RMEF: A Wolf in Elk Clothing

The average American sportsman is unaware that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation [RMEF] exists to promote REWILDING.  [For those of you who are ignorant of the REWILDING concept, please see my previous blog posts on the topic.]

One of RMEF’s primary goals is to restore elk to their natural “historic range” across North America.[i]   For most sportsmen, that sounds like a great idea.  But what will America look like if/when RMEF’s stated  goal of elk restoration is complete?

Compare RMEF’s vision for elk restoration with the wolf advocate’s vision for continental scale gray wolf conservation/restoration as stated on the REWILDING Institute webpage:

We call for the recovery of wolves across North America.  Such recovery means:

  • Restoration of wolves in suitable habitat throughout their former range in North America, from the Northern Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico to the Canadian Rockies and Coast Range, and from the U.S. Pacific Northwest to the Upper Great Lakes and to upstate New York and New England.
  • Restoration of potentially suitable habitats and crucial linkages between patches of suitable wolf habitat where wolves are free to behave like wolves.
  • Restoration of wolves in ecologically and evolutionarily effective populations so that they may fulfill their natural keystone role of ecosystem regulation, aiding the persistence of native flora and fauna.
  • Restoration of wolves throughout this expanse, so that all wolf populations are connected by a continuum of functioning dispersal linkages.

In short, we envision the return of the wolf to its rightful place in North American wildlands, to a community where humans dwell with respect and tolerance for wild species. [ii]


“The RMEF works to reestablish elk herds in historic ranges where the habitat and human cultural tolerance create a high potential for self-sustaining herds.”[iii]

“The RMEF uses advanced habitat mapping technology (GIS) to identify and prioritize the most crucial elk winter and summer ranges, migration corridors and calving areas. We then work with our partners, including willing landowners, government agencies, corporations, foundations and other conservation groups to permanently protect the most critical habitat and target areas for public access. Our land conservation tools include: land acquisitions, access agreements and easements, land and real estate donations, contributions, land exchanges and associated acres.”



RMEF’s vision for elk restoration is every bit as expansive as the REWILDING Institute’s wolf restoration vision.  RMEF is working toward the same goal using elk that the wolf advocates are striving to accomplish using wolves, a vision collectively known as “Continental Scale REWILDING”, albeit with a nod given by RMEF to the notion of “cultural tolerance”:

Perhaps the parallels between the wolf advocate’s agenda and the RMEF agenda can best be demonstrated by a comparison of each groups own map showing the current and historic ranges of their favorite “keystone” species.  The wolf range map is posted on the Defender’s of Wildlife webpage.  The elk range map is posted on an RMEF page.  (Note: both maps are used here without permission under the “fair use” copyright exception and are intended for educational and discussion purposes only.)


Historic gray wolf range closely mirrors historic elk range.  This is not surprising to anyone who has studied the history of wildlife in North America.  In fact, as I noted in my 2004 article entitled “The Howling-  Reflections on the Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Program and the Implications for Non-migratory Caribou and Elk”,  if wolf populations are allowed to continue expanding, they will continue driving down ungulate numbers to unacceptable levels UNLESS large prey species such as elk are allowed to greatly expand their range by re-establishing historic migration patterns.  This can only be accomplished by REWILDING large swaths of rural America.

Again, the goals are the same.  While one group utilizes a large carnivore to accomplish REWILDING objectives, the other uses a prey species.  It should also be noted that other groups advocate  just as vehemently for the restoration of the historic ranges for their favorite species- i.e. wild horses, bison, grizzly bears or jaguars.  All of these advocacy groups seek to control how our land is utilized and what America will look like in the not too distant future.

I find it ironic and somewhat hypocritical that sportsmen can decry the expansion of gray wolf range, yet applaud the expansion of elk range.  There are some notable differences in tactics and strategy between the prey and predator advocacy groups, but the goal of taking, a.k.a. “acquiring” private property and creating massive “cores” and connecting “corridors” between large swaths of permanently protected areas is identical.

RMEF primarily gains ground by “establishing conservation easements, facilitating land exchanges and conducting land acquisitions that allow strategic parcels of private land to be protected from development”.   Radical REWILDING groups acquire land, or control of land, in much the same way.  They all gain ground by lobbying politicians and infiltrating land management agencies to influence how existing public land is utilized while advocating for increased wilderness and core conservation areas.

RMEF promotes elk for their own sake, yet also as a species to be enjoyed, managed, and hunted for sport and food.   The wolf advocates also want to see elk range greatly expanded, but primarily because they view elk as a needed food source for their favorite large carnivore as it repatriates itself to the farthest reaches of their former range.

The REWILDING agenda elevates the protection of wildlife above everything else. Success is measured by how much land is acquired and/or controlled.   Successfully implemented, REWILDING precludes or restricts land uses such as livestock grazing, timber harvesting,  mineral extraction, dam building, or any other use that might conflict with the perceived needs of the target, or “keystone” species.

So….to answer the question,  “What will America look like if/when RMEF’s stated goal of elk restoration is complete?   –  It will look exactly the same if/when the Defender’s of Wildlife,  Center for Biological Diversity,  Wildlands Project, the REWILDING Institute, and yes, the advocates for UN Agenda 21, achieve their goals.

Sources for this article:

[i] http://www.rmef.org/Conservation/HowWeConserve.aspx


[ii] http://rewilding.org/rewildit/about-tri/vision/


[iii] http://www.rmef.org/Conservation/HowWeConserve.aspx


14 thoughts on “RMEF: A Wolf in Elk Clothing

  1. Chris Graves

    Steve, your research, thought and connection of dots is outstanding even though it throws dust in my face. Thank you for the enlightenment. I will let my friends in on this.

  2. Mark Holyoak

    You’re missing the point here. RMEF conducts elk restoration feasibility studies when requested to determine if there is enough suitable habitat (water, feed, cover and space) and “human cultural tolerance” to return elk to their native range. In other words, elk need to be wanted, valued and accepted by locals before any restoration efforts take place.
    On the contrary, pro-wolf groups want wolves back on their native range no matter what locals think or believe. We’re witnessing that right now with red wolves in New Mexico.

  3. RMEF does give a “nod to cultural tolerance” as I stated in the article. However, when it comes to REWILDING, what locals think DOES NOT MATTER! Federal and/or State land mangers are pursuing the REWILDING agenda in response to legislative action and popular opinion. Case in point, the citizens of Eastern Washington overwhelmingly OPPOSE wolf restoration efforts, yet our voices are drowned out by the liberal majority from the westside of the State. Locals are subjected to WDFW and USFWS wolf expansion policies despite their opposition. Local opinion means nothing. Also, RMEF is vehemently OPPOSED to local land control, insisting that ONLY the FEDERAL govenment can protect our wildlife resources adequately.

  4. Mark Holyoak

    RMEF was asked to conduct feasibility studies in several states. Let’s take New York, Virginia, Missouri and Maryland for example. After the studies, New York and Maryland determined restoring elk was not feasible so it did not take place. Missouri and Virginia determined it was feasible so it eventually happened. When it comes to elk restoration, RMEF puts a great deal of value into what locals think and does not force the issue. Pro-wolf animal rights groups, on the other hand, push for forced wolf reintroduction despite what the locals think. Again, that’s exactly what is happening right now in New Mexico.
    RMEF has always maintained that all wildlife –elk, bears, deer, wolves, etc. — should be managed by state fish & game agencies, NOT by the feds and has filed lawsuits and joined other suits seeking that management remain state-based. It is well documented.

  5. While RMEF does in fact advocate that wildlife is managed by State agencies, they oppose the transfer of ANY FEDERAL LAND to State control or State management. Such duplicity accomplishes REWILDING objectives. Again, wolf management in Washington State is a prime example. Wolves in the Eastern half of the State are managed by the State (WDFW) in compliance with Federal wolf recovery (ESA) mandates. Wolves in the Western half of the State remain under total FEDERAL protection/jurisdiction/management as outlined by the ESA. In other words, Washington State can only manage its wolves in areas where wolves are flourishing. By insisting that LAND remains under FEDERAL jurisidiction, RMEF insures that State wildlife agencies are forced to manage FEDERALLY CONTROLLED lands in compliance with FEDERAL mandates and REWILDING objectives.

  6. RMEF’s Initiative page for “Eastern Elk” outlines extensive plans to lock up as much land for “elk restoration” as possible. RMEF specifically cites land acquisition plans in Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. As elk successfully repopulate these states, the initiative will change to include other areas. This is how REWILDING works. RMEF seeks support from hunters and local citizens who want to increase hunting opportunities. The REWILDERS seek support from animal rights activists and nature worshippers. The results are the same.

  7. Mark Holyoak

    True, RMEF is opposed to the transfer of federal land to state ownership because such an action would threaten public access. Many states are actively selling off state-owned land as a fundraising mechanism. Idaho has sold off 41 percent of its state land since attaining statehood. California has only 486K acres of its original 5.5 million acres & Oregon has only 780K of its original 3.4 million acres.
    That said, we’re talking wildlife management here not land management. State fish & game agencies have always managed deer, elk, bears, antelope, lions and other wildlife. States should be managing wolves as well. That is why RMEF has taken part in different lawsuits at different times to return the management of wolves to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. A few of those suits are still pending. WDFW should be managing wolf populations across the state of Washington.

  8. RMEF’s reasoning that State management would “threaten public access” is pure nonsense. The FEDS are actively closing off access to public land all across the west. Gates are being locked and roads are being barricaded with rocks and debris by the FEDS, not by State agencies. In some cases, local Sheriff’s have demanded that forest access roads be kept open, in open defiance of FEDERAL policies.

  9. Mark Holyoak

    True again on conserving elk habitat. RMEF does seek to permanently protect as much elk habitat as possible for the benefit of elk and other wildlife. What is the alternative?–allow for more development which is detrimental across the board. Permanently protecting more wildlife habitat and allowing public access for hunting and fishing generates more funding by hunters and anglers through contributions, excise taxes on guns/ammo/bows/arrows, and the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses/fees which pays for on-the-ground habitat stewardship projects (including forest thinning, prescribed burning, noxious weed treatments,etc.) which benefit all wildlife.

    Animal rights groups have very different goals. They seek to place the wolf above and beyond all other species and use it to file more lawsuits and thereby, use it as a fundraising mechanism via attorney fees acquired through the Equal Access to Justice Act to further line their pockets and promote anti-hunting efforts.

    Regarding access on state-owned land, federal land management is not perfect. RMEF strongly supports public access and calls on the feds to better manage its forests. Here are some examples of locals losing or not getting access to state-owned lands. If you do some research, you’ll find even more examples.
    The Oregon State Land Board approved selling the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest.

    State lands are sold once or twice a year at auction to raise funds. It had 13 tracts of land totaling 4,522 acres on the auction block last May. In June 2015, June Utah sold six tracts of land totaling 2,374 acres for nearly $2 million.

    There are rumblings about placing a 20-year hunting lease on state endowment lands.

    New Mexico:
    Last November, the New Mexico Land Office suggested the New Mexico Dept. of Game & Fish be asked to pay as much as $5 million every year for hunters, anglers and trappers to have access to state trust lands. Who funds the New Mexico Dept of Game & Fish?—sportsmen & women do.

    South Dakota:
    Lincoln County officials cut off access in 2014 to a 32,000-acre wilderness study area & reaffirmed last month is still won’t allow public access to it.

    There are 3.2 million acres of state trust land in Colorado. As of 1996, 479,700 acres are open for hunting and fishing through $479,700 in fees paid by sportsmen & women. That means 2.72 million acres of state lands are not available for public access.

  10. By the way, thanks for your thoughtful responses Mark.

    Granted, RMEF does advocate strongly for public access to public lands. But why they think FEDERAL control promises better access than State control is beyond me. That said, State management is not a perfect solution either as the States are still subject to Federal laws, i.e. the ESA and the whims of the majority. In a State like Washington, State control just means that our wildlife/land management policies would be set by the liberal mob in King County. Everything would be locked up even more than they are and public land uses such as livestock grazing and hunting would be severely restricted or eliminated. In any case, wildlife management cannot be viewed in isolation from land management.

    I would like to see true local, or COUNTY control of public lands. Then we’ll see a real difference here in Eastern Washington. If eastern Washington counties had control of land/wildlife management, most of our wolves would be repatriated back into Canada, or into the Cascade foothills where the people on the west side of the State can appreciate them. Our local elk and moose populations would rebound significantly and the spread of wolf borne diseases would be stopped in its tracks.. Access to public land would remain a priority under local management, thereby increasing recreational hunting opportunities (a stated goal of RMEF) while insuring that multiple use land management remains the guiding principle.

  11. RMEF is clearly on he wrong side of the wolf issue. According to RMEF’s Wolf Management page- “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintains that science and biology are key facets in maintaining a sustainable population of wolves and a balanced landscape for elk and other wildlife.”

    Balanced? Sustainable? Where? How? When? Why?

    RMEF admits wolves have proliferated beyond FEDERAL goals, yet they ignorantly continue to advocate that wolf “management” be accomplished via controlled hunting and trapping. They simply refuse to see the failure of such management “tools” across Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Canada, etc. British Columbia allows unrestrained hunting and trapping of wolves with no reporting requirements whatsoever, yet the B.C. wolf population is still expanding and decimating woodland caribou and moose populations with no end in sight.

    Hunters and trappers are incapable of managing wolves, nor do they have the time or desire to do so. Most hunters prefer to take elk or moose for obvious reasons. Calls for wolf control via aerial gunning, poisoning or bounty programs, and other “politically incorrect” methods have been met with insurmountable public opposition. Perhaps RMEF should start advocating for a requirement that a hunter must harvest 5 wolves before any he/she is granted an elk tag or qualifies to draw a moose permit. That might wake people up and change things considerably.

    But until RMEF takes a much stronger stand against wolf proliferation, and begins to advocate for LOCAL control of LOCAL land and wildlife resources, they remain a major cog in the REWILDING agenda.

  12. Steve Lohr

    I appreciate the exchange above. My thoughts about the steady advance of wolf populations have led me to conclude that something was seriously wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it. When the wolf population blew past the target goals set in the original impact statements and nobody put on the brakes I knew immediately the wolf reintroduction had nothing to do with managing bison and elk in Yellowstone NP. The fact that they rushed to release wolves amid resistance and some scant evidence that wolves still existed in the area of the park should have been a clue. Some said as much but in the past 20 years it is clear the presence of wolves all over the landscape is NOT in the interest of everyone. However, it is in the interest of: 1) Self serving biologists 2) Manipulative Anti land use anti human activity types or every stripe 3) Leftist politics 4) Money grubbing NGOs that foster fetishism, ignorance, self loathing, or narcissism to get people to donate money.. If you don’t fall into one of those categories you are on the short end of the stick. It is of no consequence and nobody knows that the only reason North America still has wildlife was because of hunters and hunting generated dollars. It doesn’t matter now. Even though hunting brought everyone to the dance, hunters will sit in the corner until the music is over. What should have happened? Well B&C, RMEF, P&Y, NRA, and every other outfitters association, wool growers, stockman’s associations, Farm Bureaus, etc. etc. should have hit the failure to control wolves under the agreed upon special requirements for the reintroduction with law suit after law suit. It should have been a loud and well organized shout down of the “keystone species” “sustainable” BS, BUT NO! So here we are. Nobody trusts the other guy and the strength of any resistance to the wolves and for that matter any resistance to anti hunting in general is waning. Hunters, and hunting as a management tool are being marginalized. As a result the world class wildlife management knowledge, experience, and systems produced by the States has been denigrated and pushed aside. I will say this: Wyoming had the right idea about managing wolves. Their plan was the right plan to keep control, and that is why they took major crap. They are still right but it will take about ten more years before people wake up, but by then it will be a day late and a dollar short. For all of us who should have entered the resistance to repopulating the west with wolves in the first place, I can only say good luck. We are going to need it.

  13. Thanks Steve Lohr. Wyoming’s wolf plan was indeed the best of the bunch as far as State wolf plans went. The on-going legal battles will likely mean Wyoming’s plan will end up being revised more to the REWILDERS liking. The push for wolves to repopulate their “native, historical” range was designed to create havoc and hardship for rural folks and increase the authority of the FEDS.

  14. Wolves were intentionally released into “core” areas such as central Idaho and Yellowstone, knowing they would rapidly saturate the area and deplete ungulate herds. The REWILDING plan always included increased restrictions on human activity OUTSIDE of these core areas in order to re-establish historic migration CORRIDORS between fully protected “core” areas.

    “Migration science” is the term used to describe when/how/why a species moves from one area to another. Numerous “migration studies” are underway in an all out blitzkrieg to identify land that needs to be protected in order to insure long term ungulate sustainability now that wolves are a permanent part of the equation.

    RMEF has provided funds for many of these “migration” studies in tacit support of REWILDING objectives. One study, called the Wyoming Migration Initiative, is identifying areas outside of Yellowstone where a “no structures” rule will be proposed and strict restrictions on human activities will be instituted so that ungulates can “migrate” unimpeded.

    Over the past few decades, the human population has been prepared/conditioned into accepting the inevitability of increased restrictions on human activity on both public and private property. The squeeze is on, and RMEF is playing their part, albeit promoting their version of the plan to a specific audience.

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