his friends, parachuted into Washington-Grizzly Stadium to honor and recognize their injured brother. 

Lacy, Bo & Landon at Washington-Grizzly Stadium
(Photo via Kurt Wilson/Missoulian)
An all-time record crowd of 26,293 stood as one to honor Bo and to cheer the jumpers who supported him. It was an electricity-filled kind of moment. Bo, a Griz fan himself, was on the sidelines where he watched his team roll over visiting Appalachian State 30-6. 

(Video courtesy Jim Kinsey & Jana Waller)

(Video of the jump)

At just 25 years of age with wife Lacy and a now five year old son, Bo now spends the majority of his time at Walter Reed Medical Hospital where he underwent 20 medical procedures with more to come.

Bo continues his quest for personal excellence shortly when he takes part in the Never Quit Challenge, a private charity ride for military personnel. The invitation-only event features six four-person teams that will ride personal water crafts 1,600 miles to New York City. Bo will serve as an operator on Team Spartan

Bo's father will relocate to Bethesda for the next year as Bo undergoes extensive rehabilitation in Maryland. Bo's mom says the Navy SEAL community embraced her son and their family. Don Reichenbach said Bo has a long road ahead of him, but he's going to land on top. He told his father, "I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. God has me on a new path and I'm excited for this new adventure."