Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation roars into 2021
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Founded more than 36 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 231,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 8.1 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage.
In 2020, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation put millions of dollars on the ground in support of its mission. Those funds protected and enhanced more elk habitat, opened and improved access to more public land, and worked to ensure our hunting heritage.
“2020 was certainly a challenging and uncharted year,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “RMEF’s roots were built on hard work, creativity and perseverance. Those attributes were put to the test last year in our efforts to continue our mission. Looking forward, challenges still remain but we are in a solid position organizationally, one highlighted by financial strength and stability as we look to accomplish even more.”
Despite not being able to host the vast majority of its fundraising banquets across 500+ chapters, RMEF volunteers instead pivoted and developed creative fundraising solutions. Below is a brief summary of the results.
“We are extremely grateful to our volunteers, members and partners for their continued support of our mission. Thanks to your support, we are well-positioned to accelerate mission delivery in 2021 and beyond,” added Weaver.
– Topped 8.1 million acres in lifetime mission accomplishment
– Carried out 27 projects in 12 states that permanently protected 40,116 acres of elk habitat
– Opened or improved access to 66,358 acres of public land
– Completed 199 habitat stewardship projects that enhanced 153,013 acres of habitat and committed an additional $3.4 million toward future projects. This includes 214 habitat stewardship projects, leveraging $27.7 million in partner dollars that will positively impact 274,073 acres of wildlife habitat
– Maintained momentum with membership numbering 231,165 as of December 31, 2020
– Combined with partners to allocate $5.6 million to 15 states for scientific elk research
– Carried out 157 hunting heritage and conservation outreach grants and 10 national programs/sponsorships
– Advocated for successful legislation that now permanently and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund
– Additional advocacy efforts included delisting gray wolves, improving public access on a national scale, protecting migration corridors, forest management and various other federal & state issues
– Launched a completely redesigned website
Montana schools pursue second cancellation of standardized testing
Montana Free Press
The Montana Board of Public Education voted unanimously on Friday, January 29, to support a request by the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to waive standardized testing requirements for another year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If granted by the U.S. Department of Education, the waiver would exempt school districts across the state from having to administer academic assessments this spring, including the ACT.
In a letter slated for inclusion with OPI’s request, the board said that while such assessments are key to improving education and directing federal funding, requiring schools to conduct statewide testing in the midst of a health crisis is “not the best way to measure student success at this time.” Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, Sharyl Allen, informed the board that OPI also received a letter of support from Gov. Greg Gianforte and collected public comment on the waiver throughout January. All of that information will be submitted alongside the waiver request on Feb. 5, Allen said.
Montana was granted a similar exemption last March in an attempt to enable schools to focus on the more immediate challenges raised by the pandemic. The decision gave districts the option to cancel a broad swath of tests typically conducted statewide in the spring to measure academic achievement, among them the Smarter. Superintendent of Public Instruction, Elsie Arntzen, is effectively asking for that exemption to be extended through the current academic year.
“I feel duty-bound to convey the needs of our schools today,” Arntzen wrote in her letter requesting the latest waiver. “It is not getting easier, it is getting more challenging for students and their teachers. To quote a local superintendent, ‘Our teachers are working double-time and they are exhausted.’ A test, at this time, is not where our efforts need to be deployed.”
The National Center for Education Statistics, which administers its own standardized test each year, announced in December it is postponing testing until 2022 due to COVID-19.
During its discussion Friday, the board concurred that administering statewide assessments would create an added burden on Montana educators. The board’s vice chair, Tammy Lacey of Great Falls, noted that such testing isn’t as simple as just handing out a booklet and having students fill in bubbles. There’s considerable prep work, she said, and requiring teachers to dedicate previous time to that work would be “very inappropriate.” Board member Sharon Carroll of Ekalaka reported as a teacher herself, she agreed.
“Sitting in the classroom with students, I don’t know where I’m going to find the time with children in and out of my classroom to really administer and provide a test that will provide the kind of data that would be good to use,” Carroll said.
Board Chair, Darlene Schottle of Bigfork, said she was surprised to hear from a number of local superintendents who preferred not to cancel assessments in the hope of gauging how their students are doing academically almost a year into the pandemic.
Several other members noted that if the waiver is granted, districts and individual teachers do still have options to assess students’ academic performance. Anne Keith of Bozeman said a number of elementary school teachers she’s visited with are already doing just that.
“They’re doing daily digs to see exactly where their kids are weak and what skills need to be filled,” Keith said. “They would say they’re doing more assessments than ever, and this year they don’t need this big state test to tell them where their kids are lacking.”
According to OPI’s waiver timeline, once the request is submitted, the U.S. Department of Education has until June to respond.