Elk NetworkRMEF Recognized for Virginia Elk Reintroduction

News Releases | July 21, 2015

July 21, 2015

RMEF Recognized for Virginia Elk Reintroduction

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) honored the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for creating a positive impact on the industry by presenting RMEF with its Civic and Environmental Partnership Award.

RMEF used both funding and volunteer manpower as part of a collaborative effort to assist with the reintroduction of more than 100 elk on their native Virginia range.

“This is a tremendous honor,” said Chris Croy, RMEF regional director. “We are grateful to the state of Virginia, its citizens, our partners and our hard-working volunteers for the dedication and perseverance in returning elk to the Virginia Commonwealth.”

Financially funded by RMEF and several major donors, RMEF volunteers also played a major role in the restoration program. Volunteers sought and found suitable locations in southwestern Virginia before clearing brush, applying fertilizer and planting native grasses on reclaimed mining sites. They also worked with local landowners and assisted with on-the-ground reintroduction efforts.

“The Southwest Virginia Coalfields Chapter is comprised of tireless volunteers who are led by a determined conservation champion in Leon Boyd. Leon is the catalyst that gets things done!” added Croy.

“Prior to this reintroduction project, Virginia had not seen native elk roaming since 1855,” Butch Lambert, DMME deputy director, said during the presentation. “Reclaimed coal surface mines, natural gas well locations and pipeline right of ways have created fragmented forests with grass-covered fields that now offer grazing habitats for the elk herds, along with shrubs and trees branches for wintertime grazing. This partnership has been successful and continues to bring rewards to the environmental restoration and civic awareness in Virginia.”

Project partners include the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, and several gas companies and habitat organizations.

RMEF completed successful elk restorations in Wisconsin in 1995, Kentucky in 1997, Tennessee in 2000, Ontario in 2001, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002, Missouri in 2011, and Virginia in 2014. RMEF also previously funded feasibility studies in Illinois, Maryland, New York and West Virginia.