What if hunter-based conservation organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation lost key facets of their ability to generate vital conservation funding? A couple of proposals in Washington put that in jeopardy. However, the Washington State Gambling Commission recently made two rulings in favor of RMEF and conservation.
First, the commission chose not to pursue regulatory action to restrict the raffling of firearms. Commissioners asked staff to provide information about state gambling laws as they relate to the state’s increasingly restrictive firearms laws, suggesting that they might consider banning firearms as prizes all together. While RMEF has opposed many of the new laws restricting lawful gun owners in the state, they have fully complied once those laws were enacted. RMEF sent a letter explaining how they follow state and federal gun laws, and how the millions of dollars RMEF raised across the state through those activities result in on-the-ground conservation work.
What kind of RMEF activity and what kind of conservation work are we talking about? Washington is home to nearly 13,000 RMEF members and 23 chapters. Those chapters, like others nationwide, plan and host annual big game banquets that raise funding to put back on the ground in their backyard to protect, improve and open public access to wildlife habitat.
Dating back to 1985, RMEF collaborated with partners to complete nearly 800 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Washington that conserved or enhanced more than 514,00 acres of habitat for elk, mule deer, black bears and other species. Those projects also opened or improved public access to more than 130,600 acres.
Second, commissioners agreed to consider rulemaking at the request of RMEF and a coalition of nonprofits to modernize charitable gambling laws, thus increasing limits on tickets, prizes and streamlining recordkeeping. Though a lengthy process lies ahead, RMEF will make fundraising for elk and other wildlife more efficient and impactful if successful.
RMEF continually monitors proceedings by this commission, the state legislature, Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and on other fronts to further its mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.
Want to know what an RMEF banquet is like? Click here to see one hosted by the Chehalis Chapter in a small community about 90 miles south of Seattle.
(Photo source: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)