Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation eyes new leadership

MISSOULA, MT - Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation officials announced Monday that chief executive officer David Allen is stepping down effective Jan. 31.
“With David’s cooperation, RMEF has been able to implement a transition plan to ensure RMEF’s continued success in the years to come,” said Philip Barrett, RMEF chairman of the board. “David and his family have become an integral part of the RMEF family. We thank him for his contributions and leadership and wish him the best of success in his future endeavors.”
As the RMEF moves forward, it maintains a focus on its longstanding conservation mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and elk hunting heritage, according to a news release.
 During Allen’s tenure, RMEF recorded nine consecutive years of record membership growth, conserved or enhanced nearly 1.8 million acres of wildlife habitat, opened or improved access to nearly 600,000 acres of public land and erased $16 million in debt to become debt-free for the first time ever. The organization also increased its volunteer base to more than 11,000 and assisted with successful elk reintroductions in Missouri, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Additionally, RMEF significantly boosted its hunting heritage outreach and advocacy efforts, secured in excess of $50 million in endowed funds, including the establishment of the Torstenson Family Endowment, and launched the Elk Network, an online digital platform dedicated to all things elk and elk hunting.  
“I have enjoyed every day of my nearly 11 years here at RMEF. This is a great organization with some of the best wildlife professionals anywhere,” said Allen. “I support the board of directors’ search for a new CEO to take RMEF to the next level. I expect great things for RMEF in the future. I have other projects that interest me and this is a great time to pursue those opportunities.”
The RMEF will release developments in its search for new leadership in the near future.

SOURCE: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation


Bird lovers raise record amount for priority bird projects

MADISON, WI - Endangered Kirtland's warblers, the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative, and the five-year Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas project to document birds that nest in Wisconsin will get more help in 2018, thanks to 49 teams of bird lovers across the state, who raised more than $90,000 through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon in 2017.
"A group of dedicated birders came together, once again, to benefit important conservation efforts in their state," said Drew Feldkirchner, who directs the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation Program. "We are grateful to everyone who participated, donated and sponsored, along with our partners at the Natural Resources Foundation who created and led the effort."
DNR is a partner in the birdathon, which is organized and run by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. The event is like a walkathon for birders. Participating teams tally as many bird species as possible on a day of their choosing between April and June, and collect pledges and donations.
The funds raised through the annual event allow for the continued advancement of priority bird initiatives in Wisconsin including monitoring and protection for the federally and state endangered
Kirtland's warbler.

How Birdathon donations benefit birds
Local birders also benefit.
Funds raised by the birdathon will go toward the creation of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, a follow-up to the breeding bird survey from 1995-2000 that resulted in a reference book still used routinely today to guide species conservation and land management planning. Organizational teams such as several representing Madison Audubon Society that participated in the birdathon got to keep half the funds they raised for their own conservation efforts.
Diane Packett, foundation birdathon coordinator, described the event as a competition of who can spot the most bird species, but also a fun way to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with friends and family. In 2017, a record number of teams participated across the state and saw donations from a total of 796 donors. The total amount raised was $91,000, exceeding the 2017 goal of $75,000.
"We're so impressed with how Wisconsin birders mobilized for the birdathon last year, surpassing our goal by 20 percent," said Packett. "We've set an ambitious goal of $100,000 for the Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2018, and we're really excited to engage even more of the community to protect Wisconsin's birds."
A total of 10 priority local bird conservation projects received funding from the birdathon proceeds, including three new project recipients. These new projects involve bird conservation and monitoring in the Peruvian Amazon, where many Wisconsin birds overwinter, colonial water bird monitoring in east-central Wisconsin, and water bird and waterfowl monitoring on Lake Michigan.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation conserves Wisconsin elk habitat

MISSOULA, MT - The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation permanently protected key elk habitat in Wisconsin elk country by first acquiring and then conveying a 360-acre inholding to Jackson County Forest.
“This is a crucial transaction because it prevents the potential of development and fragmentation within an area that is vital to Wisconsin’s newest elk herd,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “It also both improves and increases public access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.”
The Morrison Creek property is surrounded on three sides by the 122,000-acre Jackson County Forest and is located less than three miles east from where more than 70 elk were released in 2015-2016. The area also provides year-round habitat for black bear, whitetail deer, wild turkey and an array of other wildlife species.
The acquisition opens the door for improved wildlife management practices as well as habitat stewardship work designed to promote early seral habitat for elk and other wildlife.
RMEF previously supplied funding for a nearby grassland enhancement project to increase meadow habitat.

Snipe Lake II Project
RMEF also purchased an 80-acre private inholding within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The transaction, which builds on a prior acquisition in Wisconsin’s northern elk restoration area, permanently protects key elk habitat and is critical to future forest management efforts.
Since 1990, RMEF and its partners completed 455 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Wisconsin with a combined value of more than $8.5 million. These projects protected or enhanced 5,848 acres of habitat and opened or secured public access to 1,630 acres.

SOURCE: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation


Cougar presence in Wisconsin carries into 2018

MADISON, WI - Department of Natural Resource staff confirmed trail camera photos of a cougar in Fond du Lac County in early January in addition to confirmation of a cougar moving through Lincoln and Langlade counties in mid-December.
The December photos were captured on one property northeast of Merrill on the same day with two separate trail cameras. Eight days later, two separate photos were captured on a property south of Antigo. Later in January, another cougar photo was confirmed near Rosendale.
The properties near Antigo and Merrill are roughly 23 miles apart, and these photos present the possibility that this was the same cougar, moving in an easterly direction. It is unknown whether these photos show the same animal photographed on multiple trail cameras in central Wisconsin between early August and late October, or of the cougar reported in Douglas County in mid-November.
Cougars can travel long distances in a short time period. Without biological material for genetic testing, department staff are unable to confirm whether this is one or multiple cougars. As a reminder, suspected cougar sightings can be reported by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for large mammal observation form.
There is currently no evidence that cougars are breeding in Wisconsin. Biologists believe the cougars known to have entered Wisconsin are male cougars dispersing from a breeding population in the western United States.
Cougars are a protected species in Wisconsin and hunting is not allowed. Cougars are not considered a threat to public safety, and in the unlikely event that a person is confronted by a cougar, face the animal and spread your arms and open your coat or jacket to appear larger. If a cougar approaches, make noise and throw rocks or sticks.
Confirmed cougar sighting trail camera photos and maps with confirmed sighting locations can be found on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching keyword "cougar."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Outdoor family events celebrate 10th anniversary of Legacy Amendment

A series of events celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment will take place throughout Minnesota in 2018.
The first of these events will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, at Silverwood Regional Park, 2500 County Road E, St. Anthony.
Adults and kids who attend the Parks and Trails Legacy Celebration at Silverwood Regional Park can try kick-sledding, ice fishing, a snowmobile simulator and other indoor and outdoor activities. Visitors can also hike among art sculptures throughout the park. Between activities, there will be s’mores and other light refreshments around a crackling bonfire.
“The passage of the Legacy Amendment was a game-changer for organizations working to support Minnesota’s outstanding system of parks and trails,” said Erika Rivers, director of the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division. “At this event, and the statewide events to follow, we will not only highlight what has been accomplished over the past decade with Legacy funding but, perhaps even more important, we will gather input from people throughout the state - adults and kids alike - to help shape priorities moving forward.”
Staff from the DNR, the Metropolitan Council and Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission will be on hand throughout the afternoon to lead activities and gather ideas.
Metro Transit is providing free rides to the event. Get a downloadable bus pass at www.legacy.leg.mn/ptlac/2018-regional-events.
Future Parks and Trails Legacy Celebration events are scheduled:
* Friday, April 27, 4-7 p.m., at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph.
* Saturday, May 5, 1-4 p.m. at the Red Baron Arena in Marshall.
* Friday, May 11, 4-7 p.m., at Hyland-Bush-Anderson Lakes Park in Bloomington.
* Saturday, May 19, 1-4 p.m. at 125 LIVE in Rochester.
* Saturday, June 2, 1-4 p.m. at Itasca State Park in Park Rapids.
* Saturday, June 16, 1-4 p.m. at Prairie Wetland Environmental Learning Center in Fergus Falls.
* Wednesday, June 27, 1-4 p.m. at Essentia Health Duluth Heritage Sports Center in Duluth.
For more information, visit www.legacy.leg.mn/ptlac.
For accommodations to participate, please contact Paul Purman at the DNR, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 651-259-5643.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


CWD found in Lincoln County results in baiting, feeding bans

MADISON, WI - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has received confirmation that a wild deer has tested positive for chronic wasting disease in northeast Lincoln County, south of Rhinelander.
As required by law, this finding will establish baiting and feeding bans for Lincoln and Langlade counties effective Feb. 1, 2018. The ban for Lincoln County will be enacted for three years. Langlade County is within 10 miles of the Lincoln County positive wild deer, and due to being adjacent to a county with a CWD positive test result, a two-year ban will be enacted. Oneida county is already under baiting and feeding bans, and those bans will be renewed with this newest detection.
The two-year-old buck harvested in northeast Lincoln County is the first confirmed positive deer in this county.
"This latest discovery is troublesome and is something we take very seriously," said DNR Secretary Dan Meyer. "We will start a dialogue with the local community through the County Deer Advisory Council on what steps should be taken next. While there is no silver bullet remedy to eradicate CWD, we have learned from experience that having the local community involved is a key factor in managing this disease."
The DNR will also take the following steps:
* Establish a 10-mile radius disease surveillance area around this positive location.
* Conduct surveillance activities to assess disease distribution and prevalence including.
* Encourage reporting of sick deer.
* Sample vehicle-killed adult deer.
* Sample adult deer harvested under agricultural damage permits.
* Sample adult deer harvested under urban deer hunts in the area.
* Establish additional CWD sampling locations prior to the 2018 deer seasons.
These actions are a very important next step in further understanding the potential geographic distribution of the disease and if other animals are infected within Wisconsin's deer herd in the area.
As has been demonstrated in the past in other parts of the state, local citizen involvement in the decision-making process as well as management actions to address this CWD detection will have the greatest potential for success.
For more information regarding baiting and feeding regulations and CWD in Wisconsin, and how to have adult deer tested during the 2018/2019 hunting seasons, visit the department's website, dnr.wi.gov, and search "bait and feeding" and "CWD sampling" respectively.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Warm up to winter with family activities at Fort Snelling State Park

Winter may have gotten off to an especially cold start in 2018, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy what’s left of it.
For an introduction to snow sports, stop by the annual Winter Trails Day extravaganza at Fort Snelling State Park on Saturday, Jan. 20, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Adults and kids can try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, ice fishing, quinzee (snow shelter) building and archery. Other activities will include ice harvesting, storytelling and an ice globe demonstration. Guided nature hikes will also take place every half hour, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Between activities, visitors can enjoy hot cocoa around a crackling bonfire. Activities will be set up near the beach area.
“Winter Trails Day is about helping people warm up to winter,” said Kelli Bruns, park manager at Fort Snelling State Park. “The cold weather months are more fun when you find an activity you can enjoy alone or with others.”
This year, for the first time, sign-language interpreters will be on hand to help make the day’s activities more accessible to those with hearing disabilities. Stop by the registration tent for more information.
Winter Trails Day is made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service, retail co-op REI, the U.S. Forest Service and Mississippi Park Connection.
Use of skis, snowshoes, fat bikes and other equipment will be free, but a vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks and recreation areas ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit).

Save time, get your vehicle permit in advance
Although permits are available at the park, people attending Winter Trails Day can avoid waiting in line by getting their permit in advance. Visit www.mndnr.gov/reservations, log in (or create an account), click on “entry permit,” select a duration of “one-day” ($7) or “year-round” ($35), and continue as directed. You’ll receive an email with a permit that can be printed and displayed in your vehicle during your visit.
For more information, call the park at 612-725-2724 or visit the Fort Snelling State Park webpage at www.mndnr.gov.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR