RMEF Washington Lands Manager Recognized For Habitat Conservation Work
A Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation member was recognized this morning for his longtime work securing ground for wapiti and other critters in the Evergreen State.
“Rarely is there a large habitat project that Rance (Block) and RMEF are not involved in,” said Peter Dykstra, board president of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition at the organization’s annual breakfast, held at the Seattle Westin.
He lauded the efforts of the retired Boeing employee who in 20 years of working for the RMEF has helped secure over 130,000 acres of land in Washington and five other Western states.
Block said WWRC’s Joan Thomas Award for a lifetime’s worth of conservation work didn’t belong to him, but rather the “16,000 Washington RMEF members and especially our 300 volunteers.”
Speaking before about 650 people gathered in a ballroom as big as my oldest son’s soccer field, he talked about the Rock Creek acquisition, in western Yakima County, and pointed out that not only was that good for elk, but also riparian corridors and 22 species having a tough go of it these days.
Block then held up a coffee cup and told the crowd it was the most important tool for conservation, and symbolic of the need to listen to all voices.
Rattling off a long list of outdoor user groups, everyone from mushroomers and hunters to cross-country skiers and anglers, he noted that in conservation work, there are a lot of potential partners. Washingtonians use public lands differently, and it’s important to reach out to all of them, he said, and thanked the audience for joining him for a cup of coffee.
Now in its 24th year, WWRC has leveraged $1.1 billion in government grants and appropriations and private donations to fund over 1,000 projects across the state, money used to create playgrounds for disabled kids, build urban and rural trails, buy wildlife habitat, secure farmland from development, provide new water access and more.
One of the notable acquisitions in recent years is the 8,500-acre Schlee Ranch in Asotin County, which at the time Block termed “key to helping WDFW reach its goal of increasing the Asotin elk herd from 700 to 1,000 animals, while at the same time providing ability to control elk-caused damage on neighboring agricultural lands.”
Formation of the nonprofit group was announced in the late 1980s at a “modestly attended press conference,” recalled Dan Evans, a Republican who served as governor from 1965 to 1977. He says the coalition now represents 280 different groups, everyone from timberland owners to environmentalists, parks directors to hunters, and who work to fund projects based on their merits.
Fellow former governor (though on the opposite side of the aisle) and WWRC co-founder Mike Lowry thanked state legislators, several of whom were on hand, for funding WWRC with $65 million of the $75 million that Governor Jay Inslee requested this past session.
“We wouldn’t be celebrating anything without their appropriations,” Lowry said, adding that the program was important for the fishing and hunting segments of the state economy.
Inslee also brought up fishing and the unique Washington outdoor lifestyle.
“We’ve got to make sure (our kids and grandchildren) have the opportunities to go fishing, get their feet muddy and sleep in a wet tent,” he said.
Read the complete story at Northwest Sportsman.