Sunrise Rotary hears from elk foundation director

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Four hunters from Troy, Mont., spawned an organization that in 30 years has grown to 203,000 members, more than 17,500 of them in Washington state.

Spokane resident Barry Nelson, regional director of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for Eastern Washington, discussed this group’s three-decade run during a program for the Walla Walla Sunrise Rotary Club.

Chapters are sited in states and Canadian provinces where elk congregate, and in some states where they are not found but conservationists support the cause, Barry said.

The foundation’s mission is wildlife conservation through habitat preservation and hunting. Conservation is achieved by purchasing critical habitat, conservation easements, and by funding habitat improvement projects.

More than 80 percent of proceeds donated to the foundation are applied to mission accomplishment, 8 percent to administration, and 2 percent to fundraising.

Fundraising is accomplished by regional chapters organizing annual banquets with raffles, prizes, and auctions, through donations and endowments, and through membership dues and sponsorships.

Nearly $80 million was received by the foundation in 2012. In Washington alone, more than $110,000 has been used for wildlife conservation including acquiring title or easements to 111,755 acres of land.

Land acquired is usually deeded to a conservation agency like the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Barry pointed out that elk aren’t the only beneficiaries; land and water acquired in Asotin County support elk, deer, bighorn sheep, bears, cougars, small game, birds, trout, steelhead, and more. Public hunting, fishing, and recreation have been preserved by foundation acquisitions,” noted Rotarian John McKern, who reports about meeting speakers.

The Walla Walla chapter will hold its annual banquet March 2 at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds. For more information, call Sunrise Rotary member Gayle Sanders at 509-525 3667.

Rotarian Craig Sievertson is coordinating the club’s upcoming Pennies for Polio campaign. He said volunteers will distribute penny jars and posters to grade schools and retrieve the money. Last year’s drive netted more than $3,500 for the cause, because of contributions from students and parents.

Sunrise Rotary meets at 6:45 a.m. Wednesdays for breakfast and a community interest program at St. Francis Catholic Church, 722 W. Alder St. President Jason Wicklund can be reached at 509-525-7153, here or here.

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