December 2, 2022

Elk Habitat Protected, Public Access Expanded in Montana

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked with a conservation-minded family and a group of partners to permanently protect and conserve 2,810 acres of elk habitat in the Big Belt Mountains of west-central Montana. RMEF conveyed the land to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) which added it to the adjacent Beartooth Wildlife Management Area (WMA), expanding the game range by nearly nine percent.

“This Whitetail Prairie acreage is valuable year-round habitat for elk, antelope, mule deer and whitetail deer, mountain lion and a variety of other game and non-game species,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “It is also a vital fishery since it contains three tributaries of the Missouri River.”

“Today, anywhere you look, the currency of successful wildlife habitat conservation is trust,” said Jeff Hagener, FWP director. “It took cooperation among landowners, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, sportsmen and women and others to again demonstrate the power of working toward a common goal. The result will last longer than a lifetime and continue Montana’s commitment to long-term conservation of special places that address the still critical need for healthy wildlife habitat.”

“We hope the future users enjoy and appreciate the Whitetail [land] as much as we did,” said Del, Jim, Lee and Merlin Voegele. “You initiated a project that apparently ignited a fire under a whole lot of like-minded folks including a number of behind-the-scenes volunteers who seemingly never quit working.”

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE), the Mule Deer Foundation, Safari Club International and the Cinnabar Foundation provided funding for the project as well as Habitat Montana funds derived from Montana hunting licenses plus Pittman-Robertson funds provided through the taxation of firearm and ammunition sales.

“It’s important to understand that Habitat Montana funds, the value of which the Montana legislature continues to debate, are absolutely critical to conservation efforts like this one. They are crucial for conservation organizations like RMEF to carry out this work and they’re crucial for hunters, anglers, hikers and other recreationists so they can reap the benefits of it,” added Henning.

“After more than 25 years, Habitat Montana has proven that wildlife and agriculture can benefit each other. By working with willing landowners who sold or placed their lands in conservation easements, FWP has found productive ways to work with others to ensure the long-term conservation of natural and agricultural values while providing new places for the public to recreate, especially for hunting. Habitat Montana has been and remains a critical component in maintaining what is best about Montana,” added Hagener.

TFE funding is only used to further RMEF’s core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.


Torstenson Family Endowment Pays Huge Dividends for Hunters, Hunting Heritage

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is pleased to announce the Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) provided nearly a million dollars in its first year to accelerate mission priorities.

TFE funding helped finalize land projects in Montana, Oregon and Washington, permanently protecting nearly 14,000 acres and secured public access to more than 50,000 additional acres for hunters and others to enjoy. The endowment also provided funding for hands-on youth education initiatives, camps, scholarships and an Idaho elk population study.

“I’d like to think Bob Torstenson would be very proud of the many projects we successfully tackled in his name so far,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “He had a passion for hunting and for passing along our hunting lifestyle and traditions to our kids and grandkids. RMEF did that in 2013 and we have many similar projects on the front burner for 2014.”

2013 TFE projects:

Student Elk Management Education Day—Provided funding for a science field trip for 163 fourth-grade students to study elk and elk habitat at the Peck Ranch Conservation Area in Missouri.

Archery Start-Up Program—Provided an archery starter kit for establishing a National Archery in the Schools Program at Smithville High School in Mississippi.

Youth Archery Hunts—Provided funding for an annual mentored youth archery hunt, including lessons in wildlife management at the Torstenson Family Youth Conservation Center in Illinois.

Elk Education Trunks—Provided three elk education trunks that contain lesson plans, activities, antlers, fur, skulls and other material about elk and elk habitat that is anticipated to reach a combined 6,000 students in New Mexico, South Carolina and South Dakota.

Wildlife Leadership Awards—Awarded $2,000 college scholarships to four undergraduate biology students to foster a continued career interest in wildlife biology and management.

Clearwater Basin Elk Nutrition Study—Provided funding for study and model development research that monitors elk responses to landscape restoration of early-seral habitat in north-central Idaho where elk populations continue their decline over the last three decades.

Pine Canyon Acquisition—Provided funding for a 640-acre land acquisition of important habitat for elk and other wildlife on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington.

Red Hill Access Acquisition—Provided funding for a 40-acre land acquisition in the Big Snowy Mountains that improved access to nearly 18,000 acres of public lands featuring important habitat for elk and other wildlife in central Montana.

Headwaters of the John Day River Acquisition—Provided funding for a 13,082-acre land acquisition of private acreage commingled with the Malheur National Forest that secured and improved access to tens of thousands of acres of publicly-owned National Forest lands. The land is vital habitat for elk, other wildlife and of critical importance to fish in north-central Oregon.

RMEF uses proceeds from the TFE solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.


$30 Million Torstenson Family Endowment a Game-Changer for RMEF Conservation

MISSOULA, Mont. – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is the recipient of one of the largest endowments ever gifted to a hunter-based, wildlife conservation organization. The $30 million Torstenson Family Endowment will allow RMEF to vastly accelerate the rate at which it carries out its mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

“This is a monumental game-changer for RMEF,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Thanks to the generosity of the Torstenson family, this endowment allows RMEF to expand Bob Torstenson’s passion and vision for wildlife and conservation in ways we could have never imagined.”

The Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) comes as a result of the sale of the Torstenson Wildlife Center, formerly known as the Double H Ranch, a sprawling 93,403-acre ranch in west-central New Mexico that was gifted to RMEF by Bob Torstenson in 2002.

RMEF will use proceeds from the TFE to further its core mission programs: permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

“The impact this endowment will have on RMEF’s on-the-ground projects is incredibly far-reaching,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “This gives us the potential to increase our mission accomplishments substantially. RMEF plans to invest half a million dollars this year alone toward improving elk habitat and supporting hunting heritage projects.”

The TFE allows RMEF to increase project funding by attracting matching funds both from the private and public sectors. It also allows RMEF to much more quickly meet and head off the habitat changes and challenges taking place across the US.

RMEF also maintains a conservation easement on the entire 93,403.4 acres of deeded land, which stretches between two mountain ranges – the Datils and the Gallinas – and two portions of the Cibola National Forest. It harbors thickly timbered ridges, deep coulees and steep hillsides. At the property’s center is an expansive plain, 80-acre lake and accompanying riparian habitat. It is home to elk, deer, pronghorns, mountain lions, coyotes, quail and a variety of songbirds and other species. The landscape today looks the same as when Bob Torstenson originally placed the easement on the property to conserve and protect its habitat in perpetuity.