This is the Northern Rockies and we love elk. If you don’t love elk, you can just get out. Did we mention part of loving elk is shooting at them for one month every year? Well it is—read your handbook.

As members and supporters of the nation’s largest—and locally based—nonprofit organization for the preservation of wild ungulate habitat, we like to keep up to date with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). For that reason precisely, we’re wondering what in the hell is going on over there.

All right, so this is the “new environmental movement”—one that works collaboratively with all sides of the issue, even the ones retrieving a wolverine pelt from a snare trap. We get that. What we have trouble getting is why RMEF still occupies a back seat on the brucellosis issue, even as that whirling dervish advances perilously toward elk.

In fact, while researching a cover story on exactly this topic (see “Bigger game,” September 4, 2008) late in the summer, the Independent set up an interview with RMEF to talk about an elk management plan drafted by a pair of Helena livestock industry lobbies. RMEF cancelled, saying the organization wasn’t yet ready to comment on this complicated and controversial topic.

It’s been four months now. Active management of the Yellowstone herd remains a very real possibility and we’re not seeing enough of the critter’s most prominent advocate. That’s a problem.

Yet, what really set off this particular diatribe are reports we’ve received from avid local hunters of elk limping around the backcountry with arrow wounds. Bow hunters typically rank among the most skilled of predators, except when they’re of marginal shooting ability. Some believe RMEF’s “Elk Chronicles” television series, which debuted in July on the Outdoor Channel, is largely to blame for the amateur surge.

“I would love to think that we’re reaching enough people to influence hunter behavior…but that’s not the case,” replies RMEF’s Dan Crockett, who further argues the program places a premium on responsible hunter behavior.

Granted, blaming one show for an anecdotal trend is kind of like calling out “Grand Theft Auto” for an outbreak of hooker beat-downs in Los Angeles. However, we still find RMEF’s priorities out of whack, and “Elk Chronicles’” initial press release says it all: “The show will carry the Elk Foundation brand and message into 31 million homes three times a week.”

Is “expanding the brand” through NASCAR sponsorship—RMEF’s logo adorned Kevin Harvick’s Chevy back in October—and attempts to play Rupert Murdoch really the best way to protect elk? We think there are more pressing issues at hand. ?
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