Elk NetworkMaking Sure Wild Things Stay Wild

Bugle , Volunteer News | December 21, 2020
Two friends are on a mission to inspire and provide for the next generation of outdoor adventurers.


Boyd Burns was answering the call of nature during a hunt in northeast Arizona when he suddenly heard his friend hiss at him.“Bull! Bull! Get over here!” whispered Dan Howell, who’d filled his own tag earlier in the season. Spurred by the urgency in his friend’s voice, Burns waddled over with his pants barely above his knees, lined up on the bull and made the shot, turning the already memorable day into one heck of a funny hunting story.oyd Burns was answering the call of nature during a hunt in northeast Arizona when he suddenly heard his friend hiss at him.

Now 72 and 69 respectively, Howell and Burns are both longtime RMEF life members. As they put more of their shared hunting adventures behind them, they’ve found themselves both looking back at their good times in elk country hunting and volunteering on countless RMEF projects and banquets together— and looking forward to the next generation of conservationists.

From helping to relocate federally threatened Columbia white-tailed deer to leading GPS and geocaching courses at the Washington State Rendezvous, it’s easy to see the mark left by this dynamic duo.

Howell, a retired paper mill manager, first heard about RMEF’s Elk Camp from co-workers. In 1987 he attended a banquet in Vancouver, Washington. Excited to hear about a way to be involved in conserving wildlife, he was instantly hooked on RMEF’s mission and the enthusiasm of those involved. In his family, giving back runs in the genes.

“My father was a doer and volunteer, and he instilled that value in me,” Howell says. When he was growing up in Tumwater, Washington, his dad mentored others in outdoor activities and was always helping someone, including Howell. So when Howell’s friends encouraged him to become Loowit Chapter co-chair in 1993, he says it was an “easy sell.”

His whole life, Howell found any excuse to get outside hiking, hunting, fishing or taking photos. “Anything outdoors is my passion,” Howell said. He ended up being the chapter chair or co-chair about 20 times over his nearly three decades with RMEF. Howell’s late wife Lynn, who unexpectedly passed away in 2012 from a heart arrhythmia, was instrumental in helping him develop the yearly banquet programs, and supported a plan to eventually include RMEF in their will.

“Like me, my wife believed in the importance of giving back,” Howell said.

After Lynn’s passing, Howell eventually remarried. His wife Deborah encourages and supports his involvement, and attends banquets and the annual state rendezvous. The Howells are Habitat Partners, having cumulatively donated $2,500 or more to RMEF. Today, they have reached the Benefactor level within this cumulative giving recognition program.

It was in the early ‘90s that Boyd Burns met Howell after he stumbled across a notice for RMEF’s Loowit Chapter meeting in the community events section of the local newspaper. It was being held at a local “watering hole,” and Howell had recently become chapter co-chair. He gave Burns a warm greeting. Burns ended up joining as a result of the enthusiasm for RMEF’s mission filling up that bar. He and Howell have been fast friends ever since.

Burns and his wife, also named Deborah, were both raised hunting, berry picking and backpacking in the shadow of Mount St. Helens. As kids they assumed the mountain would always be a constant in their lives. They learned otherwise four years after they married, when the volcano erupted in 1980. The devastation of 250 square miles of forests and deaths of thousands of deer, elk, mountain goats, fish and other wildlife changed something in Burns.

“ drove home to me the idea that everything we take for granted isn’t necessarily a given,” Burns says. “That is why it is important that we strive for and support the conservation of our natural resources and continuation of the legacy of wildlife and recreation for future generations.”

Burns always puts an emphasis on fostering the next generation, both with his son and daughter and now with his three grandkids, and through his philanthropy. To help future generations experience wild places, too, Boyd and Deborah became Habitat Partners. They are now at the Imperial level of cumulative giving. Deborah has always supported Boyd in his volunteering and even helped him pack out an elk or two.

Both couples recently ensured that they would continue giving to RMEF far into the future by joining RMEF’s Trails Society. It recognizes donors who have included RMEF as a beneficiary in their estate plans through a will, life insurance policy or retirement account.

“An organization like the Elk Foundation fit our value system,” Burns says. When it came time to update their wills, Boyd and Deborah included their church and each chose one other organization. For Deborah, it was a program for at-risk children, and for Boyd, it was RMEF. “This way, when we’re gone, we can continue supporting what we believe in,” he said.

When Burns mentioned to Howell that he included RMEF in his will, it spurred him to finally make the leap too.

“It just seemed a natural extension of my involvement and ensuring that it be a part of my legacy,” Howell says. “Making sure that wild things and wild places are going to be there forever for future generations just seems natural at this point.”

Both Howell and Burns hope they can inspire others to make a lasting commitment to RMEF.

“I love knowing that my legacy will be helping to protect wild places forever,” Howell says.