The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, whose world headquarters are in Missoula, will present their annual convention, known as ‘Elk Camp’, in March near Phoenix, Arizona.

Spokesman Mark Holyoak said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be one of the keynote speakers at the event.

“Last year, we were back east in Nashville, and next month, March 15th through the 18th, we’ll be in suburban Phoenix, Arizona,” said Holyoak. “We’ve got come familiar faces that will be there, among them will be Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Folks remember him as he grew up here in the Whitefish area and because a U.S. Congressman, before accepting his cabinet position.”

Holyoak was intrigued by Zinke’s efforts to move much of the decision making power for the Department of the Interior away from Washington, D.C. further west.

“You have a have a hub where government’s located, and that’s Washington, D.C., but when it comes to the Department of the Interior, the majority of the lands they oversee are out west, and yet, the folks who oversee those lands don’t live out west. For those of us who are out here, we appreciate our lands and especially our public lands where we can hunt and fish. We don’t have an official stance on it, but it seems to make sense that people would be a little more in touch if they were out here to know what’s going on in the west.”

Holyoak said another of the priorities of the RMEF is active forest management, with an emphasis on preventing and fighting the wildfires that have ravaged the west.

“What we’ve advocated for and continue to push is the need for active forest management,” he said. “One benefit is the overall health of the forest. Those of us who have been out hiking or hunting or picking huckleberries, especially if you’re on U.S. Forest Service land, it’s really thick and overgrown and there’s a lot of trees on the ground , and that’s how fires really spread. So, if we can actively manage our forests it will create younger grasses and shrubs that will not just benefit elk, but all kinds of wildlife. It would help take a better bite out of the possibility of wildfires, but at the same time it would help the forests and the critters that are in them.”

The RMEF headquarters are located on Grant Creek Road in Missoula.