MISSOULA, Mont.—With federal forest lands choking for management, agencies strapped by budget cuts and other constraints—and with elk and other wildlife caught in the middle—the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) is positioning for a new way of making habitat conservation happen.
RMEF is announcing the hiring of Dale Kerkvliet of Newport, Ore., as its new director of habitat stewardship services.
Kerkvliet will spearhead a growing emphasis on RMEF stewardship contracting and other agreements with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The documents allow the agencies to hire RMEF as a contractor for forest thinning, grassland and aspen restoration and other habitat management projects. These services are then traded for the value of wood products harvested as part of the work for wildlife.
This relatively new business model is growing in popularity as well as function. Though governed by ample policies and procedures, it represents a viable alternative to the traditional forest management process: agency announces commercial timber sale, negotiates opposition, collects bids, oversees actual project and sends revenues to the U.S. Treasury Department. Income from stewardship contracting remains in Forest Service or BLM budgets. Meanwhile, as the primary contractor, RMEF helps ensure the project is completed with utmost attention to wildlife values.
The new RMEF hire will step in for retiring Al Christophersen of Helena, Mont., who helped pioneer and develop this system for RMEF and the federal agencies.
“In the last five years, RMEF has led the way in stewardship contracting,” said Tom Tidwell, Forest Service chief. “From the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming (Wiggins Fork project) to the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona (Dog Town project), RMEF stewardship contracts are improving elk habitat across entire landscapes. There is potential for many more.”
RMEF Vice President of Lands and Conservation Jack Blackwell said, “We see virtually unlimited potential for our stewardship services program to mature and accumulate major amounts of acres improved for elk and other wildlife.”
He added, “We wish Al the best and thank him for his tenacity and innovation, and we welcome Dale aboard and look forward to more development in this important program.”
Kerkvliet’s extensive career in forest management includes positions with leading timber companies Champion and Plum Creek. He also worked for Washington State University and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. A certified forester, he holds a BS in forest management from the University of Montana and is working toward an MS in forest and range science from Washington State University.
He is relocating to Missoula, Mont., to begin work for RMEF in July.
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 5.7 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.