One Man’s ‘Blessed’ Night at an RMEF Banquet

It was Matt Mifflin’s version of the movie “Groundhog Day,” but with a very different outcome. A long-time member and supporter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mifflin filled a couple of tables with 30 close friends and family members at the recent Sammamish Valley Chapter banquet, about 30 miles west of Seattle.

In what’s become a habit, Mifflin crisscrosses western Washington to attend banquets every year for the last decade and a half, enjoying his time by helping raise funding for RMEF’s mission and always putting in for, but never winning, the cherished banquet firearm. That is, until now.

“I was very blessed to win the 40th anniversary rifle,” said Mifflin (third from the left, green hat and green shirt in the photo). “When the adrenaline slowed down and I had a chance to read the paperwork, I realized how lucky I was to win that gun.”

That gun is the Weatherby Model 307, a rifle modeled directly after and meant to represent a modern version of the original Mark V that appeared in the inaugural issue of Bugle magazine in 1984. As a limited edition, only 450 of them were made available to RMEF. A custom RMEF 40th anniversary logo engraved on the floorplate honors the four-decade association between Weatherby and RMEF.

Though a highlight, Mifflin’s fortune wasn’t the only memory he came away with that weekend.

“My buddy’s wife screaming loudly when she won a pistol! Lol. Watching the kids get involved was fun, especially since they are growing up in hunting families and are becoming great shed hunters and responsible outdoors men and women.”

Mifflin’s father-in-law took him elk hunting years ago, welcoming him into elk camp where he had great experiences and memories over the last 40 years. Those new friends took him to his first RMEF banquet. Now, he attends about three banquets each year, each time with a batch of friends and coworkers.

“Supporting the RMEF and their efforts are very important to me. I want to make sure that my children and grandchildren can hunt and the RMEF is the organization that all my friends and family donate to and support every year,” said Mifflin. “Get involved, donate and take a younger person. See the passion and hard work that people put into hunting and see what they do to preserve that.”

(Photo credit: Matt Mifflin)

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Colorado Conservation Bill Gets RMEF Support

Elk, mule deer and other Colorado wildlife chalked up a minor win after a bill promoting the conservation of private lands got the green light. By a 6-to-1 vote, the Colorado Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee advanced SB24-126 to the Colorado Senate Finance Committee. The measure renews the state conservation easement tax credit and the oversight commission that oversees it and increases the amount available each year from $45 million to $75 million.

“We are supportive of SB 126,” Susanne Roller, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation senior lands program manager-Rocky Mountain West, testified before the committee. “In Colorado, in order to maintain large herds of elk and deer on the landscape, private land protection is key as our public lands host marginal winter range in comparison to our private lands.”

RMEF holds 91 voluntary conservation agreements (conservation easements) in Colorado alone that protect nearly 151,000 acres of habitat. Such agreements protect the wildlife values of the land for the betterment of a wide array of species – ranging from elk, mule deer, moose, mountain lions, black bears and pronghorn antelope to threatened species like Greater sage-grouse, Gunnison sage-grouse and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse.

“Conservation easements represent an invaluable tool for permanently protecting critical wildlife habitat and have an added benefit of conserving agricultural lands – enabling our agricultural operators a greater ability to transfer lands to their heirs,” said Roller.

Click here to find more information about the bill.

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation/Gaspar Perricone)

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RMEF Supports Public Lands Legislation

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports the Public Lands in Public Hands Act, new legislation introduced to maintain public access to public land by banning the sale or transfer of most public lands managed by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), except under specific conditions and where required under previous laws.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) introduced the bill at a Montana roundtable attended by RMEF with support from Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-NM).

“Core to our mission, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a staunch advocate for public lands. We support Representative Zinke’s Public Lands in Public Hands Act to keep Interior and Forest Service lands in federal public ownership, open to hunting and multiple use for all Americans,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO.

The bill also requires congressional approval for disposals of publicly accessible federal land tracts larger than 300 acres and for public land tracts larger than five acres, if accessible via a public waterway.

Both the USFS and DOI have authorities to transfer or sell public land, the most common being the Bureau of Land Management. While most parcels listed for disposal are small and inaccessible, making them good candidates for targeted sale, numerous disposal tracts are publicly accessible and important for recreation. The bill would increase congressional scrutiny over land tracts listed for disposal while protecting smaller transfers that increase public access.

“Public lands must remain public, and the federal government has a responsibility to manage and ensure access to those lands,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke. “As DOI secretary, I prioritized opening up land-locked parcels of public lands and expanding hunting and fishing opportunities on federal lands. The Public Lands in Public Hands Act is the next step in ensuring our public lands are publicly accessible for future generations.”

“I am a proud lifelong advocate for preserving New Mexico’s public lands, improving equitable access to the outdoors and creating good-paying jobs,” said Rep. Vasquez. “I am glad to partner with Rep. Zinke on this legislation in Congress. We both know that ensuring access to our public lands crosses party lines.”

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

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RMEF, Partners Recognized for Oregon Conservation Project

It’s an oldie but a goodie: there is no “I” in team. That mentality helped the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Manulife Investment Management Timber and Agriculture, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation complete a project that conserves and opens public access to more than 15,500 acres of habitat in northeast Oregon.

And for demonstrating ongoing, positive wildlife conservation efforts, including innovation, integrity, advocacy and goodwill, the Oregon Chapter of the Wildlife Society recently honored RMEF’s Bill Richardson (pictured below on right), ODFW’s Jon Paustian and Manulife’s Steve McClelland (pictured below on left) as its 2024 Conservation Award winners.

“This award is for the RMEF, ODFW and Manulife teams that got us to the finish line. Together, we completed a true legacy acquisition,” said Richardson, senior conservation program manager for the western U.S.

The property is now part of the Minam River Wildlife Area. It includes important winter range for mule deer and about 1,400 elk. The project area also improves habitat connectivity, serves as transitional and migration range for elk, mule deer and other species, and includes 114 miles of riparian habitat that benefits Snake River spring-summer run Chinook salmon, Snake River Basin Steelhead, Grande Ronde bull trout and Pacific lamprey.

Perhaps one of the most impressive demonstrations of the positive wildlife conservation benefit of the project, ODFW and tribal co-managers documented coho salmon redds in the Minam River in 2021, after a 40-year absence.

The property includes six miles of the historic Minam River Trail and will put nearly 99 percent of the Minam River in permanent conservation status or public ownership. The wildlife area also shares a 2.5-mile boundary with the Eagle Cap Wilderness and together with surrounding national forestland, it creates a large block of public land for fish and wildlife conservation and recreational access.

ODFW will manage the land as a working landscape, using grazing to improve forage conditions for wildlife and to enhance habitat through active forest management in partnership with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

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Nevada Announces Inaugural Moose Hunt

Below is a portion of the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s February Newsletter.

After several years of monitoring, information gathering, and data analysis by Department personnel, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners approved a hunting season for moose beginning in fall 2024.

Seasons were developed in consultation with area biologists, experts from neighboring states, as well as a firm understanding of the biological parameters influencing movements and demographics of moose in the Silver State.

Currently, annual survival for adult moose is 98% +/- 4%, and calf recruitment ranges from 55 calves per 100 cows to 73 calves per 100 cows, annually. Both metrics suggest exceptional population growth potential, which is corroborated by a nearly 300% increase in observations occurring in 2023.

While Nevada is not often associated with quality moose habitat, results of a habitat selection analysis indicated moose have found available pockets of riparian vegetation, timber, and mountain brush communities necessary to meet their life-history demands.

The regulated and sustainable moose hunt will provide a few lucky Nevadans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue Nevada’s newest big game species, while providing the Department with critical information about age structure and health of the moose population.

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

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RMEF Lobbies for More Utah Wildlife Crossing Funding

When you have a good thing going, you look to keep up the momentum. In Utah, that means banging the drum for more wildlife crossings.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation staffers and volunteers (see photo below) recently met with state government officials to build on the synergy from the 2023 success of a budget bill that allotted $20 million for wildlife crossings, also making the state eligible to receive $80 million in matching federal funds. One month later, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a funding allotment for 19 wildlife crossings in 17 states, including $5.5 million for a new wildlife underpass in southern Utah near Kanab. RMEF committed funding to help with the project.

Now, RMEF is working to secure funding to help the state underwrite wildlife crossing grants. They gathered with representatives from the Utah governor’s office, a dozen legislators and others to further the cause.

Studies show about 1,000 elk and 5,000 deer die each year on Utah’s roadways and vehicle-wildlife collisions cost Utah taxpayers almost $138 million in death, injuries and vehicle damage.

(Photo credit: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources/Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

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Collaboration Highlights Historic Appalachian Conservation Project

Conservation victories do not come much bigger than what happened in late 2023, especially in the eastern part of the United States. And it took a collaborative effort to conserve and open public access to a landscape-scale swath of Kentucky habitat for elk, deer, black bears, wild turkey, ruffed grouse and other species.

“This historic access project successfully closed in December 2023, creating the largest conservation easement in Kentucky and permanently securing almost 55,000 acres of public access as the new Cumberland Forest Wildlife Management Area,” said Steven Dobey, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation senior conservation program manager-eastern U.S. “This project would not have happened without the incredible partnerships from The Nature Conservancy, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), Kentucky General Assembly and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The assembly’s role was instrumental as its 2022 budgetary allocation of $3,875,000 secured the nonfederal match needed to utilize KDFWR’s Pittman-Robertson dollars.”

KDFWR will manage the acreage for wildlife habitat, public recreation, sustainable forestry and clean water. The project connects 274,000 acres of land stretching into neighboring Tennessee.

Dobey recently gathered with other members of the Kentucky Sportsmen’s Caucus at the state capital in Frankford.

“We may never see a public access project of this scale in Kentucky again in our lifetimes, and all partners understand the significance of this,” added Dobey.

(Left to right) KDFWR Commissioner Rich Storm, Senator Robin Webb, TNC Director of External Affairs in Kentucky Heather Jeffs and Dobey

(Photo credit: Ben Childers/Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

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Unlock a 15% Discount on MEAT! & Grilla Grills Products

Calling all RMEF Team Elk members and above! Are you eager to elevate your grilling game and stock up on top-quality meat processing equipment? Grilla Grills and MEAT! have teamed up to bring you an exclusive RMEF discount.

Whether you’re hungry for delicious steak, mouthwatering elk burgers, or fall-off-the-bone tender ribs, rest assured, they have everything you need to enhance your outdoor cooking adventures. And don’t forget to explore the array of tasty recipes available on RMEF’s Carnivore’s Kitchen for inspiration.

Grilla Grills has WiFi enabled Wood Pellet Smokers, Kamado Grills, and the best combination Gas Grill and Griddle on the market.

MEAT! offers a range of processing equipment including grinders, stuffers, slicers, and sealers. Their commercial-grade tools are not only easy to use and maintain but also easy to love. They are committed to providing you with top-quality tools, offering support every step of the way. From usage guidance to recipes and tips, they’re here for your entire meat processing journey.

What makes this offer even better is that our partners donate a portion of proceeds from every sale made with this discount back to RMEF’s mission. So, not only can you enjoy new grilling equipment and meat processing tools, but you’re also helping to support RMEF’s conservation efforts.

To claim your discount, simply sign in to your RMEF account and follow the links provided to access this offer.

Not yet an RMEF Team Elk level member? No problem! Upgrade now to the Team Elk level or above to unlock this exclusive discount and gain access to other great discounts on outdoor gear.

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RMEF Assists with Tennessee Elk Capture, Research

Elk really do fly. At least, they did recently thanks to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), University of Tennessee, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The partners teamed up for an ongoing two-year study so researchers can better monitor elk calf survival and the causes of mortality.

“We’re putting a transmitter inside the pregnant cows…with hopes when they give birth in May or June, we’ll be able to collar the calves and monitor them over the course of their life,” said Garrett Clevinger TWRA elk program coordinator. “This is pretty important. It’s not something we’ve done yet…so we can better understand population dynamics of this species.”

Since RMEF helped with the successful restoration of elk into Tennessee in 2000, researchers looked at many aspects of elk survival and habitat use. However, that research has always focused on the adult segment of the population.

This latest outing concluded the second year of cow capture with a focus on calves. Researchers also collected data about habitat characteristics of calving sites.

“This project will provide TWRA with important new information about Tennessee’s growing elk herd. We’re excited to see the results of this research in the coming years,” said Will Bowling, RMEF conservation program manager-southeast US, who was also on site to help with the project.

Click here to watch a TWRA Facebook video about the project.

The study received financial support as part of $842,662 in grant funding doled out by RMEF and its partners across five Appalachian states in late 2023.

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

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Minam River, Oregon – onX Public Access Project

Minam River – Oregon

Imagine having access to a massive swath of public land larger than Yellowstone National Park to hunt, fish or enjoy other recreational activities.

Thanks to a collaborative effort completed in 2023 by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Manulife Investment Management Timber and Agriculture, and other partners, you can find exactly that in northeast Oregon.

A two-phase project placed 15,573 acres into the newly expanded Minam River Wildlife Area, making it the fifth largest management area in the state, linking it with the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Minam State Recreation Area, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Thirty miles from La Grande and accessible off Highway 82 and the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, it supplies habitat connectivity and critical winter range for up to 1,200 elk. It’s also transitional and migration range for elk, mule deer and other species.

The project also protects 114 miles of riparian habitat and stands as a monumental, landscape-scale conservation win for fish and wildlife as well as biologists to better manage the public land and its natural resources.

And it marks a massive win for hunters, anglers, hikers and public access.

Creating and improving public access is a long-time focus of RMEF’s mission.

Since 1984 RMEF has opened or improved public access to 1.5 million acres.

To view the sites and boundaries of RMEF land conservation and access projects, turn on the RMEF layer and use the code RMEF when you sign up for your onX subscription to receive a 20 percent discount.

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