Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
by Kevin Paulson
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s mission statement is ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. Now I know we are focused on Western Whitetail and elk are not the featured species we are looking at on a regular basis. As a life member of this organization I am happy and excited to write about the great work of this organization and the work it has done in protection of not only elk but for wildlife species all across the country.
In 1984, four hunters from Troy Montana realized that they wanted to make a difference for elk and work specifically to protect habitat for one of the greatest species in North America. The early years were lean and mean and the premier issue of Bugle magazine only had 233 subscriptions and these four hunters thought big and produced 32,000 issues and distributed them to gas stations and grocery stores all across the West.
In April 1985, they had their first convention in Spokane, Washington and funded their first habitat project that year in the Kootenai near Libby Montana. Over the past 30 years the RMEF has grown to over 203,000 Members, 10,000 volunteers and over 500 chapters with 90 cents of every dollar going to work on the ground. The RMEF has worked on over 8,900 projects across North America and protected and enhanced over 6.4 million acres. The RMEF has also opened and secured for public access over 713,000 acres for members to hunt Western whitetail as well as elk, mule deer, upland game and other wildlife.
The RMEF has also worked tirelessly to help share the message of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model through written content in the Bugle magazine, through television programming and education programs. In the last few years through a partnership with Midway USA, the RMEF has created the SAFE (Shooting Access for Everyone) program and events to teach youth and novice shooters to be safe and responsible firearm users, educate and teach about the hunters North American Wildlife Conservation Model. The RMEF has also created an education system for educators to teach students about habitat conservation and hunting.
“In Arizona, RMEF has had the opportunity to fund several projects that benefit white-tailed deer,” said Tom Toman, Director of Conservation Programs. “On the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest we have been involved with several grassland/meadow restoration projects which thinned or removed pinyon-juniper encroachment in those areas. P-J is a very aggressive invader and soon eliminates grasses, forbs and browse species in the understory. Several of these projects also involved guzzlers to benefit elk, white-tailed deer and other wildlife in the area.”
Tom said, “In Montana, RMEF funded a five-year study on the Blackfoot Clearwater Game Range (77,000 acres owned by MT FWP) to determine if there was dietary overlap of the forage on the unit. Nearly 900 elk, 100 mule deer and 1,000 white-tailed deer winter on the game range. The research was designed to determine if there was a dietary overlap (and thus competition for the same forage) by the three species. The research was extended an extra year to take advantage of a really harsh winter with very cold temperatures and deep snow. The results showed that at the current levels, the game range could continue to support similar numbers of the 3 species. However it also showed that FWP needed to keep those numbers in check to avoid direct competition between elk, white-tailed deer and mule deer. RMEF strives to make science based decisions with our funding and tries to help the agencies gather the best scientific information by which to make their decisions.”
I attended my first RMEF Banquet in 1998 and I became a life member about five years later after sitting next to Walker (Buddy) Smith and Tammie Lynne Smith who inspired me to truly step up with my time and my money and make a difference for the wildlife that I so dearly love to pursue. That passion for making a difference resides in me today.
Habitat conservation programs have included over 8,900 projects all across North America in areas where Western Whitetail reside and those projects are making a difference for a whole lot more then just elk. Whitetail, mule deer, sage grouse, birds and other wildlife are all benefactors of the habitat protection and conservation that has been funded by the RMEF.
Becoming a member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is absolutely a vote for elk, mule deer, Western Whitetail, and for the conservation of all species on the lands we hunt and enjoy.