Sixteen Years and Still Going Strong
By Larry Karns, Gold Country Chapter
The RMEF’s Gold Country Chapter—made up of some 25 committee members and additional volunteers from Lead and Deadwood—is located in the heart of the Black Hills National Forest of western South Dakota.
From our beginnings in September 1995, the Gold Country Chapter has been "hell-bent" on making its sole existence about habitat for elk and other wildlife. We had a fantastic first banquet, earning first place nationwide for net-to-gross earnings for a start-up chapter. Eager to get out on the ground, we decided to take on an Adopt-A-Highway Litter Control project in the summer of 1996.
We considered a number of sites along I-90, but a stretch of roadway on Highway 85 between mile posts 8 and 10 was too good to pass up because of its proximity to Spearfish Creek and the popular Eagle Cliff Trailhead. The first year, we collected and hauled off some four pickup loads of trash. By contrast, after 16 years of annual cleanups, we gathered just eight garbage sacks full of debris from the site. The names and ages of volunteers have changed over the years, but the project continues to draw a good group.
Habitat cleanup for our chapter goes beyond picking up roadside litter, however. Some people still think they can get rid of old refrigerators, washing machines and abandoned cars by dumping them in the forest. The Gold Country Chapter collects these eye-sores and sells the scrap metal, adding the money to its annual banquet totals. How’s that for thinking outside the box? This idea has worked so well that we earned second in the nation for chapter net-to-gross in 2010 and have maintained a mid-70 percent net-to-gross annually.
We are always looking for new challenges to improve the region for wildlife, and have recently taken on a major project that will help rebuild about 50 water guzzler sites located throughout the northern Black Hills.
Stay tuned for more updates from the Gold Country Chapter, which just happens to be the alma-mater chapter of RMEF CEO and president, M. David Allen.