Volunteer Spirit Runs Deep in Florida
By Barth Satuloff, Florida State Chair
Wild elk are now roaming half the states in America once more. But there are a few places where elk never existed. Florida is one of those. Nonetheless, they remain a true inspiration for conservationists active in the state’s Elk Foundation chapters.
Since 1984, Florida elk enthusiasts have raised more than $1.2 million for elk habitat projects mainly in the West, plus thousands more for conservation education initiatives at home. Grants have funded Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops, 4-H marine ecology, archery, habitat evaluation and shooting programs, and events for newcomers to the outdoors and youths. To date, these initiatives have helped instill a stronger outdoor ethic in more than 13,000 Floridians.
The enthusiasm of RMEF volunteers in the state doesn’t stop there. Take Jim Meerpohl, finance chair of the Southwest Florida Chapter, one of the newest chapters in the state.
Meerpohl volunteers not only for RMEF but also as regional coordinator for the Hunter Safety Educational Program, put on by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Department of Natural Resources. Meerpohl and his cadre of volunteers known as the “Southwest Florida Shooting Corps” put on hunter safety classes throughout the year in Collier County. He personally taught 10 classes in 2008 as chief instructor in the county. Each class involves 12 hours of classroom time followed up by a four-hour field day on the shooting range firing live ammo at silhouette animal targets. These courses are free to the public and open to adults and children age 8 and up. The courses cover all aspects of hunter safety principles and include the NRA Firearms Safety Program, archery and even how to climb a tree properly. Meerpohl has been involved with the Hunter Safety Educational Program in Florida since 1999, and has taught more than 1,700 students.
An avid hunter himself, Meerpohl pursues elk and other large game. When teaching he feels he is giving back to the sport and a cause that will benefit future generations of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. That same feeling of “giving back” is what drives RMEF volunteers across Florida to work so hard for our mission.
Thanks for all you do!