Local chapter of Elk Foundation is going strong

There is something about living through difficult times that brings out the best in people.

The local housing market continues to struggle, jobs are scarce across the Western Slope and most of our 401(k)s are now 201(k)s.

Still, the Grand Junction chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation continues to draw impressive support from people who prize elk and the habitat in which elk are found.

This year’s benefit auction and banquet March 26 enticed more than 900 people, including 125 new sponsor or life elk foundation members, and raised more than $200,400 dollars for the foundation’s elk and wildlife habitat conservation efforts.

Although no one yet knows if the local chapter has regained its national fund-raising title from the hard-charging Tucson chapter, the fact that there is such vibrant competition for such a worthwhile effort means everyone comes out a winner.

As long-time Grand Junction chapter chairman Terry Sweet loves to remind the members, competition between RMEF chapters is good.

“Through not only our competition but our cooperation we all become better at ... ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat,” he wrote in the preface to the banquet brochure.

Bob Munson of Lynnwood, Wash., one of the four founders of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, told the attendees the Grand Junction chapter and its continued success are familiar to elk foundation members and chapters everywhere.

“Our chapter has set the standard for conservation fundraising and we’re getting noticed for our work,” said Sweet, who now has chaired 23 banquets.

Sweet, who recently was honored as the RMEF Volunteer of the Year, says he still enjoys the people he works with on the banquet committee and has no thoughts of stepping aside.

This year’s banquet also honored two long-time friends of the elk foundation, local businessman Gene Taylor and wildlife artist Gary Swanson, who passed away Dec. 7.

Taylor, perhaps the most-respected and best-known businessman in Grand Junction, has long been a supporter and unabashed booster of this community.

He was one of the original backers of the local RMEF chapter and even in retirement he continues to support the elk foundation as well as other conservation groups including both mule deer associations and Ducks Unlimited.

A special guest this year was U.S. Army Staff Sgt. (ret.) Aubrey Jollotta of Westminster. Jollotta was seriously wounded in 2007 during service in Iran and after a medical discharge was placed in the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program.

The program exists to assist severely wounded veterans and their families and the local RMEF chapter, a keen supporter of the program, awarded Jollotta a membership in the elk foundation as well as a guided elk hunt this fall in Unit 521 on the east end of Grand Mesa.

The hunt will be guided by Terry Commander of Commander and Company in Somerset.

Fred Warren of Unique Taxidermy donated an elk shoulder mount for Jollotta should his hunt be successful.

The hunt initially was awarded to Jollotta last year but the severity of his injuries left him unable to take advantage of the offer. He’ll make this year’s hunt.

It was quite a night. More than 900 people raising thousands of dollars raised for elk conservation, two long-time elk supporters given deserved recognition, and a vet who gave part of his life and his body fighting for America.

Fair warning to the rest of the elk foundation that the Grand Junction chapter has its eyes on the national title.

Sage-grouse festival in Gunnison: If it isn’t enough that residents of Gunnison celebrate the end of winter, this year there’s a special bird drawing some attention.

The Gunnison Sage-grouse Festival is set for the high-country town April 9, a one-day fete honoring that iconic bird hovering on the brink of extinction.

Events during the festival include tours, music, art, poetry, food booths, an Easter egg hunt (probably not sage-grouse eggs) and a foot race.

The festival kicks off the third Gunnison Sage-grouse Summit set for April 11-13.

The summit, titled “Lifestyles and Livelihoods — Everyone Plays a Role,” includes presentations on species conservation along with ongoing projects aimed at stabilizing sage-grouse populations.

The festival is free, but the summit, decidedly more academic, costs $50.

Information on the festival and the summit is available at http://www.siskadee.org.

Email Dave Buchanan at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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