Pro Staff Blog

Elk Foundation Award Honors Science-based Leadership in Conservation

MISSOULA, Montana —An award honoring the conservation legacy of Olaus J. Murie, the late biologist remembered as the father of modern elk management, has been presented by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to Bob Nelson of Raymond, Washington.

Nelson, now retired from the U.S. Forest Service, began his career as a forest biologist in 1960 and finished in 1997 after 12 years as director of wildlife and fisheries in Washington D.C.

Under his leadership, funding for the agency’s conservation programs increased from $28.5 million to almost $100 million, the number of professional biologists increased from 640 to 1,250, and focus expanded from habitat protection to restoration and enhanced opportunities for the public to use and enjoy wildlife resources. Nelson’s strategic approach to planning and issue management engaged conservation groups like the Elk Foundation in shaping the direction of Forest Service programs.

Among Nelson’s notable achievements was a cost-share program with non-government organizations. Between 1986 and 1994, $13 million in federal dollars was matched by $19.4 million in contributions from almost 3,000 partners, advancing wildlife management into the mainstream of the Forest Service.

The Olaus J. Murie Award was presented during the Elk Foundation’s annual convention, which concluded February 24 in Reno, Nevada.

“Bob Nelson is a quiet, selfless, strong leader for science-based conservation in elk country. Those who work closely with him say he personifies the phrase, ‘There is no limit to what can be accomplished if you don’t worry about who gets the credit,’” said Tom Toman of the Elk Foundation.

The award is based on five criteria:

  1. Relevance of work to the conservation of wild, free-ranging elk
  2. Application of work “on the ground” to benefit wild, free-ranging elk
  3. Dedication to his or her profession
  4. Commitment to the conservation of wild, free-ranging elk
  5. Credibility and respect among peers

Murie was educated at the University of Michigan. He was the first to conduct elk and habitat research at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyo. His detailed work led to the classic book, The Elk of North America, published in 1951. He promoted sound stewardship and protection of wildlife habitat, receiving numerous honors and awards. Murie died in 1963.

The Elk Foundation’s award honors Murie’s tremendous accomplishments while recognizing those who have taken up his path, becoming leaders in their own right.

Nelson worked on the Umatilla and Wenatchee national forests. He then served the Northwest Region of the Forest Service as a range and wildlife specialist, regional wildlife biologist and range administrative branch chief. From 1975 to 1980, Nelson was director of wildlife and fisheries staff of the Pacific Southwest Region. In 1985, he moved to Washington, D.C. as director of the wildlife and fisheries staff.

Nelson was born Jan. 22, 1933, in Menlo, Wash. He grew up fishing, trapping and hunting. He served in the U.S. Navy and earned degrees from Grays Harbor College and Washington State University.

He and his wife, Midge, have three children, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Missoula, Mont., the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. The Elk Foundation and its partners have permanently protected or enhanced over 5.2 million acres, a land area larger than Connecticut, Delaware and District of Columbia combined. More than 500,000 acres previously closed to public access are now open for hunting, fishing and other recreation. The Elk Foundation has more than 150,000 members, a staff of 150 and 10,000 active volunteers. To help protect wild elk country or learn more about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, visit or call 800-CALL-ELK.

Kevin Paulson

Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of His passion for Hunting began at the age of 5 hunting alongside of his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography and hunting trips around the world.

Related Articles

Back to top button