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MISSOULA, Mont.—An award honoring the science-based 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 Dr. John G. Cook of La Grande, Ore.

Cook is a research biologist with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, an independent nonprofit research institute that focuses on environmental topics of interest to the forest products industry. He is stationed at the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Forestry and Range Sciences Laboratory.

Much of Cook’s career has concentrated on elk.

“Dr. Cook’s body of work has challenged the wildlife and forestry professions to change the way we perceive habitat quality for elk. His research on nutritional requirements has inspired a ‘rethinking’ that has moved our profession toward an integrated approach to habitat planning and management. He has been a catalyst for new techniques in elk management and his work will influence conservation for decades to come,” said Tom Toman, director of conservation for the Elk Foundation.

Approximately 65 percent of Cook’s 55 printed works and 80 percent of his 34 peer publications deal with elk.

“Few biologists can demonstrate such a record of sustained and productive focus,” said Toman. “Equally important, Dr. Cook is tirelessly committed to making this research accessible to managers and the public, giving formal and informal presentations to virtually anyone interested in learning about elk.”

Cook graduated from the University of Idaho in 1981, then completed M.S. and Ph.D. programs at the University of Wyoming. While in Wyoming he developed and tested habitat suitability models for pronghorn antelope, evaluated factors in declining populations of bighorn sheep, and compiled a database and literature review for over 300 rare, threatened and endangered species in the National Park System.

In 1996, he moved to La Grande to begin his elk research.

The 2009 Olaus J. Murie Award was presented April 29 at the 8th Western States and Provinces Deer and Elk Workshop held in Spokane, Wash.

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 legacy while recognizing those who have become conservation leaders in their own right. Past recipients include Jack Ward Thomas, Jim Peek, L. Jack Lyon, Valerius Geist and Robert D. Nelson.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.5 million acres—a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.