Leon Boyd: Blazing a Trail for Elk in Virginia
By Kasey Rahn, Bugle Intern
Leon Boyd, RMEF’s Virginia district chair and chair of the Southwest Virginia Coalfields Chapter, says one of the things he enjoys most about elk reintroduction is sharing it with others, like when he takes school groups out to view the elk. He loves being able to pass on a fascination with elk to others.
“It’s priceless for me,” Boyd says.
Boyd’s involvement with RMEF and elk restoration began in 2010, when Buchanan County officials approached him to represent southwest Virginia at a Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries meeting to discuss potentially restoring elk to the state. After seeing his enthusiasm about elk at the meeting, RMEF representatives asked Boyd and others if they would consider creating a new chapter.
From there, Boyd and his committee members searched for locations in southwest Virginia that would be suitable for elk restorations. They also worked to improve habitat in some areas, many of which were reclaimed mine sites. They cleared brush, fertilized, and planted native grasses. They also talked and worked with landowners. When the state was ready to start seriously looking for an elk restoration area, Boyd and his fellow volunteers had several ideas for good places ready to put on the table.
“The state was overjoyed,” says Kathy Funk, RMEF’s Virginia state chair.
Boyd remained active in every aspect of the restoration, from selecting release sites to actually putting elk on the ground in 2012 and 2013. The vice president of communications at Noah Horn Well Drilling, Boyd owns his own side business that services and maintains gas wells. His connections to local gas and mining companies helped him develop partnerships for the elk restoration project, and many of those companies became RMEF Habitat Partners, or donated time, money and equipment.
“Leon doesn’t see problems,” Funk says. “He sees challenges, opportunities.”
Last summer,Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries honored Boyd for his outstanding contribution to the restoration of elk in the state. And in January, former Gov. Bob McDonnell appointed him to the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, a position Funk calls one of the most sought after in the state.
Boyd is humble, and quick to brush aside his accomplishments, seeming surprised that a self-proclaimed country boy would be appointed to the board.
“I’m a pretty simple guy,” Boyd says.
He grew up and still resides in Grundy, located in Buchanan County, where elk were restored. He married his wife, Nita, at 17 and has four sons. Boyd’s work with elk is a family affair. His wife and oldest son are both RMEF committee members, and his other sons help him with habitat work.
“Growing up my dad spent a lot of time with me in the outdoors. I have four sons. I just enjoy being outdoors with them,” Boyd says. “It gives us a lot of time to get out and enjoy each other.”
He jokes that he hasn’t been elk hunting since 2010, because he’s too busy being involved with elk in an entirely new way.
“I’ve donated most of my free time to this project,” Boyd says, laughing. “I have more fun with this project than I ever did hunting.”
It’s that kind of dedication, determination and joy that has helped Boyd play such a pivotal role in restoring elk to the Old Dominion State.