It’s a 2,300-mile jaunt from Missoula, Montana, headquarters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, to Washington D.C. A contingent of RMEF leadership recently made the cross-country trip for two dawn-until-dusk days jammed full of meetings, appointments, working lunches, receptions and other events with members of Congress and federal agencies.
The goal in our nation’s capital was the same as RMEF’s day-to-day government affairs approach – track issues and advocate for (or against) those that affect RMEF’s mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.
“This trip was an invaluable opportunity,” said Ryan Bronson, RMEF director of government affairs. “It’s one thing to swap phone calls, emails, provide public comment letters or even offer video testimony from afar like we constantly do, but it’s just so much more effective to meet face-to-face in the same room with decisionmakers and discuss projects and efforts important to our mission.”
In all, RMEF met with six Senators, three House members and three administration officials – U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Chris French to discuss partnership strategies, USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie regarding private land conservation opportunities and programs, and USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Homer Wilkes to expedite forest management funding.
The general focus was on meeting with leadership linked to natural resources and agriculture committees. Specific to the current session, RMEF wants Senators to break the logjam so Congress can pass the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act. Other items of discussion included active forest management reform including fixing the Cottonwood decision and several collaborative forestry projects.
RMEF also laid the groundwork for the next session when Congress will address renewal of the Farm Bill, which includes conservation and forestry issues such as better forest management, improved protection of big-game migration corridors and improving and expanding public access.
Monitoring issues that affect its mission has always been a focal point for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. And that’s an expansive spectrum, especially when you consider the vast landscape of state wildlife agencies, federal and state legislatures, as well as those involved with regional and local issues.
(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Left to right: RMEF Chief Conservation Officer Blake Henning, RMEF Board Member Chuck Roady, Representative Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas), RMEF Board Member AshLee Strong and RMEF Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bronson)