The Missoula-based Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has received a $30 million endowment that the nonprofit conservation group will use for public land protection and improving elk habitat.
“This is a monumental game-changer for RMEF,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Thanks to the generosity of the Torstenson family, this endowment allows RMEF to expand Bob Torstenson’s passion and vision for wildlife and conservation in ways we could have never imagined.”
The funds come from sale of the Torstenson Wildlife Center, a sprawling 93,403-acre ranch in west-central New Mexico that was gifted to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation by Bob Torstenson in 2002. The recent sale of the ranch created the endowment – one of the largest ever gifted to a hunter-based, wildlife conservation organization.
Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation, said the organization plans to invest $500,000 this year toward improving elk habitat and supporting hunting heritage projects.
“The impact this endowment will have on RMEF’s on-the-ground projects is incredibly far-reaching,” Henning said. “This gives us the potential to increase our mission accomplishments substantially.”
Through the years, Henning said RMEF will use proceeds from the Torstenson Family Endowment to further its core mission programs: permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.
The $30 million Torstenson Family Endowment will allow RMEF to increase project funding by attracting matching funds both from the private and public sectors, and to head off the habitat changes and challenges taking place across the nation, Henning said.
The organization also maintains a conservation easement on the entire 93,403 acres of deeded land, which stretches between two mountain ranges – the Datils and the Gallinas – and two portions of the Cibola National Forest. It harbors thickly timbered ridges, deep coulees and steep hillsides, and is home to elk, deer, pronghorns, mountain lions, coyotes, quail and other species.
The landscape today looks the same as when Bob Torstenson originally placed the easement on the property to conserve and protect its habitat in perpetuity, Henning said.