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Elk Foundation has humble beginnings
Photo Supplied Elk were reintroduced to Wisconsin in 1995 with the assistance of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Charlie Decker was a jack-of-all-trades. He was a logger, preacher, Realtor and owner of a drive in restaurant. He was also a dedicated conservationist concerned about habitat loss for elk and other wildlife in Montana and throughout the western United States.

More importantly, Decker was willing to take what some might argue was an unjustifiable risk of reputation and capital. "We needed start up money and I used my oldest son's college fund my wife and I had saved for years. It nearly cost me a divorce," Decker said. Three friends supplemented his commitment with funds from second mortgages, loans and raids on personal checking accounts.

That was 25 years ago. Today, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) is an international organization claiming 155,000 members in more than 500 chapters, according to Kurt Flack, Regional Director for southern Wisconsin and Iowa. Currently, there are more than 6,400 members in Wisconsin.

The mission of the Elk Foundation is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitats, Flack said. The organization has helped secure more than 580,000 acres of land for public hunting and other outdoor recreation, he added.

Flack notes that RMEF has worked hard to reintroduce elk to areas where the species has been absent for a long time. Wisconsin is one of those states, beginning in 1995 when 25 animals were brought to the Chequamegon National Forest near Clam Lake. Elk disappeared from the Wisconsin landscape in the late 1800s due to over hunting and a decline in habitat as the state's farm economy grew.

In addition to Wisconsin, areas where elk have been restored include the eastern coalfields of Kentucky, the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee and various locations in Ontario, Canada.

Elk once ranged over much of North America and throughout Wisconsin. The largest elk populations in Wisconsin occupied the prairie and oak savannah regions of southern Wisconsin.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, RMEF has contributed funding for several important projects. The most recent was the creation of five acres of high quality forest openings, bringing the total RMEF-funded forest opening creation work to more than 35 acres. Since 1984, RMEF and its partners have completed more than 118 conservation projects in Wisconsin with a value of nearly $5 million.

The state's elk population now stands at approximately 150 animals.

Conservation League to hold


Flack will visit the Monroe area on Oct. 15 when he will be the guest speaker at the Green County Conservation League's annual fall banquet. The banquet will be held at the Argyle Rod & Gun Club on State Hwy. 81 between Monroe and Argyle beginning at 6 p.m.

The Green County Conservation League was formed in 1928 as a gun club. Early on, the club helped stock local streams with fingerling trout and raised pheasant chicks for release in the county.

The club name was changed in 1953. There were approximately 500 members of the League at that time.

GCCL projects include the construction of the 74-acre Beckman Lake in 1965 and the purchase of several parcels of land in the area at various times. Current projects include work with Blackhawk Trout Unlimited to build lunker structures for area streams.

GCCL also sponsors a gun show each spring, sends students to outdoor camp each summer and co-sponsors the annual fisharee at Lake Montesian in Monticello.

The Green County Conservation League received the Green County Wildlife Habitat Development Award for 2009.

Anyone wishing to join the GCCL is invited to attend the banquet, said Treasurer Nate Bloom. Membership is $10. For more information, contact Bloom at 325-7555.

- Lee Fahrney is the Monroe Times outdoors writer and can be reached at (608) 967-2008 or