2012 Summer State and Regional Chair Meeting…and More
By Jennifer J. Nieland, Wisconsin State Chair
I may be back in my beige corporate cubicle in Green Bay, Wisconsin, trying to keep the cobwebs out of my mind, but the memories flicker, mimicking the sights and sounds of a campfire's flames.
Returning to Missoula in August for my second year of state and regional chair (SRC) meetings was even more exciting than the first. I now had some real connections and friendships with RMEF folks who were merely acquaintances when I arrived in Missoula in 2011. Since then we had kept in touch, worked remotely in teams to craft presentations for volunteers at Elk Camp in Las Vegas, and volunteered together at events and activities. RMEF volunteers are people who have their eyes all set on the foundation's vision, and I am proud to serve with all of them. It's a feeling I rarely get anywhere else.
SRC chair Mike Baugh's message right out of the gate was that we have to leave the old ways of doing things behind. He stated that in order to meet our mission and flourish in these challenging times, it's imperative that the SRC and RMEF staff move forward as a unified group, practicing good communication and planning from here on out. That said, we established the following goals:
- Establish a functioning State Leadership Team in every state with a strategic plan.
- Increase game and raffle income by $3 per person (this could bring an increase in revenue from $300,000-$500,000 annually!).
- Increase state net to gross by 2 percent.
- Start a new chapter or revitalize an existing chapter in each state.
As always, our "down time" was full of good conversation, food and plenty of laughs. We took a field trip to the O'Brien Creek conservation easement one morning—a gorgeous xx-acre testament to our efforts and those of all volunteers. When we all packed up and headed our different directions on Sunday morning, we were all refreshed and renewed in the RMEF spirit—and the revised mission—ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.
But I wasn't ready to return home to Wisconsin quite yet. Oregon state chair Scott Reinhardt had graciously offered to take me on an "elk-centric" field trip from Missoula into Oregon for an up-close look at "western states" elk country! I don't think you could have slapped the smile off my face as we began our adventure north of Missoula at the National Bison Refuge, where we saw a bison and a bull elk.
Then we headed west over Lolo Pass into Idaho, following the Lochsa, Clearwater and Snake rivers before dropping south at the Idaho/Washington border into the Wallowa Whitman National Forest in Oregon. Stopping at the Joseph Canyon overlook, we glassed the far side and eventually saw one animal—an elk! Then another, and another, and another, seemingly to appear from nowhere until the hillside was covered. What a treat!
We continued on to the breaks of the Imnaha and Snake rivers, Hells Canyon and the small town of Joseph, where we stopped to visit with a few Oregon members, toured a ranch with good calving grounds, and took a ride on the Wallowa Mountain tramway to 8,000 feet. As the journey continued, we found more elk standing in a river, closer this time, near the Starkey Experimental Station. We watched as a spike tried to cross a fence at several spots.
Our last night was spent camping in the Umatilla National Forest. But our trip wasn't over quite yet. At first light we woke to a conversation of mews, chirps and whistles in the woods behind our camp—reinforcing for Scott and me that our contributions to RMEF will make this moment possible for generations to come, in Oregon, Wisconsin and all over elk country.
The following week, when I was settled back into my life in Green Bay, I received an email from Mike Baugh addressed to the SRC. "I wanted to again thank everyone for your attendance and participation at our State and Regional Chair meetings last week," he wrote. "The energy and excitement generated from all of you during our meetings is so incredible! Your passion and leadership is why we as volunteers are the driving force within the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation."
Thanks to the SRC and all of our wonderful volunteers for all you do!