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Dart will reach out to non-hunters to help protect the elk habitat

When Peter J. Dart became CEO of Safari Club International two years ago, he says, "the stereotype SCI guy was not someone you'd want to spend a lot of time with."

That stereotypical Safari Club member, Dart said, was the "image of an elite trophy hunter - an African hunter." And the organization's image, he said, was "a good ol' boys' club."

"The reason I went to SCI," Dart said, "is that I saw it as an opportunity to take an organization with its roots in hunting and expand its appeal to non-hunters."

In his two years as head of SCI, Dart said, the organization has become "a leader in protecting the freedom to hunt, and in promoting wildlife conservation worldwide."

Changing the image of Safari Club involved an emphasis by the organization to educate the public about the traditional conservation commitment of hunters, Dart said.

"Hunters are the greatest conservationists on the planet," he said. "The North American model, where hunters brought back all kinds of wildlife species, is a great untold story."

Now Dart is lending his vision and management expertise to another conservation organization dominated by hunters - the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. At a celebration Wednesday at the Missoula headquarters of the organization, Dart was welcomed as the foundation's new president and CEO.

"SCI and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have a lot in common of volunteers that do a lot for conservation and wildlife," Dart said. "The image of an SCI member was an image of an elite trophy hunter. But a lot of the guys in it are like you and I - that are hunters because they love it and they love wildlife."

At the Elk Foundation, Dart said, he will again try to reach out to non-hunters to help further its mission to protect elk habitat.

"The appeal for non-hunters," he said, "is their love for wild places, and making sure there are wild animals that live in wild places. I think we can show them the value in protecting wild places, and that when they invest in us, they can trust us to invest their money wisely. I've been impressed with how efficient the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is in using our money."

From 1990 to 2001, Dart was president of Dart International Inc., a company that invented and produced interactive video target systems for use in the shooting sports industry.

His experience as a successful businessman will be a major benefit to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, said Tom Baker, RMEF board chairman.

Another asset that Dart brings to the foundation, Baker said, is his position on the board of directors of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation is the sportsman's link to Congress, Dart said, particularly to the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, an interest group made up of members of the U.S. House and Senate.

"In this case," Dart said, "it's an interest group of hunters and fishermen and outdoorsmen. It's the largest caucus on the Hill. We work with the leaders in Congress to make sure sportsmen's interests are taken care of. We have a full-time staff that helps keep Congress informed. I serve as a volunteer on that board."

In fact, he said, he's going back to Washington, D.C., next week for a meeting of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation.

"I'm looking forward to working with Congress and informing them about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation," Dart said. "Letting those folks know about us will be a lot of fun. And I think it will be helpful to us in our mission."

Reporter Daryl Gadbow can be reached at 523-5264 or at dgadbow@missoulian.com

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