MISSOULA, Mont.â€”Wild elk havenâ€™t roamed the Illinois landscape for more than a century but the species remains an inspiration for conservationists active in Illinois chapters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Since 1988, Illinoisans have raised over $2 million for RMEF elk habitat projects, mainly in the West, while keeping almost $80,000 for conservation and education initiatives at home.
In 2010, RMEF and its Illinois supporters are funding a variety of outdoor skills programs for youths, women and the physically challenged across the state. Seven projects were selected to receive grants, affecting Cass, Clinton, Henderson, Menard, Mercer, Perry, Pope, Sangamon, Warren and Winnebago counties.
An additional project has statewide interest.
â€œIllinois is home to thousands of conservationists devoted to ensuring the future of elk and elk habitat. While theyâ€™re at it, theyâ€™re also supporting worthy causes right in their own backyards,â€ said David Allen, president and CEO of RMEF.
RMEF grants will help fund the following projects, listed by county:
Clinton Countyâ€”Provide sponsorship for an annual youth skills camp providing outdoor experiences for youth. Activities include archery, shooting, clay target shooting, horseback riding, hunting, trapping, boating/water safety, survival training, numerous field trips and classes.
Henderson Countyâ€”Help promote youth development through 4-H shooting sports programs (also affects Mercer and Warren counties).
Menard Countyâ€”Promote the shooting sports and conservation as family activities through 4-H shooting sports programs (also affects Cass and Sangamon counties).
Perry Countyâ€”Provide sponsorship for students participating in the Scholastic Clay Target Program, which develops skills in clay target shooting.
Pope Countyâ€”Provide sponsorship for Stewardship Week to educate youths from across southern Illinois about the management of natural land and wildlife resources.
Winnebago Countyâ€”Provide sponsorship to conduct youth deer and duck hunts, which also include conservation education.
Statewideâ€”Acquire an educational wildlife trunk to promote youth conservation education and awareness within Illinois.
A state leadership team of RMEF volunteers and staff awards grants each year.
Partners for 2010 projects in Illinois include the 4-H Shooting Sports, Illinois Conservation Foundation, Illinois Federation for Outdoor Resources, Illinois Forest Resource Center-University of Illinois, other organizations, companies and businesses, schools and landowners.
Illinoisan Bob Torstenson was introduced to RMEF through the local chapter in Rockford. Passionate about elk and driven to conserve the faraway places where elk live, Torstenson took his inspiration to a new level. In 2002, he posthumously gifted to RMEF a 95,000-acre New Mexico ranch and a $4 million endowment, an historic gift that ranks as the largest ever received by RMEF.
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 acresâ€”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.