Auction of Commemorative Smith & Wesson Model 1854 Set Benefits RMEF

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is no stranger to auctions as it hosts hundreds of them nationwide each year to raise funding for its mission. However, RMEF finds itself on the other end of a national auction as a beneficiary.

From February 27 through March 10, 2024, is hosting the online auction of a limited-edition engraved Model 1854 rifle and matching numbered 29 revolver set, serial number 001 of 100.

With just 100 units being produced, the pair of .44 Magnums is extremely rare and boasts striking engravings with 22-karat gold inlay done by renowned, Baron Engraving. The limited-edition set features a PVD gloss black finish, complemented by high-grade walnut furniture, that highlights true craftsmanship, and yields a classic aesthetic. Included with the beautifully designed display case, is a letter of authenticity from Smith & Wesson President & CEO, Mark Smith, offering documentation on the set’s origin and limited status.

Proceeds will be donated to RMEF and Safari Club International in support of their initiatives and wildlife conservation advocacy.

Click here for background and technical information and/or to make a bid.

(Photo credit: Smith & Wesson)

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‘Bridge to Nowhere’ Dream about to Come True for Late RMEF Member

It was Carl Wilson’s idea. And he tried to push it across the finish line the final decade of his life.

The goal focused on a bridge abandoned for 50 years, a “bridge to nowhere” if you will, that still stands over Interstate-90 near the small North Idaho community of Osburn and transform it into a wildlife crossing to protect animals above and drivers below.

“A local guy, one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet, who really had a dream and a vision, and he bugged people for a good decade,” Kirsten Voorhees, an Osburn resident and civil engineer who specializes in bridges and animal crossings, told KREM-TV. “He said, ‘I need you to promise me that you’re going to finish this thing if I don’t make it.’”

Unfortunately, Wilson, an avid hunter and former member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, passed away in late 2022. Some 14 months later, Vorhees continues to carry the torch but now does so with a load of support and a realistic eye toward making that project a reality.

In late 2023, RMEF announced the reinforcement of a long-standing partnership with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to support the conservation of western big game migration corridors. RMEF’s $400,000 commitment will be matched by a WAFWA ratio of at least 3-to-1, resulting in $1.2 million for the effort.

The funding goes toward shovel-ready projects in 11 states and six WAFWA-member states that support landscape-scale movements of elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife. On that project list is an Idaho reference to “repurpose an obsolete vehicle overpass into a big game crossing.”

That RMEF announcement was in conjunction with a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announcement with further details about the project between the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe National Forests that includes two miles of fencing to funnel wildlife to the overpass and 10 one-way gates, again to facilitate migratory movement. The cost-effective effort will complement an underpass structure along the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River to improve habitat connectivity for many species ranging from grizzly bears and wolverines to fishers.

“He came to me in, like, 2008, when it was just a twinkle in his eye. It just lit a fire under him,” Kip McGilvery, Osburn mayor told the Spokesman Review. “It’s good to see his dream, that he worked on so hard for all those years, come to fruition.”

Pending environmental review and approval, the project may take up to two years to complete.

Click here to view a news report about the project and here to visit the Osburn ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ Animal Corridor Conversion Project Facebook page.

(Photo credit: KREM-TV)

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Utah Watershed Restoration Project Gets RMEF Assistance

Below is a Facebook post from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supplied funding to help the project at the Cinnamon Creek Wildlife Management Area in northern Utah. RMEF was among a coalition of groups providing financial support to put the 8,107-acre property into the public’s hands in 2021.

Thanks to a recent habitat project, deer, elk and other wildlife should have a more resilient summer range in the Cinnamon Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). And we’ll be able to see the benefits of these efforts for years to come.

This past summer, we built 45 beaver dam analogs (BDA) along a stretch of Red Rock Creek. The BDAs will slow the water flow through the creek, raising the water table, improving forage for wildlife and reducing erosion. BDAs mimic what beavers do naturally. In time, we hope beavers will take over the maintenance of the dams and continue to improve the habitat.

To give vegetation near the stream a jump-start, we planted a variety of plants this fall, including cottonwoods, willows, roses, currants and serviceberry. Eventually, a thriving, diverse plant community will take hold, providing deer, elk and other wildlife with cover and highly nutritious food.

This project is a great example of people and partners coming together to help wildlife. A neighboring landowner brought his front-end loader to the WMA and pounded posts into the ground for the BDAs. He also allowed us onto his property to obtain the materials needed to build the dams. We also appreciate Utah Forestry, Fire & State Lands, which supplied the posts used to construct the BDAs!

(Photo credit: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

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Study: Nonhunting Firearm Owners Strongly Support Conservation Funding

Recent research found 86 percent of firearm owners and recreational shooters who do not hunt support the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program (or Pittman-Robertson Act), which uses revenues from a tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment to fund wildlife conservation efforts carried out by state fish and wildlife agencies across the country.

“I expected that there would be support for the federal aid program but not to this extent,” said Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, the research group that conducted the study. “I thought there would be more opposition from gun owners and shooters who feel that any tax revenue they generate should go back strictly to shooting projects. Instead, what we saw is that most gun owners and shooters care about wildlife conservation, even if they don’t hunt.”

When the legislation passed in 1937, most of the people who bought the taxable equipment were primarily hunters—in this way, the funding mechanism represented a classic “user-pay, user-benefit” system in which hunters helped to pay for wildlife-related initiatives that were relevant and important to them. Since 1937, however, hunting participation in the United States gradually declined as recreational shooting participation and firearm purchases for nonhunting purposes steadily rose. As a result, America’s oldest and most successful wildlife conservation funding program is now increasingly being supported by nonhunting purchasers of the taxable equipment.

Despite concern that gun owners and recreational shooters who are less connected to wildlife would oppose the funding mechanism that has been the lynchpin of America’s wildlife conservation success story, the survey found overwhelming support among these groups for the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program.

In addition to efforts directly benefitting wildlife, the survey looked at respondents’ awareness of other efforts funded through the Wildlife Restoration Program, including providing access to public lands and waters, hunter education programs and the construction of public shooting ranges. The survey found less than half of gun owners and recreational shooters knew their state fish and wildlife agency restores fish and wildlife species that are in trouble, or that their agency provides public lands for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching.

Meanwhile, only about a third knew their agency provides educational programs to introduce people to hunting or to recreational shooting. Of particular interest is less than a quarter know that their state fish and wildlife agency offers target shooting opportunities through public shooting ranges—a subject that is directly relevant to the interests and needs of recreational shooters.

After providing respondents with a brief description of the tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, the survey found only a third of non-hunting recreational shooters and firearm owners knew about the tax prior to being asked about it.

A later series of questions revealed that nearly nine out of 10 nonhunters feel proud to support wildlife conservation efforts, while about eight out of 10 feel connected to wildlife and its conservation.

(Photo source: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

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March 9 Deadline to Offer Comment on Montana Grizzly Bear, Wolf Management Plans

Below is a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is reopening the public comment period for the 2024 Grizzly Bear Management Plan and Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan to ensure Montana counties, Tribes, and state and federal agencies have a chance for input. The new deadline is March 9.

The extension will ensure that Montana statute requiring FWP to notify county commissioners of opportunities to comment on management plans for grizzly bears, wolves and other large carnivores has been met. It will also allow for additional time for tribal partners and other state and federal agencies to provide input.

“Wolves and grizzly bears are iconic and controversial species,” said FWP Director Dustin Temple. “We want to ensure that everyone who has a stake in how these two species are managed can have a chance to comment on our draft plans before they are final.”

The new grizzly bear plan will inform management statewide, focusing on the 30 counties where grizzly bear presence has been documented in recent years or may be documented in the near future. Since grizzly bears are still listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the plan is designed to inform state management while this species remains federally listed. The plan also addresses FWP’s future vision for management when any grizzly bear populations in Montana are delisted and full management authority for them is returned to the state.

The wolf plan shifts a key counting metric from the number of breeding pairs to the number of wolves representing at least 15 breeding pairs. The plan establishes that 450 wolves would ensure 15 breeding pairs. Population estimates will continue to be determined by the peer-reviewed Integrated Patch Occupancy Modeling method, or iPOM. The plan also describes the current depredation prevention and response program.

Both draft plans were out for public comment in 2023. People who previously submitted comments on the draft plans do not need to submit them again.

(Photo credit: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)

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Four Elk Killed on Virginia Roadways

One wildlife-vehicle collision is one too many. However, in a state with a young elk herd like Virginia, losing four elk over a month is even more trying.

“Our elk population is very small and so any mortality that happens is very important,” Jackie Rosenberger, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources elk project leader, told Cardinal News. “Unfortunately, all of these accidents involved very young animals and obviously, from a demographic standpoint, losing very young animals for a population that we’re trying to grow is about the worst-case scenario.”

It happened in Buchanan County, the heart of Virginia’s elk range in western portions of the state. Rosenberger said elk are drawn to salt on pavement.

The state since erected two message signs, warning drivers about the possibility of elk crossing, with others in the works. It may also seek grant funding for other warning systems, fencing or wildlife crossings to better protect big game and drivers alike.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation helped restore elk to their historic Virginia range in 2012.

(Photo credit: Jackie Rosenberg/ Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)

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Bull Elk Carries Spare Tire (for Now)

When you hear someone say, “He’s carrying around a spare tire,” that usually means the guy needs to lose some weight. For a bull elk seen around the small community of Maple Valley, Washington, about 25 miles southeast of Seattle, the meaning is quite literal.

For several weeks, locals caught glimpses of the mature bull wandering around the woods with a tire tangled in its antlers.

“Because this bull elk remains in apparent good health, and because elk begin to drop their antlers in February, we have not attempted to capture it,” Chase Gunnell, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife communications manager, told MyNorthwest. “We will continue to monitor the animal and respond to reports as capacity allows. Hopefully, the elk will drop its antlers — and the tire — soon.”

Wildlife officials urge landowners to make sure items that may become entanglements for wildlife are stored away. If there are concerns for an animal’s health or well-being, citizens are urged to contact their state fish and wildlife agency.

(Photo credit: Christian Duthweiler)

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California Conducts Aerial Surveys to Monitor Big Game Populations

Below is a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is initiating annual helicopter surveys to inventory and monitor mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep populations throughout the state. Flights will be conducted in portions of Solano, Mendocino, Siskiyou, Modoc, Lassen, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties during February and March 2024.

CDFW utilizes a variety of survey methods to regularly monitor big game population size, distribution, demographics and trends over time. In more forested environments, CDFW employs the use of trail cameras and fecal DNA. In more open habitats, aerial surveys provide an efficient and rapid method of data collection, affording CDFW biologists the ability to cover larger areas in relatively shorter time periods.

CDFW scientists use the survey data in statistical models to estimate the total population size of each species in different hunt zones or management units. This information helps wildlife managers better understand population performance relative to a variety of factors including climate change, habitat quality, human-wildlife conflict and habitat fragmentation, among others. Results are also used to make regulated harvest recommendations to the California Fish and Game Commission, which is the state regulatory authority that adopts tag quotas, hunting seasons and zone boundaries.

These efforts are important for managing California’s wildlife populations and are especially critical due to recent harsh winter conditions that may have had negative impacts on population numbers.

Big game hunters and other members of the public are encouraged to participate in the commission’s annual regulatory cycles. Information regarding upcoming meetings, including dates, locations, background documents and virtual meeting links are available at the California Fish and Game Commission website.

(Photo credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

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California Confirms 16 Wolf Depredations the Last Six Months

(Below is a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.)

As part of its evaluation of the Wolf-Livestock Compensation Pilot Program, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is posting outstanding wolf depredation reports dating back to August 2023.

The depredation reports confirm 16 wolf depredations totaling a loss of 18 livestock. With this posting, CDFW can now finalize review of existing program applications and eligibility of livestock producers to receive payments for direct losses.

The Wolf-Livestock Compensation Pilot Program is the first of its kind in California and has thus far provided support to livestock producers in compensating for direct loss of livestock due to confirmed wolf depredation; supported non-lethal deterrence techniques such as the use of range riders, electrified fencing and flags (turbo fladry), camera surveillance, motion lights and guardian dogs; and compensated livestock producers for the impact of wolf presence on livestock.

CDFW received $3 million in funding from the Budget Act of 2021 and began receiving applications in February 2022. As of January 12, 2024, CDFW had received 102 applications. At that time, CDFW notified the public that the applications received were projected to exhaust the current fund.

The efforts to implement the pilot program have been important to wolf conservation and supporting livestock producers in the state. Once the program is complete and evaluated, CDFW will make a summary public on its Gray Wolf webpage.

(Photo credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

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California Gets $1.28 Million to Support Elk, Wildlife Habitat, Hunting Heritage Efforts

MISSOULA, Mont. — Help is on the way to bolster habitat for elk, mule deer, black bears, turkey, quail and other wildlife in California.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners allocated $1,283,263 for 20 different projects ranging from habitat stewardship and wildlife management work to hunter education and mentored youth hunts, as well as youth trap shooting, air rifle and archery teams. RMEF allocated $331,132 that leveraged $952,131 in partner funding.

“Among other things, we’re excited to support two research projects to further scientific elk knowledge. One of them places GPS collars on tule elk to monitor their movement and challenges with road barriers north of Sacramento,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “The other focuses on bull elk population dynamics, habitat use, migration corridors and survival in northern California just south of the Oregon border.”

There are 28 RMEF chapters across California.

“Hats off to our volunteers who planned and hosted RMEF banquets across the state. Thanks to their good work, we have this funding to put back on the ground in their backyards,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO.

Dating back to 1988, RMEF and its partners completed 684 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in California with a combined value of more than $87 million. Those projects conserved or enhanced 206,409 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 37,114 acres.

Below is a full project list and their locations.

Colusa County

  • Supply funding to place GPS collars on 20 elk, 10 on each side of State Route 20 near Cortina Ridge, along with trail cameras to document elk movement. The study builds on previous work by RMEF and its partners dating back to 2016.

Del Route County

  • Provide funding for Del Norte 4-H, a program for youth ages nine to 18 to advance their knowledge, safe handling and skills of air rifles.

Humboldt County

  • Apply a combination of conifer removal, prescribed fire and replanting native vegetation across 155 acres on the Lacks Creek Management Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Arcata Field Office, to improve forage for Roosevelt elk and other wildlife.

Inyo County

  • Provide funding for the Bronco Clay Buster Trap Shooting Club, a squad of students in grades six to 12 to compete against other schools in the California High School Clay Target League. Participants must have a hunter safety or a SAFE certificate and take part in safety training (also benefits Fresno, San Bernardino and San Diego Counties).

Los Angeles County

  • Supply funding for the Compton Hunting and Fishing Club’s Youth Enhancement Program Expo, an event with activities for all ages including BB gun shooting, archery, casting, first aid, firearm safety, how to obtain a hunting license and conservation.
  • Provide funding for the Compton Hunting and Fishing Club Foundation’s Youth Pheasant Hunt, a guided hunt for 20 to 25 first-time youth hunters at the historic Tejon Ranch. Participants receive training in firearm safety, hunting with dogs, trap shooting and game cleaning and cooking (also benefits Orange County).

Mendocino County

  • Supply funding to help clean up an illegal cannabis operation on private land.

Modoc County

  • Purchase and install three 1,800-gallon wildlife guzzlers in the Doublehead and Devils Garden Ranger Districts on the Modoc National Forest. The new guzzlers replace three old nonfunctioning ones that serve the East Shasta Valley elk herd and other wildlife.

San Diego County

  • Supply funding for the San Diego County Wildlife Federation to host six hunter education courses and certify more than 100 people (also benefits Imperial, Orange and Riverside Counties).
  • Provide funding for The Ranch Youth Hunt Program in Julian, a hunter safety and family camp weekend that includes a hunter safety certification course along with field dressing, archery, navigation, water purification, survival and other outdoor instruction (also benefits Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties).

San Luis Obispo County

  • Provide funding to help install 10 different 2,000-gallon wildlife guzzlers and cameras to monitor their use across Camp Roberts, a California National Guard training site, to benefit elk and other species. The area is extremely arid and impacted by drought.

Santa Barbara County

  • Supply funding for third-grade science students at Calvin C. Oakley Elementary School to learn about ecosystems, animals’ role in the food chain and to take part in an outdoor writing competition.
  • Provide funding to help restore a rifle range at the Rancho Alegre Boy Scouts Camp destroyed by the 2017 Whittier Fire. Youth ages 12 to 16 use the range to learn firearm safety and to improve shooting technique (also benefits San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties).
  • Supply funding for Cinco Campanas 4-H Archery, a program that teaches boys and girls ages nine to 18 how to safely handle, shoot and take care of archery equipment. They also learn life and team-building skills as they compete.

Siskiyou County

  • Install an 1,800-gallon wildlife guzzler on private land to serve as a water source for the Sam’s Neck elk herd and other species in the northeast part of the county where water is scarce.
  • Supply funding for research to investigate bull elk population dynamics in northern California’s Siskiyou and Northeastern Elk Management Units including the assessment of habitat use, movement, migration corridors and survival. Findings will help guide elk and habitat management (also benefits Lassen, Modoc and Shasta Counties).
  • Thin encroaching juniper trees and dead growth to improve habitat across 117 acres on private land to benefit the East Shasta Valley elk herd. Invasive weed treatment, seeding and wildlife water development will also take place.
  • Provide funding for the Yreka High School Trap Team. Comprised of youth in grades nine to 12, participants learn about firearm safety and take part in competitions.


  • Supply volunteer and funding support for the Chimineas Ranch Junior Apprentice Elk Hunt, a program that allows junior hunters to go on a tule cow elk hunt.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

Founded in 1984 and fueled by hunters, RMEF has conserved more than 8.9 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at or 800-CALL ELK.

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