Creator of the Olaus J. Murie Award bemoans the degeneration of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

David Stalling worked for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for a number of years. For 10 years he was conservation editor of Bugle, their magazine. He was also President for two terms of the Montana Wildlife Federation and presently is a grassroots organizer for Trout Unlimited.

In view of the current controversy over the family of Olaus J. Murie revoking the use of the Murie name by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation due to their adoption of a strident anti-wolf policy, today Stalling issued a strong, detailed rebuke to the organization he used to love.

There is little doubt that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been transformed. Obviously there will be those who say it is better now that it is a more single purpose organization devoted to elk hunting alone without worry about other kinds of wildlife or unpleasant disputes over protecting habitat. It appears too that more money can be made by appealing to the lowest common denominator.
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Here is Stallings statement:

In a sad, but justified move, the family of Olaus Murie recently demanded that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) cancel the organization’s Olaus J. Murie Award because of the RMEF’s “all-out war against wolves” that is “anathema to the entire Murie family.”

I conceived and created the Olaus J. Murie Award (with coordination and approval from the Murie family) on behalf of the RMEF in 1999, when the RMEF was a science-based conservation organization. The award recognized scientists working on behalf of elk and elk habitat in honor of Olaus Murie, who is widely considered the “father” of modern elk research and management for the ground-breaking work he conducted at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the 1940s. He also wrote “Elk of North America” – the first, most thorough and comprehensive scientific treatise on elk and elk management, which has since been updated several times by the Wildlife Management Institute.  (I have read Murie’s book several times, and was honored to have had a chapter published in the most recent edition.)

Since then, the RMEF got rid of all the good leaders who not only helped create and shape the RMEF, but had solid, impressive backgrounds in wildlife biology, ecology and science-based wildlife management.  The organization now ignores and defies science and panders to outfitters, politicians and hunters who have little understanding of wildlife and, in particular, interactions between wolves and elk.  The group has abandoned principle for income and popularity.

During my ten years as the conservation editor for RMEF’s Bugle magazine, I wrote many award-winning science-based articles and essays regarding wildlife, ecology, natural history and wildlife management.  Several of those stories focused on science that the RMEF itself helped fund showing clear, solid evidence of improvements in the health of habitat and elk herds living among wolves; how wolf predation was mostly compensatory and not additive; how elk behavior, habits and habitat choices changed in the presence of wolves, and many other interconnected complexities that factored in such as habitat conditions, habitat effectiveness, vulnerability,  bull-to-cow ratios, breeding behavior, calving and calf survival rates.  In those days, the RMEF helped convey and disseminate accurate information to keep people informed , supporting the kind of good, solid science that Olaus Murie himself began and would have been proud of.

Today, the RMEF is run by a former marketer for NASCAR and the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, with no understanding of wildlife or elk ecology, who has called wolf reintroduction the “worst ecological disaster since the decimation of bison herds;” continues to erroneously claim wolves are “decimating” and “annihilating” elk herds; who viciously attacks anyone who disagrees; and does what he can to keep the truth from being published.  (Myself and other science-based writers have all been banished from writing for Bugle, with no explanation.)

This, despite the tremendous recoveries and improvements to elk and other wildlife habitat in Yellowstone thanks to wolf recovery; that there are now more elk in Montana (and more hunting opportunity) than ever; that I see as many elk as always in the country I hunt, and that Montana outfitters are claiming the best elk hunting success in years.

Good for the Murie family! The RMEF has become a disgrace to the good, science-based research and management that Olaus Murie began and promoted.

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Posted by David Stalling at 11:38 AM; July 25, 2012



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  1. timz Avatar

    Many hunters, neck-car fans, rodeo animal abusers, err cowboys, same crowd. RMEF leader seems a perfect fit.

  2. Jeff Avatar

    I was a RMEF member for years. It was one of the few organizations that stayed out of politics. It focused 100% on habitat that benefited all animals. When Allen was hired and RMEF shifted politically I dropped my membership. I feel bad as I loved reading Bugle and I’m an avid elk hunter but RMEF no longer does what it use to…too bad.

  3. Savebears Avatar

    I am no longer a member, they lost my support with the hiring of Allen, I didn’t like him when he worked for NASCAR, let alone an organization that was actually doing good work for wildlife.

  4. Dmg Avatar

    wow. this should be a wake up call to the RMEF board and anyone else who cares about the credibility of the organization.

  5. Linda Jo Hunter Avatar

    I am glad that someone finally pointed out that not all hunters understand wildlife.

  6. CodyCoyote Avatar

    To paraphrase that last sentence, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has disgraced itself.

    They abrogated one of their own founding tenets. Many of us who read The Wildlife News were at one time either supporters or RMEF or at least neutral towards them. RMEF has done some great work for elk habitat over the years , to the good of us all. Especially when you realize that good elk habitat is good habitat for a lot of species, not the least of which are wolves. RMEF seems to have polarized blinders on these days.

    abrogate |ˈabrəˌgāt|
    verb [ trans. ] formal
    repeal or do away with (a law, right, or formal agreement)

    tenet |ˈtenit|
    a principle or belief, esp. one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy

  7. Ann Sydow Avatar

    One more sign that the tide is changing…I hope.

  8. George Wuerthner Avatar
    George Wuerthner

    I was a member of RMEF for many years, in part, because they helped to purchase important wildlife habitat. They were even, as Dave Stallings points out, basically supportive of wolf restoration. But Allen has changed the focus and unfortunately they lost my support, even though I know they still continue to buy land.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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