MISSOULA, Mont. -- After years of support for elk restoration proposals in Missouri and Virginia, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has committed $600,000 to help both states restore a game species lost from their landscapes for more than a century.
Both states recently approved elk restoration plans and RMEF pledged $300,000 each.
"We're proud to step forward and put money 'on the ground' for these projects. No doubt, our great volunteers, members and supporters will continue to raise additional funds for both states," said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. "Restoring elk back into Missouri and Virginia is going to be a tremendous legacy in conservation."
In Missouri, RMEF invested over $61,000 to help fund an initial elk restoration study in 2000. A restoration plan was finally approved in October.
The restoration zone is a 346-square-mile area spanning parts of Shannon, Carter and Reynolds counties. The area was selected because of suitable habitat, extensive public lands, low road density, minimal agricultural activity and landowner support.
Up to 150 elk will be relocated to Missouri from Kentucky, an undertaking expected to begin within a few weeks.
"We are very grateful to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for its long-standing support of elk restoration in Missouri," Missouri Department of Conservation Director Bob Ziehmer said. "Now that we are ready to move forward, RMEF has wasted no time putting resources behind the effort."
In Virginia, RMEF invested more than $28,000 for an initial elk restoration feasibility study in 1996. RMEF volunteers were thrilled when the board of directors of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in August voted unanimously to relocate elk into Buchanan County, with an elk management area to include Dickenson and Wise counties.
Plans call for relocating 75 elk from Kentucky to Buchanan County beginning as early as 2012. Biologists are hoping for a sustainable elk population that will offer wildlife recreational opportunities such as elk viewing in the short term and a limited hunting season within four or five years.
"We are excited about the elk restoration project in Virginia and the opportunity to partner with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation -- an organization recognized as a leader in wildlife habitat conservation in the country," Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Director Bob Duncan said. "RMEF's support of our agency and our elk restoration project, not only monetarily but through the many RMEF members and chapters throughout Virginia, has been overwhelming.
"The benefits of such a partnership are long term and beneficial to not only the restoration of elk in southwest Virginia but to other wildlife species and programs in the area."
Kentucky's elk herd, which is the largest herd east of the Rocky Mountains, was restored with financial and technical support from RMEF in the 1990s. That herd now numbers more than 10,000 animals, is a major tourism draw, offers ever-increasing hunting opportunities and is now serving as a source herd for restoration efforts in other states.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.8 million acres -- a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.