Published January 20, 2013, 05:05 AM

OUTDOOR FACTOIDS: The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has set a new membership record

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has set a new membership record, with 196,079 people now members of the conservation group... and more.

By: Herald Staff Report, Grand Forks Herald

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has set a new membership record, with 196,079 people now members of the conservation group.

Recorded at the end of December, the tally is 11,944 members higher than the end of 2011 and marks the fourth consecutive year of record growth, RMEF said in a news release.

The surge in membership is the highest since 2010, when RMEF gained 19,245 members from 2009.

“We are grateful for another solid year of growth,” David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, said in a statement. “RMEF continues to stand alongside many sportsmen and women as strong advocates for conservation and wildlife management.”

Allen said the increase in membership will help the foundation preserve the country’s elk-hunting culture while addressing such pressing needs as conserving critical habitat, working to expand public access and promoting sensible management of all wildlife, including predators.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is marking the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act with a yearlong commemoration of the act that has been so successful in stabilizing populations of species at risk, preventing the extinction of many others and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.

The bald eagle, brown pelican, Lake Erie water snake, American alligator and Maguire daisy all have successfully rebounded from the brink of extinction. The Wildlife Service last year removed the gray wolf from federal protection in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

The Wildlife Service launched a website dedicated to spotlighting the history and accomplishments of the act at fws.gov/endangered/ESA40/index.html.

Throughout this year leading up to the 40th anniversary on Dec. 28, the Wildlife Service will celebrate stories of conservation success in every state, provide information on milestones of the law, share images and videos and provide opportunities for families to participate in free, educational activities together.

People also are encouraged to connect via social media on Facebook at facebook.com/USFWSEndangeredSpecies or on Twitter at twitter.com/USFWSEndsp.

Wild game chefs Georgia Pellegrini and Hank Shaw will be featured speakers on the Wild Game Cooking Stage at Pheasants Forever’s National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, set for Feb. 15-17 in the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Pellegrini and Shaw burst onto the cooking scene in recent years with innovative perspectives, radically changing the way many people think about the environment and where their food originates. Pellegrini’s adventures were chronicled in her latest book, “Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time,” while Shaw is the author of the award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and the book, “Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast.”

“Conservation and cuisine intersect each day on our dinner plates, so it’s important to build a connection between wildlife habitat conservation and what we eat,” Bob St. Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement. “Food is also what brings us together, the center of every celebration, and we can’t think of a better occasion than National Pheasant Fest and Pheasants Forever’s 30th anniversary to celebrate the fruits of our habitat efforts.”

Pellegrini will be on stage at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Feb. 16, while Shaw will give presentations at 6 p.m. Feb. 15, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Feb. 16 and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Feb. 17.

Info: pheasants.org.

— Pheasants Forever

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota is waiving both entrance and camping fees Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Winter is a beautiful and quiet time to visit any of the national park units in North Dakota,” Valerie Naylor, park superintendent, said in a news release. “Wildlife watching at this time of year is spectacular, as are the photographic opportunities. We invite everyone to take this opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy winter.”

The other two national park units in North Dakota — Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site near Williston and Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site near Stanton — are among the more than 200 national parks that never charge entrance fees.

National parks also will offer free entrance during National Park Week, April 22-26; on National Park Service Founders’ Day on Aug. 25; National Public Lands Day on Sept. 28; and the weekend of Veterans’ Day from Nov. 9–11.

Info: nps.gov.

— Herald staff report

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