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


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Making Memories at Valles Caldera

Ryan Hansen (middle) with his cow elk
On October 26, 2012, I joined six RMEF Albuquerque Chapter volunteers at New Mexico’s spectacular Valles Caldera for the tenth year in a row to help with a mobility-impaired cow elk hunt. Participating in this hunt every year means a lot to me. I love helping these very special people get out into the forest and experience the most beautiful land ever created.

The hunters’ excitement was palpable that beautiful fall day as we arrived at the Valles Caldera headquarters in Jemez Falls. While these folks are always inspiring, one man in particular made the 2012 hunt especially memorable for me.

Twenty-six-year-old Ryan Hanson from Farmington, New Mexico, was born with Down syndrome. He manages to live a full, happy life that includes winning Special Olympics medals, bowling in a league, and hunting with his father Mike.

Ryan was disappointed after not seeing elk the first day of the hunt. Hunt manager Mick Trujillo suggested RMEF volunteer Bob Nordstrum take Ryan and Mike to one of the honey holes in Unit 1 where elk frequently feed. Just before sunset, half-a-dozen cows came down the trail. Ryan picked out a nice one, but shot high at 100 yards for a clean miss.

The next evening, I had the privilege of hunting with Ryan. After planning a strategy with Trujillo and the other volunteers, Ryan, Mike and I drove to a forest clearing where we prepared for a long wait for the elk to emerge from the trees. Amazingly, five cows and a spike bull appeared almost immediately from the opposite side of the clearing. The elk never come out from that side so early in the day! It was like they were on a string being pulled across the field.

We were able to close to within 120 yards, and Ryan set up his shooting sticks and fired twice. He missed both times; miraculously, the elk didn’t spook. I told Ryan to shoot low, fearing his sights might be off. That did the trick, and the elk fell. Ryan was ecstatic and Mike beamed with pride.

I have never seen elk react as they did that day. I am convinced someone upstairs was looking out for us, and especially for Ryan.

I would like to thank Ryan and Mike Hanson, the Valles Caldera staff, and RMEF for allowing us this memorable hunting experience.

--Tim Westemeier, RMEF Albuquerque Chapter Chair 

Grand Junction Chapter: Thinking Out of the Box

Grand Junction volunteers assist with Brother
in Arms Veterans Hunt each fall
After another incredible year in 2012, RMEF’s Grand Junction Chapter became the second in history to raise a cumulative $3 million. That equals nearly 20,000 acres of elk habitat enhanced or protected through the dedication of a single chapter. So what’s their secret for success? 

“We’ve just got a great committee,” chapter chair Terry Sweet says. “They think out of the box all the time and they’re willing to try new things. They’re just totally amazing.” 

Grand Junction’s annual big game banquet is one of the most successful in the country, a feat that takes of a lot of planning and work. Several years ago committee members traveled to California to learn how to put on a huge gun raffle. They tweaked the methods they learned there, and reaped the rewards. In the last few years they’ve reached their goal of collecting $100,000 through the live auction, and they recently added corporate tables. 

But it takes more than a great banquet to net more than $300,000 each year as Grand Junction does. Chapter volunteers also run a golf tournament every summer, help put on the Professional Bull Riding tour when it comes through town, and sponsor and host a booth with the Great Elk Tour at the Country Music Jam. 

2013 Country Music Jam
While fundraising is the chapter’s primary goal, these volunteers get their hands dirty in the field, too. Pulling old fence to improve elk habitat is a popular pastime. Promoting our hunting heritage is important to the committee as well. In April, volunteers helped put on Outdoor Heritage Day, which shares opportunities for outdoor recreation with young people. Each year, committee members also co-sponsor at the Brothers in Arms hunt for veterans. 

2013 Country Music Jam
Even more remarkable is that many folks from the Grand Junction Chapter find time to volunteer for other organizations as well. “Even away from the RMEF probably 90 percent of the members volunteer doing other things,” chapter co-chair Art Graham says. 

The committee puts in a lot of work, but they spend time having fun together, too. “The committee runs as an extended family,” Graham says, adding that they are all friends who meet up for lunch and other social events. 

Though it may sound like it, the Grand Junction Chapter isn’t made up of super humans. Any chapter can reach their success, Sweet says. The key is communication and cooperation, and borrowing ideas from any chapter that has had success fundraising. “Go learn something new,” he suggests. “Change the banquets around.” 

Sweet recommends pairing up with a chapter of similar size to bounce ideas off each other. The Grand Junction Chapter works closely with its sister chapter in Tucson, Arizona. The two have a friendly rivalry going that keeps motivation high. 

In 2012, the Tucson Chapter set the all-time record for the most money raised in a single year at $412,000. Not to be outdone, Grand Junction hopes to become the number one fundraising chapter in the history of RMEF. If things go as planned, they just might meet that goal this year. 

--Alexander Deedy, Bugle Intern

A Hunt Unlike Any Other

Young volunteers Alyson & Hunter Welch
Any hunter will tell you that tracking elk can be an exhilarating and exhausting experience. You can see where they bed. You can see their tracks. You can see their sign. You can even smell them in the air and yet sometimes you just never spot them. A just-completed elk “hunt” in the thick foliage and forests of Wisconsin just wrapped up with a much more than just a sighting.

Eighty-five volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation from across Wisconsin, and a handful from the Northeast, teamed up with 10 other volunteers for the annual calf search at Clam Lake. They scoured the forest floor of Ashland County for five days over two weekends as part of a joint effort with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with a goal of finding, weighing, and collaring elk calves for future population studies. 

Here’s the successful bottom line: 23 calves found including 13 females and 10 males. (One female calf was found dead.) Not only did their effort meet overall capture goals but it is also a positive for the future of the growing elk herd that females outnumber males. Last year, the final count was 12 males and 7 females. On top of that, monitoring continues in the field because three prospective mothers are yet to deliver. And if you’re wondering, volunteers also saw plenty of whitetail and even a black bear or two.



Aside from the camaraderie built from the day-long searches, RMEF also hosted campfire activities on three different nights at a nearby cabin. There was also a reception hosted by Chairman of the Board Lee Swanson and wife Jacqui.


Once again, thank you volunteers! Thanks for ensuring the future of elk and elk country in Wisconsin!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Get the Facts

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and our members are concerned about and work for all wildlife resources. One of our nation’s greatest wildlife resources, the elk in and around Yellowstone National Park (YNP), is of particular concern. RMEF members, hunters, and state and federal agencies have worked tirelessly to restore and sustain the elk herds around YNP for almost 100 years. In the last two decades, alarming trends have been identified in the YNP elk herds, particularly the Northern Yellowstone elk herd; a trend that should be alarming to all Americans who enjoy this amazing wildlife resource.
In spite of the remarkable conservation efforts of hunters, state agencies, RMEF, and our partners, elk numbers have continued to decline since 1995. Historical fluctuations over the previous 75 years were temporary and lasting only a few years before a rebound to historic levels. YNP elk are currently in a long-term decline, spanning almost two decades.

We can no longer ignore the peril of the Yellowstone elk. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, both within and outside the park, is as complex as it is amazing. This system will not sustain by focusing only on one or two species, but must focus on all species, all wildlife, and the complex habitats needed by these animals.

It is unfortunate that the one species most used as the food source for all YNP predators, elk, has been forgotten and neglected as other higher profile species garner all the attention in the Yellowstone area. No longer can elk afford to pay the price for management strategies that focus on one or two predator species, at the expense of all other prey species such as elk, moose, deer, and bighorn sheep.

As much as some want to discount all of the conservation work hunters have done around YNP, RMEF believes it is necessary to provide the true and indisputable facts related to this issue. Some of these facts are not popular and are not what some groups and organizations want presented.

RMEF has always supported science based on facts and results. The facts and results of the past twenty years are alarming to us and we continue to ask all Americans to seek information for themselves, helping them become advocates for this once abundant and now declining wildlife wonder – the elk of the Northern Herd.

Please read the facts provided below:

Elk Populations in the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd

Year        Elk Population* 

1994       19,045 (year before wolf reintroduction)
1995       16,791 (reintroduction began) 
1996       no count taken 
1997       no count taken 
1998      11,742
1999      14,538 (prior to late season elk hunt)
2000      13, 400 (prior to late season elk hunt)
2001      11,969
2002-03 9,215
2004       8,335
2005       9,545 
2006       6,588
2007       6,738
2008       6,279 
2009       6,070 
2010       4,635 
2011       4,174 
2012       3,915 
(*via U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

RMEF and hunters habitat work in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Since 1984, the RMEF and partners carried out more than 8,100 projects that enhanced or conserved more than 6.3 million acres of habitat nationwide including 271 specific projects in the Greater Yellowstone Area valued at $88,832,826 positively affecting 765,319 acres.
Gray Wolf history in the Northern Rocky Mountains

Gray wolves were once endemic to the landscapes of the Northern Rockies, as they were in many other locations in North America. As human competition expanded, wolves were extirpated from the greater Yellowstone Region, until being reintroduced in 1995.

The goal of the gray wolf recovery program in the Northern Rocky Mountain region (NRM or Idaho, Montana & Wyoming) was to establish a minimum, sustainable population based on science and biology. Upon reaching certain population criteria within the NRM region (100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in each of the three states) the recovery plan would return wolf management to the states. 

The science used to determine the proper population levels for a viable wolf population in the Greater Yellowstone and NRM regions was developed by the best wolf scientists at the time, both employed by, and under contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). In spite of years of litigation on wolf management, the population numbers identified by this team of highly qualified scientists has never been disputed or changed by the courts.

Those same scientists identified the population minimums states need to maintain in order to keep the populations viable and prevent the USFWS from retaking management control back from the states. The minimum population for states to retain control was deemed to be 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs in each state, a threshold that current minimum wolf populations estimates exceed by 4 to 5 fold; proof positive that state management control and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation work for all wildlife, predators and prey.

Like the population levels needed to grant the states control, the population minimums that would result in states losing management control have never been disputed or changed by the courts. These levels are accepted by the courts and supported by the science that was used to prepare the federal wolf recovery plan and the associated state management plans.

Hunters have no motivation for wildlife conservation other than the good of the wildlife and their habitat. Hunters have worked hard to prevail in litigation against those groups that have other agendas and motivations that are not in the best interest of wildlife or habitat.

As of today, wolf scientists working for and advising the USFWS have found the Northern Rockies wolf recovery to have far exceeded their expectations and they see the wolf population continuing to remain viable and expand to other areas. The wolf population stemming from this reintroduction has the USFWS preparing to remove federal protections of the gray wolf in all of the Lower 48 states.

Timeline

1930s: Wolves extirpated from the western United States
1973: Wolves received legal protection via the Endangered Species Act
1980: USFWS signed Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan
1986: Canadian wolves began recolonizing northwest Montana
1987: Plan revised to include steps for recovery 
  • Recommendation to reintroduce wolves into central Idaho & Yellowstone Park
  • A goal of 10 breeding pairs in each of three recovery zones in Idaho, Montana & Wyoming for three consecutive years
  • When populations reached science-based recovery levels, wolves would be considered viable and wolf management turned over to the individual states
  • Conserve suitable habitat
1994: USFWS proposes to reintroduce wolves as a nonessential experimental population 
1995-6: Reintroduction of 66 wolves from southwestern Canada into Idaho and Yellowstone
2000: Population criteria for delisting (minimum number of wolves and breeding pairs) is met
2002: Population criteria for delisting met for 3 straight years (minimum count of 663 wolves) and USFWS asks Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming to submit state management plans
2003: Wolves reclassified from endangered to threatened 
2008: USFWS issued final rule delisting wolves in the NRM
2009: Idaho and Montana granted state management control, only to be contested in court
2011: Congress intervenes and grants state management control to Idaho and Montana
2012: Wyoming granted state management control 

Elk and Wolf population dynamics

As shown in the charts herein, the rapidly growing gray wolf population coincided with reductions of the Northern Yellowstone Elk herd. Today, population estimates are at least four times larger than the original, agreed relisting criteria of 150 wolves in each of the three states, while the size of the Northern Yellowstone elk herd is down by 80 percent! 
(GYA or Greater Yellowstone Area wolf numbers listed below are a minimum population estimate.)






















OTHER INFLUENCES ON ELK POPULATIONS

Many other factors impact elk populations, both long-term and short-term, including changing weather conditions, brutal winters coupled with lingering drought, changing habitat, human development, and the ability to find necessary forage and cover. Such issues also have a detrimental effect on moose, deer and other species, not only elk.

Wolves are not the only predator dependent upon shrinking elk numbers within the Northern Yellowstone elk herd and other pockets around the West. Growing populations of grizzly bears and mountain lions also have influence on calf survival. Grizzlies are showing up on the landscape in places not seen for a century, benefiting from much habitat work conducted in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, to the point that the USFWS has acted to delist protections of grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act and is actively working with Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming to return management control to the states.

RMEF maintains that science and biology are key facets in maintaining a sustainable population of wolves and a balanced landscape with elk and other wildlife. RMEF has invested more than $400,000 in research grants to advocate scientific understanding of wolves, wolf interactions with other species and wolf management.

Biologists agree there is no science to refute the viability of managing wolves as with other species. “There’s no biological reason against having a regulated hunting season,” said Dr. David Mech, senior research scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey, adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota and founder of the International Wolf Center. Mech, the preeminent wolf researcher of his generation, also warned of those who use the wolf for singular purposes of "saving the world."

As spelled out in the original agreed upon recovery plan, individual states should manage wolves as they do every other species—elk, deer, bears, antelope, lions, etc. Recent data released by the USFWS indicates a 2012 minimum wolf population of 1,674 in the NRM region. The count represents a 12 percent increase in the number of wolf packs and a nearly 7 percent decrease in the overall population.

Hunting is Conservation

Hunters care about all wildlife. Hunters bankroll conservation by providing the funding that sustains state and fish and game agencies in their efforts in managing wildlife and land conservation.

  • Hunters generated $7.2 billion dollars from an 11 percent tax on all the sales of all guns, ammunition, bows and other hunting accessories since 1939.
  • Hunters contribute $1.6 billion annually to conservation organizations
    • $796 million to state agencies via licenses and permit sales
    • $440 million to conservation sportsmen’s organizations like RMEF
  • Hunters also pour billions of dollars into the economy every year, spending approximately $38.3 billion in 2011

“Hunters have played a key role for decades in helping to manage and sustain dozens of game populations in North America, and they can do the same for wolves,” said Mike Jimenez, US Fish and Wildlife Service Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the Northern Rockies population. “Hunting remains an accepted and successful wildlife management tool that helps to reduce conflicts with humans, maintain stable populations and generate public support. We’re encouraged by the results of the trophy game hunts in each state.”



So what’s the bottom line? Hunters’ conservation efforts have allowed the elk populations in the Yellowstone area to prosper for a century, even in the face of development pressures that have significantly reduced other species. Such work has been accomplished through the following actions:

  • Use of hunting license dollars and excise taxes on hunting equipment to acquire and protect the critical winter ranges necessary to sustain elk and deer when they leave YNP.
  • Volunteerism and charitable donations used to improve summer and winter habitat on the lands surrounding YNP.
  • Use of science-based management to manage all species in the YNP Ecosystem, not just one single species.
  • Reliance on partnerships with state agencies to use all management tools necessary to keep wildlife populations within the healthy carrying capacity of the summer and winter ranges.
  • Input from local communities most affected by the presence of migrating YNP wildlife and the development of science-based management plans reflecting the values of local communities.
  • Application of the time-tested and proven success of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, and funding primarily by hunters and their associated conservation groups.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Call to Action: Oppose the Valles Caldera National Preserve Transfer

Valles Caldera National Preserve

CALL NOW

Twenty-five outdoor conservation organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, joined together to express concern and their united opposition over a proposal to shift management of the 89,216 acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in north-central New Mexico to the National Park Service (NPS). The Valles Caldera National Preserve Act (S. 285) is scheduled for debate before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks on Tuesday, June 18.

If passed, there are multiple concerns regarding future activities allowed in the Preserve:
  • Reduction or elimination of hunting
  • Negative impact on effective wildlife managment
  • Negative impact on habitat management
  • Possible loss of grazing

RMEF and its partners advocate for the transfer of the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) which already manages the surrounding Santa Fe National Forest. The USFS, unlike the NPS, has a long history of managing public lands for multiple-use including hunting, fishing, trapping, access, game and non-game management, as well as wildlife habitat, recreation management, and the protection of cultural resources.

Call Senator Tom Udall (202-224-6621) and Senator Martin Heinrich (202-224-5521) to express opposition to the Valles Caldera National Preserve Act.

Click here to read the coalition’s letter in its entirety.

Coalition Letter to Senators Regarding Valles Caldera National Preserve

The Honorable Tom Udall                                           The Honorable Martin Heinrich
United States Senate                                                   United States Senate
110 Hart Senate Office Building                                  540D Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510                                             Washington, DC  20510

June 17, 2013

Dear Senators Udall and Heinrich:

Our organizations, which represent millions of sporting conservationists, have reviewed S. 285 “To designate the Valles Caldera National Preserve as a unit of the National Park System, and for other purposes.” We are well aware of the historic attempts to protect this property and have been aware that the experiment with making the property a public/private enterprise has been a challenge. Additionally, we are aware that a hearing was held on April 23, 2013 regarding S. 285 before the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and that the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has expressed its opposition to S. 285 in a letter to Senator Udall on June 3, 2013.

Several of the undersigned organizations have long been concerned over legislation to move the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) to the National Park Service (NPS). For instance, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided a letter of comment in July 2010 to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee opposing the transfer of the VCNP to the NPS. The National Wild Turkey Federation testified before the Committee that same year expressing their belief that if a transfer was needed, it should be to the U.S. Forest Service. With this in mind, the undersigned organizations wish to make it clear that this letter neither supports nor opposes dissolution of the Valles Caldera Trust.

We are opposed to transferring the VCNP to the NPS. The VCNP, while covering approximately 89,000 acres, does not represent an ecosystem, but more resembles an island surrounded almost entirely by the Santa Fe National Forest. It does not seem prudent to create yet another jurisdictional boundary for this important wildlife habitat that would only serve to complicate management of wildlife and other natural resources.

The enabling legislation (Public Law 106-248, the Valles Caldera Preservation Act) specifically charges the Secretary of Agriculture with primary powers over the Preserve while management will be under the auspices of the Valles Caldera Trust. Sect. 110 addresses the termination of the Valles Caldera Trust at the end of the twentieth full fiscal year following acquisition. The section further goes on to state “in the event of termination of the Trust, the Secretary shall assume all management and administrative functions over the Preserve, and it shall be managed as a part of the Santa Fe National Forest, subject to all laws applicable to the National Forest Systems.” The groups signed below strongly advocate adhering to the intent of the enabling legislation passed on January 24, 2000.

With regards to recreational hunting, we believe that NPS policy, management and administration are likely to further complicate wildlife resource management on the VCNP. Section 3 of the bill appears to protect hunting:

“the Secretary, in consultation with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, shall permit hunting and fishing on land and waters within the Preserve in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws, and may, designate zones in which, and establish periods during which, no hunting or fishing shall be permitted for reasons of public safety, administration, the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitats, or public use and enjoyment.”

However, we believe the language gives the Administration too much discretion that could easily result in the drastic reduction or elimination of hunting on the VCNP. This concern is coupled to the fact that NPS policy and procedures generally try to minimize or eliminate hunting on lands they manage. The National Park System has limited units where big game, upland game bird or waterfowl hunting are allowed and with approximately 3,000 elk on the property, for example, we need an agency with experience in active wildlife and habitat management administering this area.

A petition is circulating claiming that the VCNP “will lose virtually all protections in 2015 if Congress does not include it in the National Park System as a National Preserve.” Aside from the fact that 2015 has not arrived, the enabling Act for the VCNP clearly made provision for the protection of the VCNP should the Valles Caldera Trust be terminated. Further, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has a long history of managing public lands for multiple-use including hunting, fishing, trapping, access, game and non-game management, as well as wildlife habitat, recreation management, and the protection of cultural resources .

Several of the undersigned organizations met with your staff on June 11th to discuss the concerns we have over the transfer of Valles Caldera to the NPS rather than the USFS, if Congress decides that it is appropriate to dissolve the Valles Caldera Trust. The opportunity to open a dialogue about the bill was much appreciated and we look forward to further communication. Your offices both have a history of being strong voices for wildlife conservation and wildlife habitat management. However, the signatories still believe that transferring management of the preserve to the NPS rather than the USFS, now or in the future, is inconsistent with the original intent of Congress and would be contrary to the interests of America’s hunting and fishing conservationists.

Finally, during the meeting we also discussed the development of language that would advance the opportunities for hunting and angling on existing National Park Service units and would like to discuss this concept in more detail in the future, however we do not believe that the VCNP is the appropriate location to test this language. Please feel free to contact any of our organizations or you may also call or email Blake Henning with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation at 406-523-0273 or bhenning@rmef.org.

Sincerely,

Archery Trade Association
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Bear Trust International
Boone & Crockett Club
Bowhunting Preservation Alliance
Catch-A-Dream Foundation
Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation
Conservation Force
Masters of Foxhounds Association
Mule Deer Foundation
National Association of Forest Service Retirees
National Rifle Association
National Shooting Sports Foundation
National Wild Turkey Federation
North American Bear Foundation
North American Grouse Partnership
Orion – The Hunters’ Institute
Quality Deer Management Association
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Ruffed Grouse Society
Safari Club International
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Wild Sheep Foundation
Wildlife Forever
Wildlife Management Institute

cc: Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell
Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Tom Tidwell
Director of the National Park Service Jonathan Jarvis

Friday, June 14, 2013

Honoring Our Fathers

Dear RMEF Family,

This is a special weekend for many of us. It’s the chance to say “thank you” to our fathers.

The idea of Father’s Day dates back to the early 20th century and came about as a compliment to Mother’s Day, even though it didn’t become an official national holiday until 1972. 

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our fathers, many of whom introduced us to ethical hunting and the important values of conservation. We have many, many fathers dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage throughout the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. To them we offer our gratitude for their enthusiasm, passion and dedication.

So if you have plans to hit your favorite fishing hole, grill up some elk tenderloin on the barbecue or just spend time with the dad and the rest of the family, we say thank you fathers for all you do.

Respectfully,







M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Habitat Council: A Testimonial for RMEF -- “It is who I am and what I want to be!”

Fun, family, faith and wildlife conservation. That about sums up what the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is all about. More than 60 members of the RMEF from 19 different states joined more than a dozen staffers gathered in Knoxville, Tennessee, to celebrate elk and elk country at the four-day 2013 Habitat Council Summer Meeting and Retreat.

The gathering included a variety of events designed to strengthen already strong ties and solidify support for RMEF’s mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. In reality, it was more like a reunion of friends who care for wildlife and the environment, and who professed a desire to do all they can to pass on their commitment to conservation to their children and grandchildren.

Among the highlights was an opportunity during the only formal meeting of the event for members to one-by-one take the microphone and express how they became involved with RMEF and, more specifically, the Habitat Council. What ensued were words of appreciation, wisdom, and the expressing of love for family, friends, country, wildlife, countryside and hunting. In reality, it was a testimonial to the RMEF and the mission for which it stands. The following are some examples of the heart-felt sentiments expressed:

“RMEF, as a group, loves the Lord, family and country.”

“What blows my mind is we have over 200,000 members and they’re as passionate today as when Bugle magazine first came out.”

“If I had more money to give, I’d give it.”

“This organization is an expression of who I am and what I want to be.”

“My friend gave me a Bugle in 1990 and I joined in 1990.”

“We’re here because we want this to continue for our grandchildren.”

“Pass it on! I wanted it for our kids and I can’t say how thrilled I am we’re seeing that today."

“I support my husband and I support conservation.”

“I wanted my kids to see what life was like in the good old days.”

“I love this organization and look forward to supporting it however we can.”

“As a young kid I saw my private hunting land broken up. I saw we could preserve land for the public. I saw we could protect land for the future. “

“One of the things that impressed me about RMEF is they did what they said they would do.”

“We joined RMEF with our grandkids in mind. We’re a ‘Pass it on’ household. We are so happy to have elk in Virginia!”

“My parents were so impressed. Not just for elk, but for deer, ducks and all wildlife.”

“We have to preserve the whole habitat to preserve the species.”

“God is a very important part of our lives and that is why we are drawn to you.”

“If it wasn’t for the RMEF and the Habitat Council, we wouldn’t have elk in Missouri and we are thrilled!”

S'mores anyone?
“I believe in what we do. I believe it is an investment in my grandchildren.”

“It is like a college reunion. You get tears in your eyes recognizing what this group does.”

“I believe in conservation and I’m a native of Tennessee. Seeing elk in the woods of Tennessee…I thank you for returning elk to my home state.”

“It’s wonderful what we’ve been able to accomplish. I had the opportunity to help with tagging the elk (in Kentucky). When you come away from something like that, you’re never the same.”

“They say you’ll do anything for your children. That’s why I’m here.”

“You set an example by taking the lead with what you can do with your checkbook.”


“We’re accountants. When you spend 90 cents on the dollars, that’s a great investment.”

“Why the Elk Foundation? It’s really about conservation for the future.”

“Our investment in this organization is who you are!”


2013 Habitat Council Summer Meeting & Retreat (Knoxville) 

Wednesday, June 5
Check in at Buckberry Lodge (Gatlinburg)
Private viewing of synchronous fireflies & glow worms
S'mores & hospitality

Slow Blind Hill performs at Cafe 4
Thursday, June 6
Check in at Crowne Plaza (Knoxville)
Reception & dinner at Café 4 at the historic Knoxville Market House
Musical performance by Slow Blind Hill
Hospitality

Friday, June 7
Breakfast
Habitat Council Meeting
--America the Beautiful video (featuring Daryle Singletary)
--Welcome & introductions
--Approval of 2013 HC winter minutes
--State of the RMEF
--Mission update
--Questions & answers
--Saturday field trip overview
--Breakout sessions
--How can HC members help?
Lunch
Volunteer Princess dinner cruise on the Tennessee River
Hospitality

Volunteer Princess, UT Neyland Stadium, Dinner is served!
(clockwise left to right)
Saturday, June 8
Breakfast
Load vans & depart for project tour (Hatfield Knob Viewing Tower)
Lunch at McCloud Mountain Restaurant 
Return to Knoxville
Reception & dinner
Private concert by Daryle Singletary
Hospitality
Hatfield Knob Viewing Tower
Sunday, June 9
Departures for home

Daryle Singletary, road sign to McCloud Mountain, view from McCloud Mountain &
RMEF staffers (clockwise left to right)

(The 2014 Habitat Council Summer Meeting and Retreat will take place in Vancouver, Washington.)


Monday, June 10, 2013

RMEF, Coalition Partners Address Inaccurate Wild Horse and Burro Information

Below is a news release from the National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition, to which RMEF belongs, regarding the dissemination of some inaccurate information.

NATIONAL HORSE & BURRO RANGELAND MANAGEMENT COALITION 
Advocating for commonsense, ecologically-sound approaches to managing horses and burros to promote healthy wildlife and rangelands for future generations

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

Horse and Burro Coalition Statement on National Academy of Sciences Report 

Washington, DC (June 7, 2013) – The National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition (“the Coalition”) issues the following statement in response to the National Academies of Sciences National Research Council (NRC) report released this week, entitled: “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward.” This statement may be used to correct some of the misinformation put forth by several nongovernmental organizations and media outlets immediately following the report’s release.

The Coalition applauds the NRC for stressing the importance of sound science in addressing the ongoing problem of management of wild horses and burros (WHB) on western public lands. Further, the study shines a spotlight on a fact that has gone too long unrecognized – that, in part due to constraints outside the control of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), current policies are not sustainable and can sometimes even be detrimental to the animals and the rangeland ecosystem that BLM is statutorily mandated to protect.

The Coalition also agrees with the report’s primary message – that horses require active and continued management to ensure ecological balance to sustain healthy populations and the habitats on which they depend– correct. The BLM should next consider how best to move forward with population control methods, adequate range health evaluations, and public engagement within the confines of existing law.

With regards to WHB management, we agree that the report’s statement that “when public participation is shaped and monitored by the analytic-deliberative process, public understanding and confidence in the scientific analysis can be improved and conflict over values can be mitigated.” Without public understanding, we cannot expect to see improvements in current management which, as referenced in the report, is “not sustainable.”

The Coalition also finds instructive some of the more technical aspects of the report, including:

--“A large body of scientific literature…suggests that the proportion of animals missed on surveys ranges from 10 to 50 percent.” We believe BLM should take this opportunity to inform the public of new evidence indicating that the current WHB population is likely much higher than 30,000 (the commonly-used estimate), and that “most free-ranging horse populations managed by BLM are probably growing at 15-20 percent a year” even as BLM gathers continue.
--“The primary way that equid populations self-limit is through increased competition for forage at higher densities, which results in smaller quantities of forage available per animal, poorer body condition, and decreased natality and survival.” Because horses are non-native species with no natural predators, if active management is not practiced, their populations are only controlled by the hard, cold realities of starvation when population levels grow too high. These same realities have devastating impacts on native wildlife and other multiple uses that depend on the resources on BLM HMAs. Allowing such untethered growth would be unlawful. BLM is required to manage at “appropriate management level” (AML), which is a measure of ecological balance with other wildlife and multiple uses—not a determination of the land’s maximum carrying capacity for horses alone. BLM is required to manage for healthy horses and healthy rangelands, which can only be done by actively controlling horse population sizes.
--“Research on effective methods of fertility control remains important to the BLM because fertility control is the major alternative to gathering and removing horses that is generally accepted by the public.” In order to provide active management, BLM should continue vigorously exploring new and existing fertility control treatments; use of sex ratio adjustments and spaying; and introduction of sterile herds.
--“The Wild Horses and Burros Management Handbook lacks the specificity necessary to guide managers adequately in establishing and adjusting appropriate management levels.” We agree that monitoring and assessment guidelines are lacking, which in many cases is allowing for rangeland degradation by WHB herds. BLM should implement prescriptive policy and provide clarity to ambiguous terms such as “thriving natural ecological balance” and “rangeland condition.”
--How AMLs are established, monitored, and adjusted is not transparent to stakeholders, supported by scientific information, or amenable to adaptation with new information and environmental and social change.” This is a prime opportunity for BLM to take a look at how it determines AML and whether its current standards are adequate to reach ecological balance. Sound rangeland science should be at the foundation of AML, and this determination should be made known to the public.
--BLM should foster “Principles of transparency and community-based public participation and engagement in decision-making.” Input from local stakeholders is crucial. The people on the ground are closest to these horses and most affected by their impacts on natural resources, which are critical to the vitality of local communities.

The Coalition appreciates the extensive efforts of the NRC to review the BLM WHB Management Program. While we are still in the process of reviewing the NRC’s extensive contributions, we believe the report provides findings, analysis and recommendations that the BLM can and should use to improve its WHB 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

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A First-Hand “View” of Tennessee Elk Restoration

Hatfield Knob Viewing Tower
If elk are majestic and having a hand in restoring elk is a major measure of satisfaction, then witnessing a growing elk population back on its historic range where it’s not been for decades is truly magical! Those were among the many emotions felt by members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Habitat Council (HC) during a memorable trip into the Appalachia.

Dozens of HC members from around the country recently boarded seven full-sized vans in Knoxville, Tennessee. With an enthusiastic buzz in the air, the convoy methodically maneuvered its way through the winding gravel roads of the Northern Cumberland Plateau in the Cumberland Mountains located in the eastern middle part of the state. 

Upon arrival, and after a short fragrant-filled, half-mile hike to the Hatfield Knob Elk Viewing Tower on Hatfield Mountain, they quietly came upon a number of reintroduced elk enjoying the lush forage. The elk took notice of their human visitors but showed little real concern. One by one, they eventually left the feeding ground and disappeared into the thickly wooded forest. 

The meadow and viewing tower are a labor of love by Terry and Jane Lewis, both RMEF volunteers who live on a nearby farm. They poured a great deal of sweat equity and financial sacrifice into the project by designing and purchasing building materials for the tower in 2005. Five years earlier, they wrapped up three years of weekend work to clear thick trees and vegetation from more than 40 acres of reclaimed mine land. They also planted wildlife food plots. Terry and Jane also work with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to supply tower visitors with a survey which shows about 11,000 people visit the tower every year. 

Approximately 40 of Tennessee’s 400-500 elk live in the Sundquist Unit of the Northern Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (WMA) that covers 40,200 acres of wildlife habitat. In addition to elk, the WMA is also home to a myriad of wildlife species including ruffed grouse, wild turkey, bobwhite quail, northern river otters, other mammals, songbirds and reptiles. The WMA is also part of 74,000 acres that RMEF and the Conservation Fund teamed up to forever protect in 2002. 

Elk reintroduction in the East strikes especially close to the heart of native Easterners. Bill Carman, RMEF regional director for Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, told HC members gathered at Hatfield Knob of his fortune of drawing a coveted elk tag in nearby Kentucky several years ago. (RMEF also assisted in Kentucky elk reintroduction efforts.) After successfully killing a bull, Carman says he openly wept while realizing his dream come true of hunting elk on his homeland east of the Mississippi. 


The enthusiasm for Tennessee elk is both real and contagious. Carman related playing host to a field trip for the Eastern Kentucky University Chapter, RMEF’s only all-student chapter. Many of its members had never previously seen an elk. As the students reveled in the experience at the tower, Carmen remained in the parking lot where he cooked up hot dogs for the troops. During that time, other visitors streamed to the site. Several of them, thrilled with their elk viewing experience, asked if they could buy a hot dog to cap their day. Carman, always prepared, instead offered a hat, a knife and a hot dog coupled with an RMEF membership application. RMEF gained many new members that day. 

For more about Hatfield Knob, read the reprint below of an article in the May-June 2013 issue of Bugle magazine


Name that Elk Country – Hatfield Knob, Tennessee

Come September, you can hear more bugles from the Hatfield Knob Elk Viewing Tower than most hunters hear in a lifetime. The tower’s four legs, sunk deep into a high and handsome summit in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area, don’t often stand in silence. Just north of the town of Lafollette, the tower is a popular year-round destination for wildlife watchers, who regularly erupt in oohs and ahhs as they spot elk. 

The first elk were restored to the area in 2000, and that success prompted RMEF volunteers Terry and Jane Lewis to envision this structure to allow visitors to better see and appreciate the herd. They campaigned for its construction and found many in agreement. The tower opened to the public in August of 2005—just in time for the rut. It stands on 74,000 acres that RMEF and the Conservation Fund teamed up to forever protect in 2002. It was one of the largest land transactions RMEF has helped facilitate, and it’s now all public land owned by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
Charlie Decker, Terry Lewis, Lee Swanson, Bob Munson, Jane Lewis
(left to right)
Since the arrival of the elk, RMEF volunteers and staff have also been busy partnering with state wildlife managers to assure elk find nutrient-rich habitat, planting field upon field of winter oats, Austrian winter peas, crimson clover and orchard grass. RMEF has helped enhance more than 1,300 acres so far in Tennessee. 

While the tower is a new addition to the landscape, elk as a species have a long history here. They were once plentiful throughout Tennessee, but with European settlement came exploitation of the habitat and overhunting, resulting in their eventual extinction. The population dwindled to zero about 150 years ago.

But now that the elk are back, it seems almost inconceivable to imagine the Cumberland Plateau without them—as incomplete and off-balance as the tower’s square frame would be were it perched on three legs.

Restoring the elk to their rightful habitat took a bunch of people from agencies and organizations as diverse as the TWRA, the University of Tennessee, and yes, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Over a period of eight years, TWRA worked with Canadian wildlife managers to transport 201 elk more than 3,400 miles from Elk Island National Park in Alberta to the heart of what is now a 670,000-acre elk restoration zone. 

Thirteen years later, the herd is nearly 400 strong, the ecosystem is more complete than it’s been in generations, and the state is working diligently to secure additional animals to supplement the population and increase its growth rate.

A milestone for the restoration arrived in the autumn of 2009, as five hunters took to the woods, taking part in the first elk hunt in Tennessee since before the Civil War. 

And come spring, keen-eyed visitors at the Hatfield Knob spy cow elk with spotted calves in tow, bearing witness to the growth and health of a hearty herd. 
Alex Tenenbaum 

Calf born the day after the HC visit
(To reach Hatfield Mountain, drive north out of Lafollette on Highway 25W approximately seven miles to the top of the mountain. Turn left at the red gate located at the top of the mountain just before the road starts to break over the mountain and go down the back side. Proceed on the gravel road approximately 3.1 miles to the fork in the road. Take the right fork approximately 1.4 miles to the parking area. Walk a half mile on the path to the viewing tower.)