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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Leon Boyd: Blazing a Trail for Elk in Virginia

Leon Boyd
Leon Boyd, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Virginia district chair and chair of the Southwest Virginia Coalfields Chapter, says one of the things he enjoys most about elk reintroduction is sharing it with others, like when he takes school groups out to view the elk. He loves being able to pass on a fascination with elk to others.

"It's priceless for me," Boyd says.

Boyd’s involvement with RMEF and elk restoration began in 2010, when Buchanan County officials approached him to represent southwest Virginia at a Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries meeting to discuss potentially restoring elk to the state. After seeing his enthusiasm about elk at the meeting, RMEF representatives asked Boyd and others if they would consider creating a new chapter.

From there, Boyd and his committee members searched for locations in southwest Virginia that would be suitable for elk restorations. They also worked to improve habitat in some areas, many of which were reclaimed mine sites. They cleared brush, fertilized, and planted native grasses. They also talked and worked with landowners. When the state was ready to start seriously looking for an elk restoration area, Boyd and his fellow volunteers had several ideas for good places ready to put on the table.

“The state was overjoyed,” says Kathy Funk, RMEF’s Virginia state chair.

Boyd remained active in every aspect of the restoration, from selecting release sites to actually putting elk on the ground in 2012 and 2013. The vice president of communications at Noah Horn Well Drilling, Boyd owns his own side business that services and maintains gas wells. His connections to local gas and mining companies helped him develop partnerships for the elk restoration project, and many of those companies became RMEF Habitat Partners, or donated time, money and equipment.

“Leon doesn’t see problems,” Funk says. “He sees challenges, opportunities.”

Last summer,Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries honored Boyd for his outstanding contribution to the restoration of elk in the state. And in January, former Gov. Bob McDonnell appointed him to the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, a position Funk calls one of the most sought after in the state.

Boyd is humble, and quick to brush aside his accomplishments, seeming surprised that a self-proclaimed country boy would be appointed to the board.

“I’m a pretty simple guy,” Boyd says.

He grew up and still resides in Grundy, located in Buchanan County, where elk were restored. He married his wife, Nita, at 17 and has four sons. Boyd’s work with elk is a family affair. His wife and oldest son are both RMEF committee members, and his other sons help him with habitat work.

“Growing up my dad spent a lot of time with me in the outdoors. I have four sons. I just enjoy being outdoors with them,” Boyd says. “It gives us a lot of time to get out and enjoy each other.”

He jokes that he hasn’t been elk hunting since 2010, because he’s too busy being involved with elk in an entirely new way.

“I’ve donated most of my free time to this project,” Boyd says, laughing. “I have more fun with this project than I ever did hunting.”

It’s that kind of dedication, determination and joy that has helped Boyd play such a pivotal role in restoring elk to the Old Dominion State.

By Kasey Rahn, Bugle Intern

Leaders of Conservation: RMEF President/CEO David Allen

Below is a reprint of an article posted on OutdoorHub on March 25, 2014.

This interview with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation President David Allen is the first in OutdoorHub’s Leaders of Conservation series, in which we sit down with leaders of the North American conservation movement to learn more about the stories behind their organizations.

David Allen
Nearly 30 years ago, four hunters in northwest Montana met and pondered a question: why wasn’t there an organization dedicated to protecting the elk, one of North America’s grandest animals? The four men—a pastor, a realtor, a logger, and a drive-in owner—decided to take it upon themselves to form such an organization: the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). Now the RMEF stands as one of the largest and most respected conservation groups on the continent. Current RMEF President and CEO David Allen is the heir to a long legacy of protecting North America’s elk and elk habitat. He told me in an interview that in many ways, the organization has both vastly changed and stayed the same since its founding.

Earlier this year, the organization surpassed 200,000 members and 500 chapters—a far cry from its original brotherhood of 2,500 hunters back in 1984. Some things, however, never change. Since the organization began raising money for their first habitat project in 1985 (to fund a prescribed burn in Kootenai National Forest), the RMEF has been working diligently to preserve elk.

“What we’re doing today at RMEF is leaving something behind and giving something back,” David said at the outset of our conversation. ”The RMEF has four main priorities. One is permanent land protection. The second is habitat enhancement and improvement. The third is hunting heritage and access to public land. The fourth is elk reintroduction programs.”

David grew up in a hunting family from the Black Hills of South Dakota. He said that the harvesting of an animal and preserving that right for future generations is part of the culture he was raised in. When not hunting elk in the rut, David can be found chasing after mule deer or turkeys in the spring. He insisted that he has a passion for elk not just because of what’s expected of him as the head of the RMEF, but because it gives him the greatest adrenaline rush he’s ever felt. Working to preserve the species for the future furnishes a similar feeling.

Although a lifelong hunter and conservationist, David said his journey to the helm of the RMEF happened in a roundabout way. He initially studied journalism at the University of Wyoming and embarked upon a marketing career with NASCAR and the Pro Bull Riders Tour. How David ended up working with the RMEF can be chalked up to serendipity.

“Richard Childress, who was a NASCAR team owner and one of my clients for about 25 years, is a major donor to the RMEF,” David explained. “One time he volunteered me to help the foundation with some marketing projects and that ended up with me on the Board of Directors, which led to my current position.”

Leading a major conservation group was a whole new ballgame for David and not without its own challenges, but he said that his training as a journalist made him stick to the facts.

“As CEO I wear a lot of hats,” David shared. “I guess I see my first and foremost responsibility is to our staff in terms of making sure that they have all the resources and support that they need to do their job properly. Then I get out of their way and let them do their jobs.”

David took over the RMEF in 2007, when the organization was struggling financially and losing members. His first goal was to stabilize the group’s finances and bring the RMEF back in line with its founders’ vision.

“This is our 30th year, starting in May,” David said. “The RMEF was founded by four elk hunters from Montana who had a vision of forming an advocacy group for big game and primarily elk. Somewhere along the lines, the organization’s senior management evolved and changed [to the point that] they got away from the hunter conservation model and got a little too far off into an environmental focus. That hurt the organization for a number of years and frankly caused a drop in membership and loss in revenue. Since then, we have purposely focused on bringing the organization back to the hunter-based conservation model. Our membership today is the largest it’s ever been, at 205,000. We have more resources and support than ever before, and I think that the organization is healthier than it’s ever been.”

David stated that he has a tremendous amount of respect for the RMEF’s founders—Bob Munson, Bill Munson, Dan Bull, and Charlie Decker—and directs the organization in line with their wishes. He knows two of the founders (Charlie and Bob) well, being that they are Honorary Directors of the RMEF.

“I make it a point to stay in close contact with them. I have a huge amount of respect for the blood, sweat, and tears that they put into the organization and I try to honor that.”

David said he already achieved one of his major goals with the RMEF, which was to turn the organization’s financial situation around and get the RMEF back on the front line of elk restoration. But his job isn’t done yet.

“I hope to lay down a foundation so that the organization never wanders back to that time,” he continued. “My other major goal is to continue to be more and more of a voice for the future of hunting as it is and as it relates to conservation. I want to connect to the younger demographic of hunters, young adults, and have them buy into the belief that hunting is conservation.”

You can watch a video from RMEF on why “Hunting is Conservation.”

Perhaps the most telling of David’s successes at the RMEF is that this year, Charity Navigator awarded the organization its sixth consecutive four-star rating. The four-star rating is the highest available from the Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities based on their efficiency, transparency, and ethics. For every dollar sent into the RMEF, 90 cents go directly to its programs. For David and the RMEF’s staff, it makes all their hard work worthwhile.

“We’re very proud of it,” David said. “What makes me feel the best is that it is a major reflection of the work that our staff does. They show up and they do their job for the right reasons, and they’re focused. When we are recognized by organizations such as Charity Navigator, it makes me feel proud for our staff’s sake, and the work that they do.”

Although David has fond memories of NASCAR, he said that his work in conservation is entirely more satisfying.

“What we’re doing today at RMEF is leaving something behind and giving something back,” he repeated. “When you’re in a sport like NASCAR, everything is focused on the moment. It gets down to, ‘what have you done for me today?’ In the world of wildlife conservation, the question is ‘what have you done for the future?’”

Daniel Xu

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hunting Is Conservation: How Wildlife is Thriving Because of Guns & Hunting

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintains that Hunting Is Conservation. That mantra holds true on many different fronts and in a multitude of different ways. A few years back, RMEF unveiled 25 reasons why Hunting Is Conservation.

You can add another 760.9 million reasons to that list. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell recently announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will distribute nearly $1.1 billion in excise tax revenues to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies. The bulk of that total, 69 percent or $760.9 million, comes directly from the pockets of hunters who willingly forked over those dollars. What are the excise taxes used for? The funds pay for fish and wildlife conservation and recreation projects across the nation. (A state-by-state breakdown is below.)

“People who enjoy hunting, fishing, boating and recreational shooting provide a strong foundation for conservation funding in this country,” Jewell said. “The taxes they pay on equipment and boating fuel support critical fish and wildlife management and conservation efforts, create access for recreational boating, and underpin education programs that help get kids outdoors.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation created a new infographic (on the right) that illustrates how the outdoor industry, sportsmen and women are the greatest contributors to wildlife conservation in America. In fact, that teamwork provided nearly $9 billion over the past 76 years. (Click here to view the infographic in full size.)

As for the $1.1 billion, the FWS apportions those funds to all 50 states and territories through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration programs. Revenues come from excise taxes generated by the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment and tackle, and electric outboard motors. Recreational boaters also contribute to the program through fuel taxes on motorboats and small engines.

“Anyone who enjoys our nation’s outdoor heritage should thank hunters, anglers, recreational boaters and target shooters,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, these individuals have created a 75-year legacy for conservation of critical wildlife habitat and improved access to the outdoors for everyone.”

It turns out the total distributions this year are $238.4 million higher than last year because of the inclusion of funds that were not distributed last year because of the government sequester and an increase in excise tax receipts from sales of firearms and ammunition in the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.

The FWS's Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program reimburses up to 75 percent of the cost of each eligible project, while state fish and wildlife agencies contribute a minimum of 25 percent, generally using hunting and fishing license revenues as the required non-federal match.

Funding is paid by manufacturers, producers and importers and is distributed by the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program to each state and territory.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs generated a total of more than $15 billion since their inception – in 1937 in the case of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and 1950 for the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program – to conserve fish and wildlife resources. The recipient fish and wildlife agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5 billion. This funding is critical to sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and providing opportunities for all to connect with nature.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Apportionment of Wildlife Restoration Funds and Sport Fish Restoration Funds for Fiscal Year 2014

ALABAMA                                                                           $24,306,075
ALASKA                                                                              $48,798,100
AMERICAN SAMOA                                                           $2,353,763
ARIZONA                                                                            $25,626,338
ARKANSAS                                                                        $20,182,820
CALIFORNIA                                                                      $41,588,102
COLORADO                                                                       $26,957,671
CONNECTICUT                                                                  $8,715,486
DELAWARE                                                                        $7,752,281
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA                                                  $1,085,800
FLORIDA                                                                             $24,404,776
GEORGIA                                                                            $23,306,448
GUAM                                                                                  $2,353,763
HAWAII                                                                                $7,773,961
IDAHO                                                                                 $20,286,724
ILLINOIS                                                                              $22,676,138
INDIANA                                                                              $17,301,752
IOWA                                                                                   $15,633,542
KANSAS                                                                              $18,887,612
KENTUCKY                                                                        $18,139,584
LOUISIANA                                                                         $21,261,136
MAINE                                                                                 $11,420,465
MARYLAND                                                                        $10,458,232
MASSACHUSETTS                                                            $10,516,201
MICHIGAN                                                                          $35,244,512
MINNESOTA                                                                      $35,296,856
MISSISSIPPI                                                                       $14,439,942
MISSOURI                                                                          $27,827,946
MONTANA                                                                          $27,779,751
N. MARIANA ISLANDS                                                       $2,353,763
NEBRASKA                                                                        $16,565,406
NEVADA                                                                             $18,210,335
NEW HAMPSHIRE                                                             $7,752,281
NEW JERSEY                                                                    $10,516,201
NEW MEXICO                                                                    $20,698,851
NEW YORK                                                                        $28,467,902
NORTH CAROLINA                                                            $29,553,173
NORTH DAKOTA                                                                $14,897,981
OHIO                                                                                    $22,464,377
OKLAHOMA                                                                        $23,920,300
OREGON                                                                             $24,444,659
PENNSYLVANIA                                                                  $35,731,360
PUERTO RICO                                                                    $6,600,639
RHODE ISLAND                                                                  $7,752,281
SOUTH CAROLINA                                                             $14,857,369
SOUTH DAKOTA                                                                 $17,835,269
TENNESSEE                                                                        $26,002,731
TEXAS                                                                                  $51,562,020
UTAH                                                                                    $19,693,655
VERMONT                                                                            $7,752,281
VIRGIN ISLANDS                                                                  $2,353,763
VIRGINIA                                                                               $19,046,390
WASHINGTON                                                                     $21,240,210
WEST VIRGINIA                                                                   $11,315,854
WISCONSIN                                                                         $34,208,337
WYOMING                                                                            $18,540,900

Monday, March 17, 2014

RMEF Rolls Out Red Carpet for Secretary of Interior Jewell

Secretary Sally Jewell
It was another busy Saturday afternoon at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Elk Country Visitor Center. Wildlife lovers of all ages made their way through the various displays, watched video presentations, shopped, and made a loop around the interpretative trail outside. Just down the hall, young hunters jammed a meeting room to take part in a hunter education course so they could be ready to hit the field this fall.

But this was no ordinary March afternoon. Just after two o’clock an SUV pulled up to the RMEF entrance and out stepped Secretary Sally Jewell, the head of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and a few of her staffers along with Montana Senator Jon Tester. Members of various wildlife and conservation organizations and sportsmen also arrived to take part in a roundtable discussion.

“I'm here with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hearing about what's important to them, about the conservation of public lands, our management of the public lands for the long term health of wildlife as well as the people that live here and the people that come and recreate here,” Jewell told a television reporter.

Though relatively small in stature, Jewell has a big influence regarding outdoor issues. Formerly the CEO of REI, Jewell is 11 months into the job as secretary of the Interior and fills one of 15 seats on President Obama’s Cabinet. 

Much of the roundtable discussion also focused on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a federal program that provides funds and matching grants to federal, state and local governments for the acquisition of easements to protect vital landscapes. LWCF was recently reallocated back into the president’s latest budget proposal. RMEF has been and remains a staunch proponent of LWCF as it provides funding to help ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. 

Below are a few of the comments offered during the 60-minute discussion.

Secretary Jewell:
“It’s heartening to see organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation working with landowners.”

“I appreciate the advocacy of this organization for the LWCF. Conservation easements kept a lot of ranchers ranching rather than turn their land over for development.”

“We’re in the forever business and you want us to be in the forever business.”

“You’re all probably elk hunters which I think is great. Fishermen and bird watchers are great. We all have to work together.”

David Allen welcoming participants

RMEF President/CEO David Allen:
“Our state agencies are at a critical point in terms of their fiscal health—certainly the western states are. It’s extremely concerning. Our wildlife system crumbles if they’re not healthy because state-based management is how it works.”

“Access is one of our mission priorities but kind of the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the private landowner. If we’re going to crack the code we have to consider the private landowner and work with them.” 

Secretary Jewell:
“Private land ownership and conservation can be done in harmony.” 

“Managing the lands for multiple use means it’s the Bureau of Land Management’s job to think about how the lands are used, how they’re developed and how they’re not developed.”

“People have wanted to pay less to support government at every level for decades now. Running a federal agency that’s cut and cut…you have to do less with less.”

“There is a role for government especially in managing our landscapes and parks that will keep people keep coming back. LWCF is a good example. Support for your state folks is critical.” 

“Hunters and anglers, the fees you pay whether Pittman-Robertson or duck stamp or fishing licenses, those are critical monies to help the state fish and game departments to do the jobs they need to do. They need to hear from you when they’ve done something right and not just something wrong.”

Hunter education class at RMEF
Senator Jon Tester:
“We’re going to need your help to keep LWCF in the president’s budget.”

“We need to think of some creative ways to hold a carrot out there to allow private landowners to allow access.”

Secretary Jewell
“Generations of young people are increasingly urban and busy, tech-enabled and well-educated but they know little about the environment. They get very little time to roam. It’s roaming in nature where kids learn about nature.” 

“If we want to have people that understand how nature works, you need an informed and engaged younger generation that not only cares but knows what to do because they’ve had exposure. ‘Play-learn-serve-work’ is a four-tier approach to make that happen. We want kids to learn in nature’s classroom. What is an invasive weed? How can you tell the difference? Service enables kids to develop a connection to the land. One-hundred-thousand jobs on public lands in the next four years is our goal. A lot of biologists need to transfer their knowledge to young biologists.”

Our thanks to Secretary Jewell for her service and for taking time to visit the RMEF.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

'Moved' to Make a Difference

We recently received the letter below from a couple in Texas.

Dear Mr. Allen and all of the RMEF staff,

We sat down tonight to write you a check for $500. Then I read the story "A Green Light for Red Hill" in the Jan/Feb 2014 of Bugle magazine. I have been a member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for three or four years or so. We are not elk hunters, deer hunters nor any other kind of recent hunter, but the stories in Bugle show us time and again the character and integrity of your organization and the principled people who love the hunt that are featured in your magazine. (Not to mention that your well-written magazine is a FUN read.)

My wife and I first visited Montana, Missoula specifically in 1992, and immediately fell in love. We were blessed to consult at the Stone, later Smurfit-Stone mill, for about ten years. In that time we made some fast friends in Montana, visited your headquarters (both the old and the new facilities), bought a few Bugle issues off of the newsstand, and eventually joined RMEF because we support a few organizations that support preserving both our precious land and its beautiful creatures. Reading every issue of Bugle since joining has given me a good feeling about your organization and its principles. Thank you for those principles and for what you do for all of us who love our wild lands. 

Red Hill Project/Lewis & Clark National Forest
While we are not hunters, we fiercely love the backcountry areas in Montana and in other (especially western) states where we've visited. Even though your emphasis is understandably on preserving elk lands, your work, as stated in the Red Hill article, "Bertelotti points out that it's not just hunters who have reason to celebrate. He thinks Red Hill will also be a popular launch for birdwatchers, campers (us), hikers (us), horse packers (love that) and backcountry skiers…" 

Efforts by you and RMEF members help to save our wonderful, scenic, wild lands for us all. What a magnificent idea it was to buy a little 40-acre tract that opened up a permanent access to an 18,000 acre piece of public lands. BRAVO! Thank you and other dedicated RMEF members like Col. Kepler for your hard work (and to the Longs and people like them for their cooperation) and a job WELL DONE!

Cheers and God Bless,

Dean & Kathe Miller
Kilgore, Texas

By way of information, the Millers are now RMEF Life Members. You can donate to or join the RMEF in its mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Nearby elk herd spotted shortly after the Red Hill dedication ceremony

Monday, March 3, 2014

RMEF's Comment to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Regarding Elk Management in Brucellosis Areas

February 26, 2014

Dan Vermillion, Chairman
Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission
PO Box 668
Livingston, MT 59047

Re:       RMEF comments related to Elk Management in Areas with Brucellosis
2014 Work Plan – Local Modifications

Dear Chairman Vermillion,

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) maintains that the issue of elk management in areas with Brucellosis must be addressed in a cooperative manner with active input from state and federal wildlife managers, ranchers and other affected stakeholders.

For more than a decade the RMEF has been engaged in this complex issue that covers multiple states and interests. RMEF actively participates in state agency planning and program efforts directed at Brucellosis management and containment. RMEF is aware of the increased incidence of Brucellosis exposure in wild elk herds of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the increasing importance Brucellosis policy has on elk and other wildlife.

In 2008, RMEF hosted a Brucellosis symposium in Billings, Montana. It brought together state wildlife agency representatives from Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, as well as state veterinarians, sportsmen, livestock owners and other stakeholders in an effort to generate solutions. Discussions resulted in no consensus due to the divisive nature of this topic and the complex implications of possible management policies.

Brucellosis is not detrimental to elk populations as it is not “population-limiting,” yet it imposes significant operating costs on agricultural producers in the endemic area. RMEF, in the past and today, advocates for policies that preserve traditional ranching operations and the benefits that come with keeping working ranches on the landscape.

RMEF seeks to work with ranchers, state agencies and other partners by supporting research and other mitigation actions to reduce Brucellosis transmission in livestock. RMEF would like to see state and federal agencies, elected officials, livestock owners and other stakeholders work together to address this complex issue. RMEF is committed to helping with that effort.

More specifically:

  • RMEF calls for research that could lead to livestock vaccines with increased effectiveness
  • RMEF does not believe it is possible to eradicate brucellosis in wildlife 
  • RMEF does not believe it is feasible or practical to vaccinate free-ranging wildlife
  • RMEF does not support hunting cow elk during the third trimester, which begins on or about February 15
  • RMEF supports the efforts of state and federal agencies to enhance elk habitat on public lands, including wildlife management areas, to provide better forage for elk off of private lands
  • RMEF does not support the testing and slaughter of elk as a means of managing Brucellosis
  • RMEF supports cooperative approaches to keeping elk and livestock separate; however, we have concerns about the use of game proof fencing that could cut off natural migration corridors.

RMEF is interested in helping solve this wildlife conservation issue and would particularly like to see much greater emphasis on the development of an effective livestock vaccine. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.


M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

cc:  Montana Governor Steve Bullock
      Montana Fish & Wildlife Commissioners