Four elk hunters with a goal of ensuring the future of North America’s grandest game animal and the habitat it needed to thrive founded the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in 1984.

Elk foundation founders

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation founders, left to right: Bob Munson, Dan Bull, Bill Munson and Charlie Decker.


RMEF set up shop in a doublewide trailer in a vacant field just outside tiny Troy, Montana. The four founders—a pastor, realtor, logger and drive-in owner—pinched their pennies, borrowed funds and drained bank accounts to create an organization to benefit elk and other wildlife by putting money to work on the ground. The team mailed 43,000 brochures soliciting members, promising a magazine subscription about elk and elk hunting, as well as an annual convention. Only 233 people, or less than one half of one percent of those targeted, responded. Still, RMEF felt a duty to carry out its commitments so it borrowed additional funds and printed 32,000 copies of the premier issue of Bugle magazine. Staff mailed out the issues and hand-delivered others to grocery stores and gas stations across the West. But by the end of 1984, membership grew to nearly 2,500.


In April 1985, RMEF hosted its first convention in Spokane, Washington. Later that same year, RMEF helped raise funding for its first habitat project—a prescribed burn in a place fittingly named Elk Creek on the Kootenai National Forest near Libby, Montana.


RMEF marked a series of successes in 1988. It facilitated its first land acquisition—the 16,440-acre Robb Creek property in Montana. The organization also received its first major endorsement from the corporate community when Ray Goff, former RMEF board member and vice president of Anheuser-Busch, announced a $500,000 gift from the company. RMEF staff had grown to 12 in offices spread across three different buildings. With a growing membership of 32,000, including 2,000 passionate volunteers and 70 chapters, plus more than 110,000 acres of protected or enhanced elk country, the organization packed its bags and headed 175 miles south and east to its current home of Missoula.

RMEF Headquarters

RMEF Headquarters in Missoula, Montana.


Since its humble beginnings in the mid-1980s, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation now has nearly 225,000 members whose support helped complete more than 14,000 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects that protected or enhanced more than 8.9 million acres of wildlife habitat and opened or improved public access to more than 1.59 million acres, much of which was completely off-limits to the public. RMEF boasts more than 12,000 volunteers working through more than 500 chapters. RMEF celebrates its 40th anniversary on May 14, 2024.

Today, RMEF is one of the most effective and efficient conservation organizations in the United States. Working together with members, volunteers and conservation partners, it is a strong voice for elk, elk country, hunters and public access as well as wildlife management and conservation issues.