MISSOULA, Mont. – Conservationists from nine states have been honored as top volunteers or welcomed aboard as new directors for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The volunteers were recognized during the annual RMEF convention, which concluded Feb. 4 in Las Vegas.

“Volunteers have always been, and continue to be, the lifeblood of RMEF,” said RMEF Chairman of the Board John Caid of Arizona. “Volunteers raise money to support our work in elk country but their spirit goes far beyond dollars. They provide labor on actual conservation projects, work with kids on hunting heritage and education projects and help spread the word about elk, habitat, hunting and RMEF.”

“They provide leadership for conservation just by the example they set for others,” he added.

RMEF Chairman’s Awardees:

Chairman’s Awards are given each year to recognize standout RMEF volunteers. Four recipients are chosen by regional peers. Honorees are considered exemplary inspirations to other volunteers and whose dedication to the RMEF mission exceeds all expectations.

California – Larry Boone, Ripon, Calif., RMEF Central Valley Chapter. Over the years, Boone has held every position on his chapter committee. He also served as a state chair, helping California achieve No. 1 fundraising status in four of his five years. Boone is known for his willingness to take on any role, from leading events to cooking hotdogs.

Montana – Mike Baugh, Billings, Mont., RMEF Beartooth Chapter. A member since 1984, Baugh has served as a chapter chair, state chair and regional chair. His chapter is one of Montana’s top fundraisers. He is also a life member and Habitat Partner. Colleagues say Baugh “gives everything to RMEF and expects nothing in return.”

Maryland – Steven Bird, Aberdeen, Ill., RMEF Maryland Chapter. Bird has chaired his local chapter for 20 years and he devotes many weekends to RMEF volunteerism. He is state chair for Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. His inspiration – seeing elk return to Maryland – has never changed, and an elk restoration feasibility study is now underway.

North Carolina – Russ and Betty Morton, Greensboro, N.C., RMEF Piedmont Chapter. The Mortons, also active in the Charlotte-Metrolina chapter, worked hard to help bring elk back to the Smokies and they continue their avid volunteerism today. Russ maintains several RMEF chapter websites and created an online tracking system for banquets.

New RMEF Directors:

Colorado – Dr. Terry Sweet, Grand Junction, Colo. Sweet has chaired the RMEF Grand Junction Chapter for 23 years, leading a local fundraising effort that has netted over $2 million. In 2011, he received RMEF’s highest honor, the Wallace Fennell Pate Wildlife Conservation Award, which recognizes contributions of lasting significance.

Georgia – G.J. (Jerry) Pionessa, Moultrie, Ga. Pionessa is active on the RMEF Jacksonville (Fla.) Chapter. He has served on the RMEF board of directors’ Lands and Conservation, Development and Business Development committees. An RMEF life member and Habitat Partner, Pionessa also is active in many other conservation outfits.

North Carolina – Joe Treadway, Asheville, N.C. Treadway helped found the RMEF Great Smoky Mountains Chapter in 1994. He served as chapter chair, state chair and regional chair before advancing the RMEF board of directors, where he eventually served as chairman. Treadway was instrumental in helping to restore wild elk to the Smokies.

Pennsylvania – Rodger Fleming, Butler, Pa. Fleming helped start the RMEF 3 Rivers Chapter in Pittsburgh, which has now raised over $3 million. He’s been active on that chapter committee for 23 years. He also has served as a state chair and board director in both the U.S. and Canada. Fleming is a life member and Benefactor Habitat Partner.

Texas – Curtis Christiansen, Giddings, Texas. Giddings has served RMEF in a variety of volunteer jobs including co-founder and past chair of the RMEF Dime Box Chapter, state chair and regional chair, including leadership roles. He was honored in 2007 as RMEF Chairman’s Award recipient. Giddings also is a life member and Habitat Partner.