Elk Foundation founders, left to right: Bob Munson, Dan Bull, Bill Munson and Charlie Decker
In 1984, four hunters from Northwest Montana recognized a handful of organizations doing great work for species like ducks, turkeys and upland birds. They also recognized there was no group dedicated to North America’s grandest big game animal, elk. In May of that year, they pooled their time, talent and resources and created the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, an organization dedicated to elk, elk hunting and the habitat they need to thrive.
Hard Work Pays Off
They set up shop in the back room of a trailer house in Troy, the four—a pastor, a realtor, a logger and a drive-in owner—created an organization that would directly benefit elk and other wildlife by putting money to work on the ground. The team drained their bank accounts and borrowed funds to mail out 43,000 brochures soliciting members, promising a subscription to a magazine about elk and elk hunting, as well as an annual international convention. They received a dismal 233 responses. But they believed they'd made a commitment to these people. So they borrowed additional funds and printed 32,000 copies of the premier issue of Bugle magazine, which they mailed out and distributed to grocery stores and gas stations throughout the West. It took time, hard work and patience, but by the end of 1984, membership had grown to almost 2,500.
The First of Many Successes to Come
In April 1985, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation held our first convention in Spokane, Washington. We also funded our first habitat project that year—a grant to help fund a prescribed burn in a place fittingly named Elk Creek on the Kootenai National Forest near Libby, Montana. In 1988, we facilitated our first land acquisition—the 16,440-acre Robb Creek property in Montana—and received our first ringing endorsement from the corporate community. At our annual convention that year, Ray Goff, former RMEF board member and vice president of Anheuser-Busch, announced a $500,000 gift from the company. That gift helped kick off our incredible growth and conservation achievements.
Bursting at the Seams
By 1988, the RMEF staff had grown to 12, and our offices were spread across a vacant dentist’s office, a mini mall and an abandoned grocery store. We now had 32,000 members, 2,000 passionate volunteers and 70 chapters, and we’d protected and enhanced more than 110,000 acres of elk country. Bursting at the seams, it was time to say goodbye to the RMEF’s birthplace and move to Missoula, Montana.
A Shining Star
Since then, we’ve grown to more than 227,000 members whose support has protected and enhanced more than 7.3 million acres of North American wildlife habitat. Hundreds of thousands of these acres were completely off-limits to the public. They are now open for all to hunt, fish and otherwise enjoy. We employ more than 120 people and boast more than 11,000 volunteers working through more than 500 chapters across the United States.
From the most humble beginnings in 1984, the RMEF has risen to become one of the most effective and efficient conservation organizations in the United States. Today, working together with members, volunteers, and partners as Team Elk, the RMEF is striving to conserve the next million acres of elk country, and to be a strong voice for hunters, access, and wildlife management and conservation issues.