Rolling Up Sleeves for Elk in Elk Country
Many RMEF Rendezvous’ offer attendees the opportunity to assist with habitat stewardship projects that benefit elk in their own backyards. Below are several examples.
Each year the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lines up a work project for us. In 2015, we had about 65 RMEF members attend. We dismantled an elk acclimation pen on the Thornapple-Haystack Grade in the Sawyer County Forest south of Winter. In past years we have installed tiers of silt fencing at a future site for elk, carried out site preparation for habitat enhancement (rock picking), removed old fencing, installed gates, worked on the elk holding pen, and other successfully accomplished other tasks. All in all, the projects are a great opportunity for RMEF members to do some hands-on work and make a tangible difference.
We have tours led by DNR biologists of the area elk range where we bugle for, and hopefully see elk. In the evening we have a campfire, cookout and program. The rendezvous serves as a town hall meeting about the elk population and is a chance for people to speak one-on-one with staff from the RMEF, DNR staff, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other partners. We also include local residents in that part of the weekend.
In 2015, Paul Strong, supervisor of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, gave a presentation on “Good Neighbor Authority” and other USFS projects, and Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game biologist, talked about the Clam Lake Herd, the Black River Falls Herd and trapping efforts in Kentucky.
RMEF Regional Director (Illinois, southern Wisconsin)
Hands-on work projects are a key part of organizing the South Dakota RMEF Rendezvous. For several years volunteers have gathered in the Black Hills of western South Dakota to continue their commitment to elk and elk habitat by trading computers and raffle tickets for hammers and shovels.
Years ago, workers installed a large number of wildlife “guzzlers” throughout the Black Hills area to supplement water resources that can often dwindle in drier periods, but over time the agencies that originally constructed those water sources determined they were unable to maintain them for various reasons. Working with biologists and field staff from partner organizations such as South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, and USFS, volunteers access the overall condition of these important features and set about making them functional again. Repairs can range from cleaning dirt and debris from catchment tanks and reconnecting plumbing to completely removing and reconstructing water tanks and collection aprons. Fencing designed to restrict drinker use only to wildlife often needs to be repaired.
The South Dakota Rendezvous takes place over a two- to three-day period in mid-June each year. In 2016 the State Leadership Team and the Custer’s Gulch Campground have teamed up to provide a trailer and parking spot to any interested RMEF member who wants to attend the rendezvous for the first time.
While the State Leadership Team conducts a winter rendezvous focused on training and idea exchange, the summer rendezvous and work projects are by far the most popular. Volunteers who organize and execute RMEF fundraising banquets and the members that fill and support these events to raise mission funds during the banquet season enjoy putting skills from their everyday experience to use for the benefit of the elk and other wildlife. This makes the RMEF volunteers a valuable asset and helps forge relationships that help stretch PAC funds even further.
RMEF Regional Director (South Dakota)