RMEF and the FROG Maintain a Strong Partnership in Fort Riley, Kansas
By Matt Roberts
Establishing and maintaining an effective outdoor volunteer organization on a military base is trickier than it might seem. Such was the case in Fort Riley, an active U.S. Army installation in north central Kansas. Hunting and other outdoor activities are popular in the area, but in the early 2000s local branches of organizations like Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and RMEF struggled to find consistent ways to team up, fundraise and promote conservation and sound hunting practices.
“With the ebb and flow of the military lifestyle, we’d get a solid banquet put together one year, and then the soldiers would deploy or change duty stations,” says Shawn Stratton, Fort Riley’s fish and wildlife administrator. The motivation for partnership was there, but, with the shifting demographics of military life, it was difficult to establish and keep a core group of volunteers around year after year.
To tackle that unique challenge, local conservation groups, RMEF members included, came together in 2005 to form the Fort Riley Outdoorsmen Group, known more simply as the FROG. The main purpose of the FROG is to promote conservation and hunting education in the Fort Riley area and help keep the community connected to the outdoors through projects and events. Structured to be a permanent volunteer organization, the FROG operates closely with Fort Riley and local organizations but is independent of the constant flux of the installation. Today the FROG has over 800 members both military and civilian alike, a board of directors (on which Stratton sits) and a host of committees that organize hunts for deer, turkey, waterfowl and pheasants. Throughout the year the FROG also puts on a number of more focused events open to the public from youth and wounded warrior hunts to archery competitions. The FROG even has a youth trap and skeet team that competes locally. Additionally, the FROG works closely with the Fort Riley Conservation Office and lends support to conservation work on the base like seeding projects to help improve wildlife habitat.
The main event of the year is the annual fundraising banquet. Every summer, all of the organizations partnered with the FROG set up shop and raffle off prizes, sell memberships and generally promote their cause. Upwards of 350 people attend every year.
RMEF has supported the FROG from the very beginning. It has helped to fund conservation projects carried out by the Fort Riley Conservation Office, and RMEF volunteers contribute heavily to the FROG banquet, the biggest fundraising event of the year for the local conservation effort. Many members of the FROG are also RMEF members, and this connection has been crucial in maintaining a consistent lineup of projects and events as well as a network of active volunteers to make them happen.
The FROG is still going strong and continues to support the community of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts in the Fort Riley area.