December 22, 2014
RMEF Loses Friend, Recent Wallace Pate Award Recipient
MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is mourning the loss of Tom Baker, a former RMEF volunteer and member who spearheaded elk reintroduction in the state of Kentucky. Baker passed away on December 21, 2014.
“Tom Baker means so much to so many people,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “He is certainly single-handedly the most responsible on behalf of the RMEF for the success of returning elk to their native Kentucky range. His passing is a tremendous loss for all of us.”
RMEF recently bestowed its highest conservation honor, the Wallace Fennell Pate Wildlife Conservation Award for special contributions of lasting significance for the benefit of elk and elk country, on Baker at its Elk Camp national convention. He was not able to attend because of health reasons.
“This project was only a good idea until a courageous man stepped up and made it happen. That man was my father, Tom Baker,” said Nathan Baker, who spoke in his father’s behalf at Elk Camp. “He is a hero for wildlife conservation and an example for all of us.”
Baker volunteered his time as chairman of the RMEF Southern Kentucky Chapter from 1994-1997 and as Kentucky state chair from 1995-1998. He was an RMEF board member from 1999-2005 including a stint as its chairman from 2003-2005. Baker also served as chairman and director of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife (KFW) and the KFW Commission. He also served as both the chairman of the board and director of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
Baker will always be remembered for his dogged determination toward returning elk to Kentucky. He 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.
“My father along with the RMEF pulled off the greatest wildlife restoration success in United States history. Hunters led the way and paid by example. While hunting elk in Kentucky is a great success story, so too is the ability for thousands of tourists to view elk in their natural habitat. Hunters are the best conservationists,” added Nathan Baker.
Tom Baker is survived by his wife of 33 years, Marilyn, and their five children—Jay, Nathan, Matthew, Sarah and Gabe. They also have five grandchildren.
Wallace Fennell Pate, RMEF’s first president and chairman of the board, dedicated his time, energy and financial resources for the betterment of wildlife in North America. Now deceased, Pate became a national role model for groups or individuals concerned with natural resources conservation.