From the Grand Ole Opry to the Country Music Hall of Fame to the iconic Station Inn, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation got a taste of Nashville on day-two of its 2017 National Convention.
The day began with a full helping of elk research at the annual Friends of the Foundation breakfast. Arthur Middleton, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology, management, and policy at the University of California, Berkeley, presented findings about his detailed elk migration studies from the western ranchlands of Wyoming to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Middleton’s keynote address included rare wildlife photos and videos from photographer and partner Joe Riis.
“This organization perhaps more than any other has the potential to make sure this phenomenon stays on the landscape in perpetuity. RMEF can and will play a big role in that,” said Middleton. “These aren’t just elk. What we’re talking about is the engine of an entire ecosystem. We have to pick up the pace to secure the future.”
The Friday evening program launched into an RMEF favorite with an auction of hunting and fishing trips, guns, other hunting gear and artwork. But stealing the show, once again, was the always popular lab puppy. This year’s version, a furry and adorable chocolate lab named “Nash,” raised $12,000 for RMEF’s conservation mission.
RMEF President and CEO David Allen took the stage to talk about the organization’s continued emphasis on “habitat, habitat, habitat.” He went on to outline his three-pronged area of focus for the immediate future.
First, he introduced RMEF’s Managed Lands Initiative which simply states that elk need healthy habitat in order to thrive. RMEF will continue to carry out habitat stewardship in the form of prescribed burns, forest thinning, noxious weed projects as well as other on-the-ground work to benefit elk and elk country. The goal is to restore or improve an average of 115,000 acres of elk habitat every year with a five-year target of 575,000 acres.
Second, Allen spoke of the absolute necessity of RMEF continuing to have an active and vocal presence in advocating for various issues that affect elk, elk country, conservation and hunting.
“If you’re not at the table, you’ll be on the menu,” he said.
“This is more of a new area for us but it’s an area where we are expected by our members to be representing their interests more and more. We are stepping up for that. We’re going to fight for this culture. We are going to engage with federal and state issues as they arrive. We’re going to create more of an outreach so our volunteers and members can be an extended voice for what we stand for.
“Shane (Mahoney) last night asked if RMEF was up the challenge to be a leader in moving into the future for our culture and Shane, I guess I would like to answer that as simply ‘Yes sir, we are up to the challenge. We’re going to take that challenge!”
Third, Allen stressed RMEF efforts in quality educational outreach, branding and marketing.
“We’re investing in communication with young adults while at the same time we’re not going to abandon how we continue to abandon how we communicate to (adults). We have to walk on both sides of that fence right now. It’s the time and age that we live in,” said Allen.
Following dinner, members had the option to attend one of three “Taste of Nashville” events such as a trip to the Grand Ole Opry, visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame or spending the evening at the Station Inn. Each venue offered memorable musical performances by performing artists that continued into the night.