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


Friday, February 26, 2016

RMEF Hails Passage of SHARE Act

Measure includes amendment to remove gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming from the Endangered Species Act

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hails the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. The bipartisan vote for H.R. 2406 was 242-161 in favor.

Lawmakers amended the bill on the House floor to reinstate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to delist the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming from the Endangered Species Act.

“This is key legislation for sportsmen and women on many different fronts,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Regarding wildlife management, the wolf population is more than 100 percent above recovery goals in the Great Lakes and more than 200 percent above recovery goals in Wyoming. It is vital that wolves are again managed by state agencies which manage all other species.”

SHARE Act highlights:
     
·         Requires Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands be open for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless specifically closed
·         Extends/increases states’ authority to allocate Pittman-Robertson funding for acquiring land for expanding/constructing public shooting ranges
·         Makes existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, adds lead tackle as an exempted product
·         Requires U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to consider the priority public uses as hunting and fishing when adding new lands to National Wildlife Refuge System
·         Provides for the use of volunteers from the hunting community to cull excess animals on BLM, USFS, FWS and National Park System lands

“We call on the Senate to follow the lead of their colleagues in the House and approve this legislation so it can be sent to President Obama’s desk and signed into law,” added Allen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Call to Action: Contact House Reps About Wolf Delisting, SHARE Act

RMEF Members,

Contact Your House Representatives: Remove Wolves from the Endangered Species Act

The U.S. House Rules Committee just adopted an amendment to reissue the 2011 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decision to delist the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming from the Endangered Species Act and return management to state agencies. It is expected to be included in the SHARE Act which is scheduled to be introduced to the full House and debated either Thursday or Friday.

Wolves in the Great Lakes have surpassed recovery goals by more than 100 percent and wolves in Wyoming are above their recovery goals by more than 200 percent. The world’s leading wolf biologist, Dr. David Mech, recently told Minnesota Public Radio, “The wolf population is absolutely in no danger of extinction or even undue decline. The population can sustain a high level of take on an annual basis without any concern or endanger to the population.”

The bottom line is wolf populations in the Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies are fully recovered and need to be placed back in the hands of the states, which manage all other species.

Please reach out to your House representatives today to urge them to approve the SHARE Act with this specific amendment. Find his/her contact information here.

Go here to see the full text of the SHARE Act.

Thank you for giving this worthy endeavor your timely attention.

Sincerely,





David Allen,
RMEF President & CEO

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Volunteers Clear the Way for Colorado Elk

You just can’t beat a sunny day in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Seventeen volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with five Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) personnel in August 2015.

They met up in exceptional elk country that makes up the Green Ranch section of the Golden Gate Canyon State Park northwest of Golden. Upon retirement, the Green family did not want to see their lands developed and subdivided like other properties in the area so they sold the ranch to CPW. Hunting is allowed on 2,500 acres for youth as well as a limited number of other hunters holding elk permits. 

The goal was to remove a mile of old, rusty barbed wire fencing that impeded wildlife movement.

“It was a pleasure to work with people so enthusiastic and dedicated to protecting elk and their habitat,” said Jason Anderson, CPW park resource tech IV. “I have worked with many volunteer groups over my 15 years with the agency and rarely encounter a group so energetic.” 

 After a late lunch of burgers and brats, many volunteers remained to continue removing barbed wire fencing along a road which not only restricted elk movements but was also an eyesore.

“The fence was old and decrepit with the wire mostly down in the grass. I could see places where wildlife had snagged this fence and pulled pieces away from the main line. I’ll be back next year,” said volunteer Mark McAdoo.

At the end of the day, the barbed wire and metal posts had been hauled out of the woods and each volunteer left for home safe, minor punctures notwithstanding, as well as satisfied with the day’s accomplishments.

“I was extremely happy with the amount of work we accomplished. It is always rewarding for me personally to look back after a wire removal project and know that not only does the area look better but wildlife will no longer tangle in rusty wire. Thank you RMEF volunteers for your continued hard work, dedication, and eager willingness to make a difference in elk country,” said Anderson.

                 Video courtesy Garrett Drach

Call to Action: Contact U.S. House Reps Regarding SHARE Act

RMEF Members,

Contact Your House Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on an important bill this week that would help preserve our outdoor traditions. The Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreation Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015 (H.R. 2406) revises a variety of existing programs to expand access to, and opportunities for, hunting, fishing and recreational shooting.

SHARE Act highlights:
·         Makes existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, adds lead tackle as an exempted product
·         Extends/increases states’ authority to allocate Pittman-Robertson funding for acquiring land for expanding/constructing public shooting ranges
·         Requires Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands be open for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless specifically closed
·         Requires U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to consider the priority public uses as hunting and fishing when adding new lands to National Wildlife Refuge System
·         Provides for the use of volunteers from the hunting community to cull excess animals on BLM, USFS, FWS and National Park System lands

Go here to see the full text of the bill.

Find your representative and his/her contact information here.

Our combined involvement as sportsmen and women in this process will ensure the future of our hunting heritage and our outdoor way of life. Thank you for being engaged and making a difference.

Sincerely,





David Allen
RMEF President & CEO

Monday, February 22, 2016

Kansas Deer Permit Auction to Benefit Conservation

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's Southwest Chapter, located in Dodge City, Kansas, is teaming up with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to auction off KDWP's Deer Commission Big Game Permit. Eighty-five percent of the proceeds will benefit conservation efforts in Kansas as well as the RMEF. (The other 15 percent will cover auction administrative costs.)

This tag can be used statewide on either sex of mule deer or whitetail deer in any unit during any season.

  • Archery           09/12/16 - 1/08/17
  • Muzzleloader  09/12/16 - 9/25/16
  • Firearm           12/07/16 - 12/18/16

The auction begins on February 29 and continues until March 21. The starting bid is $7,500. To submit a sealed bid, contact:
Mason Cooper
827 E. Wilson St.
Ottawa, KS  66067
mcooper@rmef.org
402-394-5600

The Southwest Chapter will hold its annual big game banquet April 16. Ticket information is available here.

Friday, February 19, 2016

RMEF Supports Efforts to Rein In Wild Horse Population

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, as a member of the National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition, recently signed on to the letter below sent to the Bureau of Land Management in support of BLM efforts to reduce wild horse numbers that far exceed objective and have a detrimental impact on rangeland ecosystems and native wildlife habitat. Federal law dictates a population of 27,000 on public lands yet there are more than 40,000 on the landscape.



DATE: 3 February 2016

TO: Lisa Grant, Bureau of Land Management, Burns District Office 
28910 Hwy 20 West, Hines, OR
97738 blm_or_bu_mareresearchea@blm.gov
RE: Comments of the National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition on EA – Mare Sterilization Research – DOI-BLM-OR-B000-2015-0055-EA 

FROM: National Horse & Burro Rangeland Management Coalition Keith Norris, Chair, keith.norris@wildlife.org, 301-897-9770 x309 


Ms. Lisa Grant, 

The National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition supports the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to comply with the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 (Act) by managing for healthy herds on healthy ranges. Sterilization of free-roaming horses and burros is a potentially viable management activity authorized by the Act, but only if it can be scientifically evaluated and proven to be effective and viable. 

Our Coalition includes a wide range of sportsmen, livestock, wildlife, and conservation organizations and professional societies. Collectively, we represent over eight million Americans and focus on commonsense, ecologically-sound approaches to managing horses and burros to promote healthy wildlife and rangelands for future generations. 

The Coalition recognizes that unmanaged horses and burros negatively impact the health of rangeland ecosystems. Horses and burros are known to compact soils and graze vegetation extremely low to the ground, reducing the ability of plants to re-grow. Additionally, horses and burros compete with native wildlife for food and water resources and impact habitat used by these species. Excessive numbers of these animals can lead to starving and dehydrated horses and burros. Excess horses and burros are not compatible with a thriving natural ecological balance, which is required by the Act. 

Wild horse and burro populations are currently doubling every 4 years, off-range holding facilities are near capacity, and a continued decrease in off-range horse adoptions (2,631 horses in FY15) plague the BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program. Additional management practices are needed to allow the program to be successful. 

The three proposed studies provide the opportunity to research alternative fertility control methods beyond the use of PZP, which has been found to lose its effectiveness after one year. If any or all of the ovariectomies, tubal ligations, or hysteroscopically-guided laser ablations are found to be effective long-term sterilization techniques, the Coalition encourages the BLM to employ the effective treatments as soon as possible. The Coalition suggests that the BLM incorporate the substantial amount of scientific research and publications that already exist on the sterilization of domestic mares to increase the robustness and efficiency of their own research program. Swift implementation of effective population growth suppressing methods is necessary to protect our nation’s rangelands from further degradation caused by increasing horse and burro populations. 

We encourage the BLM to proceed with the implementation of these studies. While we are convinced they may ultimately prove helpful to supporting rangeland health, native wildlife, and healthy horse population consistent with the Act, we ask that the results of these studies be recognized as a small component of a greater, all-inclusive and active management approach to the issue of wild horse and burro populations. 

Thank you for your efforts to manage horses in a manner that will restore and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance between horses, native wildlife, and multiple uses of the range. 

Sincerely, 







Keith Norris, AWB® Coalition Chair

American Farm Bureau Federation  American Sheep Industry Association  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 

horseandrange@gmail.com 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

RMEF: California Wolf Plan 'Misses the Mark'

Below is a letter submitted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding CDFW's wolf conservation plan.


February 15, 2016
Wolf Plan Comment
PO Box 26750
San Francisco, CA 94126

Dear Sirs:

Founded over 30 years ago, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) is fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 220,000 strong. RMEF has conserved more than 6.7 million acres of quality habitat for elk and other wildlife. We also work to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage.

RMEF has thoroughly reviewed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Draft Conservation Plan for Gray Wolves in California Part I and Part II. RMEF has attended several meeting in the state, and staff or members have shared a number of talking points. Those are incorporated in these comments along with several other thoughts.

We appreciate efforts to compile background material for the life history of the wolf, research wolf diseases, and analyze wolf interactions with humans, domestic dogs, ungulates, and livestock in other areas of the country. This information does not exist for California, as the wolf has not been present in the state for a long period of time. However, we feel much of the plan’s analysis regarding wolves and ungulates misses the mark and does not reflect scientific research from other states or Canadian provinces. We also feel that, in some cases, important analysis was either not completed or was not reported in the plan.

The plan indicates an ideal wolf population level of nine breeding pairs. We are very curious what data interpretation was used to determine this number, and are also concerned that CDFW has very little baseline information regarding ungulate populations in areas where wolves may establish territories. Oregon has approximately 120,000 elk, and is managing for an ideal population of 11 breeding wolf pairs. California’s most recent Elk Management Plan was printed in 2010, and current hunt regulations claim 12,000 elk in the state. Of this total, 5,000 are Tule elk, and are thought to be far enough away from areas where wolves will recolonize so as to not be impacted for quite some time. That leaves only 7,000 Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk near areas where wolves may naturally return to the state. This is the smallest elk population to ever serve as prey species for wolves establishing territories in a western state. We have searched the literature and find no science indicating that a population of 7,000 elk can sustain nine breeding wolf pairs without a significant impact to the elk population. The plan’s Part I states, “There is concern that wolf predation has the potential to significantly impact and possibly extirpate local populations of prey.” We certainly agree with this statement, yet find no indication in either this plan or the Elk Management Plan that any assessment was done to predict what that impact might be.

We realize that California has no historical records of wolf numbers in the state or what their preferred prey species will be; however neither did Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Washington, or Oregon. Most of those states have found that nine breeding pairs actually represent approximately 125 wolves (14 wolves per pair) when also counting the young of the year, yearlings, and two-year-old dispersers. The chart “Predicted Ungulates Killed by Wolves Per Year” (Part II, Appendix E, Page 249) reflects at most a population of 64 wolves. We believe this is only about half of what might be expected, and a more realistic number of 125 wolves for the nine breeding pairs called for would equate to approximately 3,300 elk calves, 182 cow elk, and 360 bull elk killed by wolves each year.

The plan assumes that if elk are not present in adequate numbers the wolf diet will shift to mule deer, predicting “mule deer are more abundant than elk in northeastern California and may therefore represent the majority of the wolf diet in that region.” Based on findings in the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf populations, this is a poor assumption. Mule deer outnumber elk in nearly every western U.S. habitat occupied by wolves, yet a switch from elk to deer as prey has not been observed. All of the western states with wolf populations have found that elk is their preferred prey species. In fact, most of those states have found that 90 percent of the wolf diet is elk. Even research on the smaller Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico has shown that more than 85% of their diet is elk. The highest predation number we can find is nine percent mule deer in Montana’s Madison Valley, but most other areas found that mule deer comprised only one to four percent of wolf diet. The plan refers in several places to white-tailed deer predation by wolves, which seems unusual since there are no white-tailed deer in California.

We have followed ongoing livestock depredation by wolves in Idaho and Montana for the past 20+ years, as well as the recent livestock depredations by wolves in Oregon. When elk numbers decline to a level where they cannot support the wolf population, the wolves shift to livestock, not to mule deer. These situations lead to serious issues with the agricultural community, and often result in drastic actions against the wolf packs. We recommend managing for fewer wolves than the proposed plan calls for, thus avoiding significant decline in elk herds and the resultant negative impact on the agricultural community.

The proposed plan calls for management action to be triggered by: 25 percent or more population reduction in deer or elk herds in a three-year monitoring period; elk calf:cow ratios falling below 20:100 or deer fawn:doe ratios falling below 30:100 in a three-year monitoring period; or allocated big game tags being reduced below current levels in areas occupied by wolves. This direction gives us pause, as we have not historically seen annual CDFW monitoring taking place at levels which could detect these changes in elk and deer numbers. CDFW has put more emphasis on the wolf plan than on the prey species plans, and it is difficult to see how impact of prey species by wolves can be measured without good baseline information of elk and deer population dynamics. This section is also not clear as to the outcomes expected. It is unclear to us if the proposed management action would reduce big game tags or would reduce the wolf population to increase elk survivability. One section mentions the consideration of translocating elk into former habitat to enhance their populations. Would this action move elk to areas that were not occupied by wolves, or would elk be placed into areas where the elk population had been greatly reduced by wolves? Does the state have authority for lethal take of wolves that are significantly impacting big game populations?

While CFDW has stated that this wolf plan is not a recovery plan, RMEF would like to know what constitutes the guidelines for delisting under the State and Federal Endangered Species Acts. The desired management number is listed at nine breeding pairs, yet we find no indication of a population level that will trigger delisting of the wolf from both federal and state endangered species classifications.

There needs to be a department commitment to funding adequate population and herd composition surveys in order to gain baseline knowledge of the elk resource. Annual surveys are designed to indicate if elk herds are not performing at their expected recruitment rates, and should initiate research proposals to investigate the lack of population growth. CDFW’s apparent lack of concern for elk over many years is difficult to comprehend, especially given the fact that California is the only state with three recognized sub-species. It would seem that elk would get more recognition for the magnificent species they are!

We are very concerned about the lack of basic elk numbers due to lack of elk composition surveys, either ground or aerial. We appreciate the recent addition of two biologists to assist on the elk program in Yreka and Eureka. As these are new positions, it will take some time for the biologists to get up to speed and develop their own program measures of success.

California elk populations have not yet grown to their modest desired population objectives. The plan indicates that elk herd numbers are slightly increasing, and RMEF feels there is adequate available habitat in many parts of the state to accommodate more elk. While habitat is not currently a limiting factor for elk, the plan calls for improving habitat for prey species if their numbers show vulnerability to wolf predation. However, elk are not currently nutritionally deprived, nor will they be when wolves return to the state. It is wolf predation that will limit their population growth, not nutritional adequacy of the habitat. Fertility and fecundity rates have not been a concern for California elk in the past, nor are they mentioned as limiting factors in the plan. We question how elk populations are expected to increase once affected by wolf predation.

We believe there is a large amount of habitat that is not occupied by elk, and we question why elk herds are not expanding into these areas. The elk herds may be slowly growing, but certainly not at an exponential rate! Your records in the 2016-17 big game hunt information indicate a total statewide harvest of 135 Roosevelt/Rocky Mountain elk. This is the total elk harvest on the approximately 7,000 elk that are expected to be impacted by wolves in the near future. Based on our assumption that habitat quantity and quality are not limiting factors, annual elk herd growth should be significant in light of such limited hunter harvest. Annual population growth in most elk herds is approximately 12 to 15 percent, which should mean a herd growth of about 840 to 1,050 annually before mortalities are subtracted. Perhaps the department is missing other mortality factors currently playing out in the California elk herds. One elk mortality factor that has been unknown in many western states until recently is the predation rates of mountain lions, black bears, and coyotes. RMEF has funded elk predation research in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Results show that in each situation the mountain lion and black bear predation rate on elk had been greatly underestimated. Now that the wolf is starting to occupy many elk ranges as a new apex predator, it is essential to understand the predation factors of each large predator and their cumulative effects on elk populations. Several research projects show that the more apex predator species impact an elk population, the greater the challenges for managing not only the elk herd, but the predator populations as well. The proposed plan addresses the notion that the impact of predators on prey populations is usually additive rather compensatory, and we agree that would be the case for elk populations in California. What considerations have been discussed on the impacts of wolf predation on the other predators present in the state? RMEF strongly recommends CDFW complete a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) assessment to determine the impacts of wolves on both the elk and mule deer populations. The prey base is the foundation of support for wolves and a comprehensive assessment is essential. We do not believe that this wolf plan should be approved without the results of this requested CEQA assessment.

While hunter-conservationist contributions to wildlife conservation are not always well understood by the public, it is no secret to the state wildlife agencies that are funded primarily through hunting and fishing license sales. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent 2011 economic survey shows that hunters and anglers spent about $3.23 billion dollars in California, fished for 17 million recreation days, and hunted for more than 6.7 million recreation days. The upcoming 2016 survey will no doubt show an increase. In addition to the license fees and expenditures that they incur pursuing these activities, many hunters and anglers belong to conservation organizations that raise millions of dollars to help state wildlife agencies and federal land management agencies better manage habitat and wildlife species through grants, volunteer projects, and political support of their programs. RMEF has 32 very active chapters across California that raise funds for conservation work within the state. Their dedicated efforts have made California one of RMEF’s top two fundraising states for the past 10 years. To date, RMEF has funded a total of 534 California projects which have permanently protected more than 30,000 acres and enhanced more than 98,000 acres of wildlife habitat. The total value of RMEF efforts in California is more than $41.6 million, and in 2015 alone RMEF provided more than $300,000 for project funding in California.

Hunter-conservationists care about healthy habitats and all the wildlife species that they support. Wolves are coming to California, and common sense and scientific data collection for the prey species (elk and deer) and for the predator species (mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, and wolves) is absolutely essential for the agency to manage all for a balance. Predators require a healthy ungulate population, which requires that CDFW manage elk and deer for optimum numbers to meet predator needs, while also allowing a surplus of elk and deer for hunters to pursue and wildlife watchers to view. Prey animals require healthy habitat and it is incumbent upon CDFW to work with federal land managers, state land managers, and private landowners to achieve this goal. The trick is to manage habitat, prey, and predators so that all can thrive. The key is to bring about a balance with realistic plans based on the latest available science.

In summary, RMEF finds the plan a disappointment and lacking in some key areas. We also believe that the management goal of nine breeding pairs is too high and should be reduced.

Sincerely,






M. David Allen
President & CEO

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cleaner Water, Better Wildlife Habitat Coming to Pennsylvania

Below is a news release issued by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.


Feb. 10, 2016
For Information Contact:
Travis Lau
717-705-6541

PROJECT TO PROVIDE CLEANER WATER, BETTER WILDLIFE HABITAT
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation secures grant to clean up acid-mine drainage on game lands. 

An abandoned coal mine that has been seeping harmful acid drainage into waterways on and downstream of state game lands is being cleaned up with a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Work has begun on a reclamation project on State Game Lands 100 in Snowshoe Township, Centre County. The project is funded through the Growing Greener Watershed Protection program with a $1,003,139 grant sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Acid mine drainage is a major problem for water quality in the bituminous coal fields of Pennsylvania. It is a result of past unregulated coal mining, and mines that never were reclaimed to restore habitat. 

The acid mine drainage on State Game Lands 100 discharges into Contrary Run, which is a tributary to Beech Creek.

The project will reclaim the abandoned mine land and neutralize the acidic water in Contrary Run by adding a limestone filter to passively treat the water discharging into the stream.

Berner Construction Inc., a Women Business Enterprise located in Gap, Pa., was awarded the construction contract through a competitive bid process. The project will include reclamation of 40 acres of abandoned mine land with 3,300 linear feet of dangerous highwalls. These highwalls are steep, exposed cliffs that create unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. The high-quality grassland to be established as part of the reclamation will provide excellent habitat for elk, white-tailed deer, turkeys and other game and nongame species. 

The project area is adjacent to several other previously abandoned mine areas that recently were reclaimed, resulting in over 180 acres of improved wildlife habitat. 

Due to the many habitat-improvement projects, an expanding elk herd exists on State Game Lands 100 and surrounding areas. For the first time in modern history, the Game Commission issued five elk hunting licenses in 2015 for the hunt zone including State Game Lands 100, resulting in the successful harvest of two bull elk.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. For over 25 years, RMEF has been an important conservation partner in Pennsylvania’s elk management program by funding the preservation or enhancement of nearly 21,000 acres of valuable habitat in the northcentral region. 

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, RMEF was able to apply for and receive the grant through which the work is being done. 

More information on RMEF is available at www.rmef.org.

The project was designed and is being managed by Alder Run Engineering LLC, with oversight from the Centre County Conservation District and DEP. Construction and revegetation of the site should be completed in 2016.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Going Viral

Social media is a funny thing. It’s also a very powerful thing. Just posting one photo or video or link opens the door to the potential of reaching millions upon millions of people around the globe. Let’s offer three examples from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Facebook page.

In December 2013, we came across a comic that plays off the 1992 tongue-in-cheek Christmas song by Elmo Shropshire, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” It shows a banged up, yet seemingly still grumpy grandma sitting in an armchair, reading her edition of the Daily Times newspaper with a wall mount of the guilty reindeer behind her. The December 19 post quickly went viral. More than 3,000 Facebook followers liked it while another 36,000 shared it. To date, it’s reached more than 1.9 million people.

Fast forward to January 2015. Stevie Beard posted a rather creative engagement photo taken by Joshua Rainey to the RMEF Facebook page. With a beaming yet victorious smile on her face, a high-powered rifle in her hands and wearing a white dress, denim jacket, cowboy boots and a scarf, she poses with her prey –an upside down fiancĂ© Brady Hogevoll– hanging from the bucket of a front-end loader. In the foreground is a sign containing the simple phrase The Hunt is Over! 9/15/15.

Courtesy Joshua Rainey
joshuaraineyphotography.com
The post went viral not once, but twice! It received 163,000 likes, more than 4,000 comments and followers shared it more than 31,000 times. In all, the photo reached more than 6.8 million people. One Facebook follower commented, “Excellent…good capture, rut must have been on. Clearly let his guard down and forgot everything else.” Stevie and Brody’s photo also spawned a flurry of other outdoor-related engagement photos from followers who posted their pictures in the comment section

As the photo continued to gain traction on social media, the story itself took on a life of its own among traditional media outlets on the Internet. It spread like wildfire from Oregon to Los Angeles to Chicago to New York on a multiplicity of TV, radio, magazine, blog and other online sites. It soared across the Atlantic Ocean where nearly all of England’s media outlets jumped on the bandwagon. Almost every single one of the online outlets, including the Cosmopolitan’s love and sex section back in the U.S., provided a link to the RMEF Facebook page where it all began. (By the way, Stevie successfully bagged her man and they tied the knot.)

Photos may make waves but videos can become viral tsunamis! In July 2015, we triggered such a movement. We came across a video created by a group called Archery Attack, located in Australia. It features a group of people divided up into two teams, toting bows with protective masks over their faces, and shooting arrows with large, padded tips. Set to music and brilliantly edited, the two sides take shots at each other in what can perhaps best be described as a cross between dodgeball and tag. Recognizing that a significant segment of RMEF members are bowhunters and may get a kick out of watching it, or possibly participating, we posted it to our Facebook page. 

Archery Attack
Our Facebook followers watched the video, commented on it and shared it again and again and again, causing it to take on a warp speed viral life of its own. Statistics showed the RMEF page reached 70-million people in just one week and picked up 20,000 new followers. We received Facebook messages, emails and voicemails from curious video watchers from across the United States, Australia, China, Pakistan, Canada, France, Brazil, Belgium, Central America, Hungary, South Africa and many places in between. They wanted to know how they could get involved and where they could go to play. We gladly directed all of them to Archery Attack. 

The numbers as of early February 2016 are astounding:
  • 3.5 million reactions, comments & shares
  • 42.4 million video views
  • 125.4 million people reached 

In mid-December 2015, we posted a video forwarded our way by Facebook follower Haley Nicole Gowen out of Montana. It’s rather short but comical in a sense. So far, it’s reached more than 9.1 million people.

Courtesy Haley Nicole Gowen
We have had many other videos, photos and links go viral but these four posts highlight a couple of things. First of all, RMEF's Facebook followers have vast and yet similar interests and, secondly, social media gives us the opportunity to spread our message to an ever-widening audience. And that’s a powerful thing!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

RMEF Among Groups Honored with Forest Service Award

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and a group of partners recently received recognition for their combined efforts regarding the George Washington National Forest. Below is the U.S. Forest Service news release.


Local Collaborative Receives Prestigious Forest Service Award
Release Date: Jan 10, 2016
Contact(s): JoBeth Brown (540) 265-5102, Marek Smith (540) 839-3599

(January 6, 2016) Roanoke, VA – The USDA Forest Service presented the George Washington National Forest Stakeholder Collaborative, a partnership of 19 local organizations and other individuals, with the 2015 Partners and Community Engagement award for their efforts on the George Washington National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Plan) and Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project.

This regional award honors one partner group selected from among 17 National Forests in 13 southern states. The award recipients were recognized for their innovative and creative approaches to building partnerships and implementing Forest Service projects.

The award recipients represent: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; Society of American Foresters; Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition; Virginia Wilderness Committee; James River Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society; Shenandoah Mountain Touring; Bath County Board of Supervisors; Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited; The Nature Conservancy; Virginia Forestry Association; Quality Deer Management Association - Rockingham Branch; Southern Environmental Law Center; Friends of Shenandoah Mountain; Virginia Chapter Sierra Club; Virginia State Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation; Alleghany County Board of Supervisors; Virginia Bear Hunters Association; and Virginia State Leadership Team, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

This diverse group of stakeholders united in 2010 with the goal of developing recommendations for the management of the George Washington National Forest. The Collaborative built trust among diverse interests and found common goals. Through open dialog and use of resources such as the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, representatives from the participating organizations built consensus around a suite of issues that have traditionally been contentious and polarizing.

The Collaborative is convened by a six-member steering committee: Al Bourgeois and Jay Jeffreys (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries), John Hancock (Virginia Forestry Association/Society of American Foresters), Kyle Lawrence (Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition), Mark Miller (Virginia Wilderness Association), and Marek Smith (The Nature Conservancy).

The product of their efforts was the submission of joint comments on the George Washington National Forest Draft Plan. The Final Plan, released in November 2014, reflected many of the recommendations and received broad public support as a result of the diligence of the Stakeholder Collaborative. The Forest Plan recommended additional acres of Wilderness and a National Scenic Area, as well as additional areas and objectives for management activities such as timber harvesting, controlled burning, and other habitat management techniques.

According to John Hancock, one of the steering committee members who helped initiate the group, “We realized early on that each us had work we wanted to see accomplished on the forest, and while those goals were often very different, they were not mutually exclusive. The old model was to talk to the agency to try to persuade them to do what we individually wanted them to do. This new model is to talk to each other first, reach some consensus, and then work with the agency to try to achieve a suite of outcomes that works for us all. The Forest Service has the authority and responsibility to meet the objectives set out in the Forest Plan, and our group is helping them to that end.”

Following release of the Forest Plan, the Stakeholder Collaborative continued their work with the Forest Service through collaboration on the 117,000-acre Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project. This project was the Forests’ first-ever large landscape and integrated resource planning effort. The Stakeholder Collaborative participated in public workshops, encouraged public and county engagement, and provided input to identify priority restoration efforts and management activities. Their efforts produced a plan which outlines a roster of restoration and management projects to take place over the next ten years. These proposed projects include timber management, road restoration and management, fish and aquatic organism passage improvements, wildlife habitat management, American Chestnut restoration, non-native invasive species control, recreational trail development, and prescribed fire.

These projects reflect the unified Vision Statement of the partnership:

“We envision a well-connected network of core, relatively unfragmented, forested areas embedded within a landscape of diverse age and structural character that supports a variety of wildlife species, builds ecological resilience, and provides essential ecological, social, economic, and recreational benefits for people.”

George Washington National Forest