Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is pleased to announce the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission will share the 2014 RMEF Conservationist of the Year Award.
“Kentucky has been and remains a prominent example of a state dedicated to ensuring the future of elk and elk country,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice-president of Lands and Conservation. “Not only did KDFWR and the Commission show great passion and dedication in restoring elk to the native Kentucky landscape, but they successfully worked to implement recent restoration efforts in other states as well.”
KDFWR, the Commission and RMEF worked cooperatively to help release 1,547 elk into Kentucky from 1997-2002. Now with more than 10,000 elk within its borders, Kentucky boasts the largest herd in the East. It also established an annual elk hunt beginning in 2001.
The award, however, is focused more on their recent commitment to eastern elk restoration. The Department and Commission pledged their support to successful elk restoration efforts in Missouri (2011) and Virginia (2012). In addition, Kentucky’s wild elk also crossed the state border into West Virginia.
“No state ever looked at an elk restoration project on the scale that they did. Their successful efforts made them a strong leader among the eastern states engaged in or considering restoration of elk. Many have contacted them regularly to seek their knowledge and expertise,” added Henning.
“When we began this restoration in 1997, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other state wildlife agencies stepped up and offered to help,” said Kentucky Wildlife Division Director Dr. Karen Waldrop. “Our success is directly related to their willingness to provide early funding and those initial elk. Strong partnerships made this a successful restoration.”
Kentucky’s commitment to elk restoration meant working with various stakeholders to convince them of this opportunity and need for Kentucky to serve as a source elk herd for other states. To qualify as a source herd they needed to continue elk disease surveillance activities and establish a Chronic Wasting Disease monitoring program for hunter-harvested elk. The commitment also provided hundreds of hours of staff time to help construct capture and quarantine facilities, the actual trapping of elk, disease testing, sorting and re-testing the elk a second time as part of the disease testing protocol of the recipient states as well as significant budgetary contributions.
To date, RMEF contributed more than $1.4 million to assist with management of Kentucky’s elk restoration program.
RMEF will formally recognize the 2014 Conservationist of the Year award recipients at December’s Elk Camp national convention in Las Vegas.mbers.