In December 1997, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) released seven elk back onto their historic Kentucky range. Today, the herd numbers more than 11,000, by far the largest elk herd in the eastern United States.
Kentucky Afield Television, the longest continuously-running outdoors TV show in the nation, recently aired an entire episode devoted to the restoration.
“Then we had Tom Baker was the chapter president of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation at the time. He convinced the Elk Foundation to put up a million dollars to make it happen. We couldn’t have done that without that,” Tom Bennett, former KDFWR commissioner, said on the broadcast.
Baker convinced a federal judge and federal prosecutor to divert fines of 27 wildlife violators into funding for an elk study. He then secured a $1 million pledge from RMEF including $150,000 in earnest money that removed the final barrier in the restoration project.
Since 1995, RMEF and its partners completed 158 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Kentucky with a combined value of more than $8 million. These projects protected or enhanced 4,116 acres of habitat.