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

Thursday, March 2, 2017

RMEF National Convention Gets Off to a Stirring Start

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation kicked off its 2017 National Convention in Nashville with passion, energy, recognition, celebration and commitment. Members cheered several 2016 milestones including RMEF surpassing one million acres in lifetime public access projects and topping seven million conserved or enhanced acres.

RMEF celebrated the return of elk to nearby West Virginia by honoring former West Virginia governor Ray Tomblin with its Conservationist of the Year Award. Tomblin and his staff provided leadership by overseeing a joint effort with RMEF, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other partners to return elk to the Mountain State for the first time in 140 years. Former DNR director Bob Fala and DNR Commissioner Kenny Wilson, both RMEF volunteers, accepted the award, as well as Elk Country Partnership Awards, and thanked the RMEF and all others involved in the effort for helping put elk back on their native range.

Bob Fala, RMEF Chief Conservation Officer Blake Henning and Kenny Wilson
(left to right)
Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris received the first-ever Elk Country Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to creating one of North America’s most recognizable outdoor brands, Morris was also honored for his commitment to conservation and assisting RMEF’s mission. Below are some of his remarks.

Johnny Morris (left) and RMEF President/CEO David Allen
“There’s no doubt in my mind Cabela’s wouldn’t have happened, just like Bass Pro Shops wouldn’t have happened, if it weren’t for great conservation and wonderful organizations like the RMEF and all of you in this room. Just like you in this room, my son’s very proud and I’m very proud to be a member of RMEF. I don’t feel I deserve recognition any more than any other members or supporters that couldn’t be here and are members of this world-class organization or any other members or supporters that couldn’t be here tonight that wake up almost every day trying to drive this organization forward. 

Johnny Morris
“I think all of us share something. We’re proud to do this together not because we have to but because we have a lot of pride and we have a lot of confidence that all of the –whether it’s dollars or effort– whatever we are putting into the RMEF is and has historically done a lot of good and it can do a tremendous amount of good for generations to come. Thank you very much. It’s an honor to be with you.”

-Johnny Morris
Bass Pro Shops Founder

Following dinner, Shane Mahoney, the president and CEO of Conservation Visions and also a RMEF member, delivered a stirring and emotional keynote address on the vital importance of conservation, standing up to challenges faced by hunters and hunting, and the relevance and importance of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. Below are some of his comments.

“It is in the times of greatest challenge that the greatest opportunities present themselves. You need challenge to achieve greatness. This simply is not your daddy’s world anymore. If we (hunters) become too few we will become relevant. We’re seeing vastly changing attitudes toward animals and hunting. Support for hunting cannot be left to memory of those who hunt. 

Shane Mahoney
“I am optimistic because controversies have moved great conservation organizations to look deeply at what hunting has done for animals worldwide. We have locavores. We have people writing books about farm-to-table. We have those seeking organic food. They realize our lifestyle of pushing ourselves (in the wild in pursuit of animals) and harvesting them for good friends and family…they are coming to understand this is something valuable and precious. You don’t go to the grocery store and buy a roast and give it to your neighbor. When you take something wild, the first thing that comes out of your breast is the concept of sharing.

“I am asking the RMEF for a favor. I believe this organization can be the one to take the big steps. We need an organization that others can see and they can follow. People respect and believe in this organization so I ask you…don’t take small steps but take the big steps others are afraid to take.”

-Shane Mahoney
Conservation Visions CEO/President

Recording artists Andy Griggs, Chris Janson and Richie McDonald capped the evening with a spirited guitar pull. The three took turns telling stories, singing songs, poking barbs at each other and interacting with the crowd. They also pulled fellow country music artists Daryle Singletary and Easton Corbin out of the crowd for a closing, impromptu number.

Chris Janson                                                 Andy Griggs                                       Richie McDonald

Andy Griggs, Easton Corbin, Daryle Singletary and Chris Janson
(left to right)
RMEF co-founder Charlie Decker, Johnny Morris and RMEF co-founder Bob Munson
(left to right)

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