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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Volunteering for the RMEF is a Win-Win

Volunteering your time and effort for something you believe in is always a winning formula, especially for volunteers of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. President/CEO David Allen proclaimed many times over the years that volunteers are the fuel that fires the RMEF engine.

Volunteers can feel both great pride and satisfaction for their part in helping the RMEF protect or enhance more than 6.6 million of acres of vital elk habitat over the organization’s three-plus decades of work. They organize and execute chapter banquets and membership drives which raise the funds for projects that benefit elk and elk country in their own backyard and across the country. They also volunteer at youth camps or other mentoring clinics and roll up their sleeves for boots-on-the-ground projects such as fence pulls, wildlife water guzzler projects, noxious weed treatments and other efforts to benefit elk habitat.

But sometimes their reward is more than just a pat on the back.

Congratulations to Ken Johnson of Knoxville, Tennessee. As one of 1,577 new or recruited volunteers last year, Johnson had his name drawn as the winner of RMEF’s 2014 “New Committee Member” contest and received a UTV donated by our conservation partners at Cabela’s. Johnson received the keys at the Cabela’s story in Acworth, Georgia. 

RMEF Atlanta Chairman Ernie Swift, Acworth Cabela's Retail Marketing Manager Alicia Ferguson,
Ken Johnson, Acworth Cabela's Power Sports Manager Randy McBride and RMEF Georgia State Chair
Glenn Williams (left to right)
In addition to the grand prize, there are actually 23 more new RMEF committee members who also received prizes—eight Buck Knife package winners (five different Buck Knives), five Danner boot package winners (one pair of Danner boots, socks and hat), five Team Elk Pack winners and five Vortex binoculars winners.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to all of our more than 11,000 dedicated and passionate volunteers. Your hard work allows the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to make a measurable difference as we work together to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Thank you!

Go here to learn more about becoming an RMEF volunteer.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Kentucky Elk are on the Ground in Wisconsin

Below is a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Elk from Kentucky have reached their new home near Black River Falls, Wis. in the first year of elk reintroduction efforts in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and a number of other key partners.

In all, 26 elk were transported to Jackson County after completing a 45-day quarantine period in Kentucky as part of a five-year agreement between Wisconsin and Kentucky that will provide Wisconsin with up to 150 wild elk. In 2015, all elk will be released in Jackson County, while future years will see animals released in both Jackson County and Clam Lake.

Special precautions are being taken to help make sure elk received from Kentucky become accustomed to their new home in Jackson County. A seven acre acclimation pen has been built within the Black River State Forest near Black River Falls, Wis., and all elk brought to Jackson County from Kentucky will be held in the pen for a minimum of 75 days to satisfy health testing requirements and allow the elk to become familiar with their new surroundings.

In addition to the closed area surrounding the acclimation pen, individuals are asked to voluntarily avoid the general vicinity of closed area until the elk are released in early summer. Minimizing human disturbance near the release site will allow the elk to adjust to their new home and will help maximize the success of reintroduction efforts.

Funding for Wisconsin’s elk translocation efforts is a result of key partnerships and support from the Ho-Chunk Nation, Jackson County Wildlife Fund, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and many others. The department has committed to using only funds received from partner groups.

For more information regarding elk in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “elk.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Buzzed to Benefit Elk Country

Cinfio (left) and Bob Munson
Ralph Cinfio knew something was up. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s vice president of Fundraising Services recently visited St. Cloud, Minnesota, for the 25th big game banquet anniversary of the Northern Lights Royal Chapter. RMEF co-founders Bob Munson and Charlie Decker were also on hand and that, in itself, spelled “trouble” for Cinfio.

You see, it was some 12 years earlier in the same town at the same banquet that Cinfio walked away with a freshly shaven head. The loss of his hair was the RMEF’s gain to the tune of $4,443.

“I was pretty nervous about it back then because I was part of a wedding scheduled to take place just two months later,” Cinfio recalled. “It turned out to be just fine though because it involved a lot of military personnel and I fit right in with the new hair style.”

Decker shows his barber "skills"
Fast forward to 2015 and Ralph’s return to St. Cloud where a déjà vu kind of challenge murmured its way through the crowd. Before he knew it, he found himself up on stage in front of everyone with two more-than-eager RMEF co-founders hovering over him with shaving shears in hand. Munson and Decker got the “green light” after banquet attendees ponied up $3,700 for them to do the deed. 

"Bob was like a kid in a candy store and Charlie said ‘Hey, save me some hair!’ He then gave me a nice, tidy reverse mohawk,” said Cinfio.

Thanks Ralph for literally putting your head (and your hair) on the line—all to help ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Go here to find an RMEF banquet near you.

Cinfio, holding a photo of his Northern Lights Royal Chapter haircut from 12 years earlier,
gets a comforting kiss from wife Jodie

Monday, March 23, 2015

Idaho Drivers Can Soon Show Their RMEF Pride

If you want something bad enough and you work hard enough, you can make it happen. That’s exactly the lesson learned by hard-working volunteers and members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in the state of Idaho. Thanks to the execution of an idea coupled with support, determination and follow-through, Idaho will become the seventh state to have an RMEF license plate.

Representative Clark Kauffman (R-Filer) sponsored the measure in the House Transportation Committee where, thanks to input and testimony provided by RMEF volunteers and staffers, it passed without a dissenting vote. The bill then successfully weaved its way through the different legislative chambers until it found itself on the governor’s desk where Butch Otter signed it into law on March 5, 2015.

Below is a submission by Rep. Kauffman taken from the March 6th edition of the Idaho Legislative Highlights newsletter.

“This week I met with Governor Otter as he signed HB 44, legislation that creates an Idaho license plate for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. The Elk Foundation is a leader in wildlife conservation, with a tremendous track record of conservation and land protection around the country and here in Idaho. This new license plate will help the foundation raise the necessary funds to further their mission.”

The new RMEF license plates are expected to be ready for Idaho drivers sometime this summer. The exact design is yet to be finalized.

Treasure Valley Chapter Chair John Aultman, Treasure Valley Chapter Chair Dale Morehouse,
Idaho Governor Butch Otter, Rep. Clark Kauffman, Southern Idaho Chair Jameson Sharp,
Regional Director Colin Hickman and RMEF Board of Director Dennis Rodocha
(left to right)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Improvements on the Way for Oregon Elk Habitat

Below is a complete listing of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s 2015 grants for the state of Oregon. Find more information here.

Crook County—Thin juniper on 450 acres and burn 767 acres that were thinned in 2014 to promote native grasses and enhance the bitterbrush and sagebrush steppe habitat on elk, mule deer and pronghorn winter range as well as greater sage-grouse habitat on the Ochoco National Forest (also affects Grant County).

Douglas County—Create eight acres of forage openings and maintain an additional 34 acres of forage openings to help address declining Roosevelt elk populations in southwestern Oregon that will also assist black-tailed deer, black bear, ruffed grouse as well as other birds and mammals on the Umpqua National Forest.

Grant County—Treat 450 acres of weed infestations across a 13,000 acre landscape that includes crucial winter range to complement an ongoing program of spring development, forage openings, fuels reduction and wet meadow protection on private land that allows public hunting adjacent to the Bridge Creek Wildlife Management Area; spray 11,000 acres and drill seed 4,200 acres on the Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands which burned in a 2014 wildfire; and thin 100 acres of overstocked lodgepole pine stands to improve forage on summer range with high elk use southeast of Fish Lake on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Harney County—Rehabilitate and protect a rare, 40-acre wet meadow along Alder Creek in the Stinkingwater Mountains by constructing a series of engineered check dams and fill to stabilize and rehab the stream channel. In addition, a 110-acre exclosure will be built to keep livestock out of the meadow. The nearest wetland of this size and type is located more than 41 air miles away.

Jackson County—Apply prescribed underburning to 425 acres on the western slope of the southern Cascade Mountains in a recently commercially thinned area to jumpstart early seral recruitment in order to increase forage quality and quantity for elk on yearlong habitat on the Rogue River National Forest. The project will also reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire within the municipal watershed for Medford which provides clean water to approximately 80,000 residents in the Rogue Valley.

Lake County—Thin 800 acres within aspen stands in a larger project area to reduce conifers and improve habitat on elk summer range and calving areas within the South Warner Mountains on the Fremont-Winema National Forest; restore 178 acres of meadow, aspen and riparian habitat by utilizing prescribed fire to improve grass and herbaceous forage and increase vigor and recruitment of aspen within the Coyote Creek area on the Freemont National Forest (also affects Klamath County); and thin encroaching conifers and junipers from 1,155 acres in the Middle Drews Creek and Lower Hay Creek subwatersheds in the Drews Creek Watershed on the Fremont National Forest to assist aspen stands affected by decades of fire suppression.

Lane County—Improve 209 acres of elk habitat in the Foley Ridge area on the Willamette National Forest through a combination of herbicide treatments, conifer thinning, seeding and prescribed burning; burn 100 acres and thin 200 additional acres on the Middle Fork Ranger District to restore over-stocked pine plantations back to historic open pine savannah to improve forage quality and quantity for Roosevelt elk and deer; and continue a forage enhancement project involving prescribed fire, seeding, noxious weed treatment and cutting back browse to encourage sprouting on the Willamette National Forest adjacent to private land and the Tokatee Golf Course to lure elk and deer off private land.

Linn County—Enhance subalpine meadows being encroached by conifers due to a lack of fire by using tree felling, tree girdling, browse cutback and seed collection across 300 acres to benefit two meadows that serve as elk and black-tailed deer migration corridors on the Willamette National Forest. More than 200 species of flowering plants, including sensitive plant species, are found here as well as a large diversity of butterflies and other pollinators.

Tillamook County—Clear non-native and encroaching vegetation on 135 acres of meadows scattered across the Hebo Ranger District of the Siuslaw National Forest to improve forage for Roosevelt elk and other meadow dependent species (also affects Lincoln and Yamhill Counties).

Union County—Treat noxious weeds on 622 acres of elk winter range and calving areas on private land protected by an RMEF conservation easement adjacent to the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Management Area; install boulder blockades and update two gates to reinforce road closures that were enacted 25 years ago to provide secure habitat within an area critical to maintaining population objectives and bull-cow ratios in the Horseshoe Prairie area on the Umatilla National Forest. In addition, roadbeds will be seeded to maintain a forage base as part of a project to benefit approximately 2,700 acres of forest habitat that is a mix of spring and critical summer habitat; and thin 400 acres to reduce the density of young conifer trees to increase forage availability for elk on public lands in the Blue Mountain’s Ladd Canyon area on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Wallowa County—Apply low intensity burning on 500 acres within the Chesnimnus Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The project is part of 10-year burn program creating a mosaic of habitat across 12,751 acres of elk transition and critical summer range where calf recruitment is poor and the distribution of elk across seasonal ranges is very poor; and treat 150 acres of noxious weeds on the Umatilla National forest and private lands in the Wenaha River watershed through the Wallowa Canyonlands Partnership to improve forage on crucial winter and summer range (also affects Asotin, Columbia and Garfield Counties in Washington).

Conservation projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies and universities.

Partners for the Oregon projects include the Fremont-Winema, Ochoco, Rogue River-Siskiyou, Umatilla, Umpqua, Wallowa-Whitman and Willamette National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, private landowners and various sportsmen, wildlife, civic, tribal and government organizations.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rodeo Princess, Young RMEF Member Pays It Forward

Lexi Daugherty
(Teton County Fair and Royalty
Facebook page)
Ask 15-year old Alexa (Lexi) Daugherty of Game Creek, Wyoming, to define ‘magic,’ and you may be surprised by her answer. She will tell you it is the look on a tourist’s face the first time they attend a rodeo or pose for a picture with her and her horse,Trouble, along a parade route.

Lexi will also tell you it’s the abundant wildlife and incredible scenery that draw millions of people to Teton County every year, and that those people leave with vivid memories that last a lifetime. She understands Western traditions and natural landscapes make Teton County a great place to visit and a special place to live.

She also does her part to ensure their future through her volunteerism as a rodeo princess and her advocacy for land conservation. Lexi knows conserving and enhancing habitat is an important part of the ‘magic’ equation that benefits residents and visitors alike. 

In January 2015, Lexi won an award for volunteer service from the community organization Soroptimist of Jackson Hole. It required that she ‘pay it forward’ and donate one half of the $1,000 in winnings to a non-profit of her choice. Lexi chose the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Lexi (left) presents $500 to RMEF Lands Program Manager Leah Burgess
“I looked for an organization whose goals will help protect the magic for our visitors and our residents,” Lexi wrote in her Soroptimist essay. “Wildlife and scenic vistas are the primary reasons people visiting this community give for why they think this place is special. [RMEF] protects wildlife and their habitat which protects the magic that we and all of our visitors value so much.”

If you have not guessed by now, Lexi is a member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, as are other members of her family.

“Lexi is an avid horsewoman, hunter, and community member who embodies what it means to be an engaged young citizen of the West,” said Leah Burgess, RMEF lands program manager for Wyoming. “It is impressive at such a young age that she is actively promoting the western lifestyle through rodeo, hunting and conservation, and she is making a difference in her local and international communities by sharing her passion with others. We are truly honored to be the recipient of Lexi’s donation.”

“I learned in my Hunters Safety class that habitat loss and fragmentation are the greatest threat to our wildlife today. My hope is that by supporting the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, they will help us conserve this special place so that future generations can experience the magic I feel.”

Leah Burgess
RMEF Lands Program Manager (Wyo.)

Lexi (second from the right), her father, and Wyoming Game and Fish staff tour a property
Lexi hunts in Teton County

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pennsylvanian Wins 2014 Yamaha Great Elk Tour Sweepstakes

Rick and his new ride
The Great Elk Tour covered more than 65,000 miles in 2014 as it spread a message of conservation, hunting, education, ethics and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Along the way, it offered an opportunity for attendees to assist RMEF's mission by entering a drawing for a Yamaha Grizzly 700 4x4 EPS and an additional $500 in Yamaha accessories.

Rick Fritz from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, was thrilled to find out his name was drawn as the winner.

Just so you know, the Great Elk Tour is in the midst of its 2015 nationwide schedule. And thanks to our conservation partners at Yamaha, if you catch us somewhere on the road you can once again make a two-dollar donation that places your name in the hopper to win another ATV. The winner will be drawn in early 2016.

Thanks to all for your support of elk, conservation and the RMEF!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Scientific Research Speaks Loudly: Hunting Is Conservation

A new study published by the Journal of Wildlife Management indicates that hunting is among two recreational activities that inspire people to support conservation. The other is birdwatching. Perhaps the words of study co-author Ashley Dayer of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology best sum up the results, “There is hope for conservation in rural communities through both binoculars and bullets.”

The research focused on the activity of those who live in rural, Upstate New York and took into account a wide range of characteristics such as age, beliefs about the environment, education, gender and political ideology. What resulted was a finding that hunters and birdwatchers are 3-to-5 times more likely to engage in conservation behaviors. 

“The differences between wildlife recreationists and non-recreationists were most pronounced among a distinctive set of activities,” lead study author Caren Cooper, assistant director of the Biodiversity Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, wrote in an independent blog. “Only birdwatchers and hunters carried out conservation activities that required a high level of commitment, such as habitat restoration, joining local (conservation) groups, engaging in advocacy for wildlife recreation and donating money to conservation.”

Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
"Managers often discuss direct and indirect links between wildlife recreation and conservation," said study co-author Lincoln Larson, assistant professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University. "Our findings not only validate this connection, but reveal the unexpected strength of the conservation-recreation relationship."

What really raised researchers’ eyebrows were the contributions of individuals who identified themselves as both hunters and birdwatchers. On average, this group was about eight times more likely than non-recreationists to engage in conservation.

"We set out to study two groups -- birdwatchers and hunters -- and didn't anticipate the importance of those who do both, and wildlife managers probably didn't either," said Cooper. "We don't even have a proper name for these conservation superstars other than hunter-birdwatchers."

Wildlife agencies already fully recognize that hunters do their part in funding conservation. Hunters raised more than $7.2 billion to fund conservation efforts since the self-imposed implementation of a 1937 excise tax on hunting ammunition and equipment. They also generate nearly $800 million annually through the purchase of state hunting licenses and fees and donate an additional $440 million each year to conservation groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“The next steps are to figure out how to tap birdwatchers to harness and apply their interest in conservation,” added Cooper. “Will it be through a conservation tax on binoculars, bird feeders and field guides? Will it be through more citizen science? Suggestions welcome!”

Hunters will continue to do their part.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Life Member Wins RMEF Sweepstakes, Stands Ready to Help Hunting Partner

Shawn Lucas didn’t become a life member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to win prizes. He joined because he believes in its mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. But winning RMEF’s most recent sweepstakes turned out to be icing on the cake.

Like scores of other members, Lucas, who became a life member last September, opened a mailing he received from RMEF headquarters later in 2014. It announced the RMEF Fall ’14 Sweepstakes—an opportunity to donate toward RMEF’s mission while having a chance to win the Ambush iS 4x4 hybrid from Bad Boy Buggies or one of 14 firearms.

Shawn filled it out and mailed it, and RMEF recently notified him that he was drawn as the grand prize winner. As you might expect, he was surprised and thrilled. But as his email to us below indicates, he plans on using his new prize to help a friend.

“I was able to pick up my Buggie on Monday. I thought it appropriate to wear my life member attire! Thank you so much for this wonderful prize. I look forward to many happy years of enjoyment with this vehicle in the woods. My primary hunting buddy is handicapped so it has always been a challenge to get him into the woods without disturbing wildlife. With this whisper-quiet electric motor, he’ll be able to sneak in with much less disturbance and hopefully result in better success rates for him.”

Congratulations Shawn! And congratulations to the other 14 winners, all of whom have been notified. As you can see here, the 15 winners came from 11 different states. 

Our thanks go out to everyone who entered the sweepstakes as the dollars donated will help RMEF continue to magnify its mission.

Shawn and his new Bad Boy Buggie

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Desk Purging Leads to Blast from RMEF’s Past

Sometimes a little spring cleaning can lead to an “ancient” discovery. Or in this case, a yellowing document that dates back to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s roots.

Here’s what happened. A Bugle magazine staffer was recently digging through a desk drawer at RMEF headquarters and came across a letter (see below) dated December 1984—that’s a mere seven months after the Elk Foundation’s official founding. As you can probably tell, it was typewritten. 

What you may not know is the return address of Rt. 3 Wilderness Plateau in Troy, Montana, no longer exists. Well, at least RMEF’s first headquarters –a converted double-wide trailer– no longer exists. Today, that location is merely an empty field with no indication of its emotionally-charged past.

RMEF's original headquarters
Rt. 3 Wilderness Plateau  Troy, Montana
“When you see where we started you will know it’s a miracle that we made it where we are today,” RMEF co-founder Charlie Decker recalled.

“Those were some dark days in Troy. We did a lot of praying in those early days and a lot of deep thinking,” added Bob Munson, also a co-founder. 

Munson and Decker, along with Dan Bull and Bob’s brother Bill, as well as their families, scratched and clawed to keep the new non-profit organization financially afloat. They launched Bugle magazine, welcomed volunteers and staffers on board, and just plain survived.

As the letter states, “A strong membership gives the Foundation the ability to really make a difference in the future of elk in North America.” Nothing rings more true! At that time, there were approximately 500,000 elk in North America. 

Today, due in part to RMEF and a vast army of hunter-conservationists, there are more than a million elk in North America, including wild, free-ranging herds in 28 states as well as a number of Canadian provinces.

Today, RMEF’s membership is 205,000 strong and boasts more than 11,000 dedicated volunteers who work together to carry out a shared mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Today, we remain grateful for the sacrifices made by our early RMEF pioneers who helped propel the organization to what is now a strong foundation with a loud, resonating voice in the wildlife conservation world.

“It was truly miraculous and we appreciate so many people. I believe God had his hand on this thing. It’s his landscape and it’s pretty awesome to be involved in that,” added Munson.

We don’t need a yellowing piece of paper to tell us that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Torstenson Family Endowment 2014 Projects

Below is a complete listing of the 2014 projects funded by the Torstenson Family Endowment. Find more information here.

Elk Restoration

Virginia Elk Restoration—The multi-year project to restore wild elk to Virginia is complete after the third and final group of 45 wild elk arrived from Kentucky in 2014. They joined an existing herd of approximately 40 elk previously relocated in 2012 and 2013.

Wisconsin Elk Restoration—This project plans to relocate 150 Kentucky elk over three to five years. The first elk were released at a new site, the Black River Falls. The next two years will have releases of elk to this new herd and to the existing Clam Lake herd.

Hunting Heritage

RMEF Elk Education Trunks
Designed for teachers, elk trunks contain lesson plans, activities, books, antlers, furs, skulls and other materials to help educators teach youth about elk, other wildlife, habitat conservation and hunting.

California—San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Los Banos
California—Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
Alabama/Florida/Georgia/Mississippi—RMEF Senior Regional Director R. Waterhouse
Idaho—Meadows Valley School, New Meadows
Illinois—Eric Torstenson, Barrington (2)
Michigan—DNR Outdoor Adventure Center, Detroit
Montana—Glasgow School District, Glasgow
Nevada—Grammar #2 Elementary School, Elko
Ohio—Cherokee Elementary School, Liberty Township
Tennessee—Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, Morristown
Washington—Spokane Tribal Wildlife Program, Wellpinit
Washington—Verbrugge Environmental Center, Newport
Wisconsin—RMEF La Crosse Chapter, La Crosse

Wildlife Leadership Awards
Awarded five $3,000 college scholarships to undergraduate biology students to foster continued career interest in wildlife biology and management.

Arkansas—Matt Gideon, Arkansas Tech University
Kentucky—Chelsea Brock, Eastern Kentucky University
Massachusetts—Joseph Grennon, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Oregon—Jessica Stewart, Oregon State University
West Virginia—Hannah Clipp, West Virginia University

Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow Workshops
Supported Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow (CLfT), a professional development program designed to teach hunting awareness and conservation education to leaders of natural resources based academic programs and government agencies. During 2014, CLfT conducted 11 workshops that were attended by 91 college students and 54 agency professionals. 

Illinois Conservation Foundation Education Trailer
Funded the design and furnishing of the Illinois Conservation Foundation Education Trailer. The trailer will travel throughout Illinois, including inner city areas, and bring outdoor education to those that might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about conservation, hunting, shooting sports, fishing and camping.

Hunter Education Support
Arizona—Provided 2,475 hunter orange safety caps to the Arizona Game and Fish Department for its hunter education program.

Montana—Provided 2,322 hunter orange safety vests to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for its hunter education program.

New Mexico—Provided 1,846 hunter orange safety vests to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish for its hunter education program.

Illinois—Provided 4,000 RMEF Youth Membership Knives to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for distribution at hunter education classes.

Wisconsin—Provided 4,000 RMEF Youth Membership Knives to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for distribution at hunter education classes.

Various—Provided 276 RMEF Youth Membership knives to individuals and groups around the country.

Hunting Heritage Projects
Colorado—Funded the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) purchase of four trap throwers and an eight-trap wireless controller for CPW’s Novice Hunter Program which provides hands-on, in-the-field hunting days for hunter education graduates.

Iowa—Funded the purchase of targets for the Raised at Full Draw Youth Bowhunting Camp in Winterset, Iowa.

Illinois—Assisted Chicago’s Hubbard High School in purchasing bows, arrows and targets for the school’s new Junior ROTC Archery in the Schools Program.

Mississippi—Funded start-up of an Archery in the Schools Program at the Union Church Christian Academy, a small K-12 school in Tylertown.

Missouri—Purchased archery equipment so Jamestown C-1 School could expand its National Archery in the Schools Program into their Physical Education classes.

Montana—Provided 60 RMEF survival bracelets to youth participants in the National 4-H Western Heritage Project Conference and Invitational Shoot that was held in Virginia City.

Montana—Provided 75 “Wild Life of Elk” books to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ WILD Outdoor Education Center in Helena.

Habitat Stewardship and Management

Clearwater Basin Elk Nutrition Study Year #2 (Idaho)—Study and model development monitoring elk responses to landscape restoration of early seral habitat in north-central Idaho where elk populations have been declining steadily and precipitously during the past three decades.

Water Installations
Metcalf Wildlife Management Area Water Catchments (Nebraska)—Install three water catchments and a well water system to replace structures damaged by a 2012 wildfire on the Metcalf State Wildlife Management Area.

Montz Point Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Wildlife Guzzler (Nebraska)—Install a 1,000-gallon water catchment on Montz Point Wildlife Management Area in Nebraska to benefit elk, bighorn sheep and mule deer. This will supplement one spring development, currently the only water source on the WMA.

Pine Ridge Ranger District Guzzlers (Nebraska)—Replace three non-functioning wildlife water developments that were destroyed or heavily damaged by high intensity wildfires.

Habitat Enhancement
Buffalo National River Habitat Enhancement (Arkansas)—Prescribed burn and seeding of 5,440 acres to enhance habitat for elk and other wildlife.

Clearwater Basin Collaborative Support Year #4 (Idaho)—Supporting the Collaborative, which focuses on extensive landscape restoration of early seral habitat in the Clearwater Basin to meet ecosystem goals and services, including the restoration of healthy elk habitats and populations.

Pony Complex Wildland Fire Rehabilitation (Idaho) –Plant bitterbrush seedlings across 25,000 acres of elk and mule deer habitat.

Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests Burn Block #4 (Idaho)—Prescribed burn of approximately 18,000 acres in the Clearwater Basin on 10 units consisting of elk crucial winter and summer range on two national forests.

Fort Riley Vegetation Improvement (Kansas)–Herbicide application on 2,500 acres to convert grasses to more beneficial early successional plant species, providing more heterogeneous forage and benefiting grassland dependent species.

Munger Road Forage Openings #2 (Michigan)—Plant buckwheat and clover on 63 acres that have been cleared of brush and hyrdo-axing another 62 acres to facilitate future prescribed burning in the Pigeon River State Forest.

Smoky Mountains Wildfire Forage Openings (North Carolina)—Clear, mow, seed and fertilize 11 acres to improve elk habitat on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Reserve.

Cataloochee Prescribed Burn (North Carolina)—2,200-acre burn in a series of prescribed burns over a number of years to restore the composition and open structure of oak and pine woodlands.

Wapiti Wildlife Management Area Mechanical Thinning (Nebraska)—Removal of Eastern Red Cedar on 70 acres to enhance the deciduous component and open the understory to increase browse forage for elk.

Eckleberger/Sheep Basin Prescribed Burn (New Mexico)—Approximate 2,311-acre burn in part of a multi-year effort to improve forest health on nearly 25,000 acres in the Gila National Forest.

Meekins 1 Prescribed Burn (New Mexico)—Follow-up burn on 420 acres of the Gila National Forest’s Wilderness Ranger District to improve forage.

Spruce Mountain Restoration (Nevada)—Improve elk yearlong habitat and mule deer winter habitat by removing pinyon-juniper trees and seeding on 1,200 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands.

Cherokee Wildlife Management Area Forage and Firebreaks (Oklahoma)—Maintain 10 miles of firebreaks and road access, prepping for future burns, and renovate 60 acres of forage openings encroached by larger woody species.

Cookson Wildlife Management Area Fireguard Improvement (Oklahoma)—Prep five miles of fireguard for future burning.

Pushmata Wildlife Management Area Prescribed Burn (Oklahoma)—Following thinning of the closed canopy, 5,000 acres will be burned to improve abundance and quality of year-round elk forage. Brush control on 480 acres will maintain firebreaks.

North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area Foraging Habitat Enhancement (Tennessee)—Use mechanical clearing and seeding to create and enhance 42 acres of forage habitat on Gunsight Mountain and in Bear Wallow Hollow for Tennessee’s growing elk herd, with the goal of reducing elk pressure on adjacent private lands.

War Fork Habitat Project Year #2 (Virginia)—Natural and man-made habitat is being created and enhanced in Virginia’s Elk Restoration Zone to encourage elk to use this designated area and provide the forage and water needed for the herd to grow to a sustainable population.

Clam Lake Elk Range Forage Enhancement (Wisconsin)—Enhance habitat through prescribed burn, mowing and planting on the Flambeau River State Forest and Kimberly Clark Wildlife Area.

Panther Wildlife Management Area Habitat Enhancement (West Virginia)—Improve forage conditions for elk and other wildlife on 22 acres by increasing open land and early successional forested habitat through clearing, seeding, border edge cuts, and two water hole developments.

Permanent Land Protection and Access

Access Projects
Access Yes! (Idaho)—Supported Idaho’s program that expands sportsmen’s access to private land or through private land to public land by paying willing landowners for public access for hunting, fishing, and trapping. The $50,000 grant provided funds to enroll approximately 40,000 acres in the program and helped the Idaho Fish and Game bridge a gap in federal funding so that no lease agreements had to be terminated during the 2014 fall hunting season. As of December 16, 2014, there are 88 active Access Yes! lease agreements opening 380,781 private acres and 486,375 public acres.

Medicine Lodge - Kate Creek & Ayers Canyon Road Access Easement (Montana)—RMEF teamed up with a private landowner, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and local sportsmen groups to purchase a road access easement that secures permanent public access to approximately 41,344 acres of public lands in southwest Montana.

Luera Peak Right-of-Way (New Mexico)—RMEF contributed to a 35-year right-of-way lease that will improve access to approximately 22,400 acres of public land, the great majority of which is elk habitat.

Wall Creek Acquisition (Montana)—RMEF acquired 631 acres of vital elk winter range in the Madison Valley of southwestern Montana adjacent to the 7,067-acre Madison-Wall Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The entire southern edge of this property borders the existing WMA, which provides crucial winter range for 2,000 elk, as well as hundreds of mule deer and pronghorn antelope. 

Whitetail Prairie Acquisition (Montana)—The Voegele Family and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks partnered with RMEF to conserve 2,810 acres of important wildlife habitat adjacent to the 31,947-acre Beartooth Wildlife Management Area in western Montana. The land is valuable year-round habitat for elk, antelope, mule deer, whitetail deer, bear, mountain lion and numerous non-game species.

Woodring Farm Acquisition (Pennsylvania)—RMEF teamed up with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to purchase and conserve 81 acres of prime elk habitat in the heart of the Pennsylvania elk range.

York Gulch Acquisition (Montana)—RMEF contributed to the acquisition of 286 acres in the York Gulch area northeast of Helena. The land is important habitat for wildlife and a critical corridor for wildlife movement, and provides key road access to recreational areas. The acres were added to the Helena National Forest.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Volunteers Clean Up Arizona Desert

They came from different walks of life but they shared one common goal—work together to clean up one of the most heavily used and popular public recreation sites in central Arizona.

Some 243 volunteers recently gathered at the Table Mesa Recreation Area just north of Phoenix. Among them were 94 people who identified themselves as hunters including 16 members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Table Mesa Recreation Area covers more than 11,000 acres and is a destination for those who enjoy hiking, camping, picnicking, OHV riding, mountain biking, horseback riding, target shooting and other outdoor activities. It’s also home to the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail and provides access to Lake Pleasant.

Due to its popularity as well as its easy access and proximity to a high population base, it is prone to illegal dumping, littering and other misuse. Volunteers brought work gloves, buckets and a great attitude as they ignored gray and drizzly skies. When all was said and done, they had succeeded in removing more than 13 tons of trash and other debris.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hunting Is Conservation, Even at 37,000 Feet

I recently boarded my Seattle-to-Missoula connection from an out-of-state work trip and settled in for the 80-minute flight back home. Moments later a woman from California, on her way to Montana for the first time to meet her husband for some relaxation, sat next to me. We struck up a casual conversation about flying, the weather, family, pets, hobbies and careers. It was refreshing, especially in this day and age when so many of us shut out the world by plugging in our earphones and focusing on electronic devices.

She asked if Montana was my home and what I knew about her final destination. She also asked what business took me away from home. I told her I worked for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and was returning from Elk Camp, our national convention. 

“That sounds like something my husband would be interested in. He really likes to hunt and so does my dad,” she said.

She asked me if I liked to hunt and, if so, why I did. I responded that I enjoy hiking mountain ridges, watching the sun rise, spending quality time with my son and friends, breathing fresh air, witnessing all forms of wildlife—from the big game I sought to the songbirds, squirrels, small game and other marvels that nature has to offer. I told her how spending time in the outdoors offers a sense of peace and a stronger connection to the landscape. 

“Does it bother you to kill an animal?” she inquired.

“Well, it’s not something I take pleasure in but I do so to fill the freezer,” I responded. “The only beef of any kind we bought over the last decade or so were pre-formed hamburger patties for the barbecue.”

She asked about the butchering process. I said I did not send the meat to a butcher but that I choose to do that myself. I went on to explain that we use deer and elk meat for stew, jerky, roasts, taco salad and wide variety of other dishes. 

When I asked if she had any interest in hunting, she said she did not but was fine with those who chose to do so.

At that point I pulled out the latest copy of Bugle magazine. (I like to give away my personal copy when I travel.) Being an animal lover she marveled at the beauty of the bull elk on the cover and then, as she saw the Hunting Is Conservation logo in the lower corner said, “Hunting is conservation? I’ve never thought of that before.” 

Then, somewhat ironically, she went on to do the educating.

“Hunters appreciate being out in nature more than a lot of us who don’t make it out there as often—at least in the backcountry anyway. They care for animals and the land they live on,” she stated as her personal light bulb was now fully illuminated. “Yeah, I can see how hunting is conservation.”

As we chatted a bit more I explained how there’s an 11 percent tax on the guns, ammunition, bows and arrows that each hunter purchases, and more than $7 billion raised from that self-imposed excise tax first instituted in 1937 is funneled directly toward land and wildlife conservation. We talked about how the fees for hunting licenses go directly to state fish and game agencies to help manage wildlife, and how hunters donate more than $440 million per year to organizations like RMEF which apply those funds toward conservation projects.

As the wheels touched down on Mother Earth and our flight came to an end, we wished each other the best as we went our separate ways. I was grateful for an opportunity to share some heartfelt feelings about hunting and the direct ties it has to conserving our wild places.

Mark Holyoak
RMEF Director of Communication