New Mexico Elk Inherit Millions

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation inherits a new ranch.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Aranch in New Mexico of more than 135,000 acres and $4 million to help manage it was presented to officials of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) in early July in what has been described as the largest endowment ever presented to a conservation group.

The Double H Ranch, valued at $17.7 million, belonged to Bob Torstenson, a retired Rockford, Ill., businessman who succumbed to stomach cancer in May at the age of 51. Torstenson was an avid elk hunter and member of the RMEF's board of directors. He bought the New Mexico property in 1999 and intended it to be a model for how working ranches can maintain wildlife. RMEF spokesman Steve Wagner says the organization is currently developing a management plan for the ranch, which is home to approximately 475 elk and an equal number of mule deer.

"Bob was a sportsman and he was proud to be a hunter and proud of what other sportsmen before him had done for wildlife conservation," said Jan Ohlander, an attorney for the family.

Before his death, Torstenson wrote a "declaration of trust" regarding the bequest to the RMEF. It says, in part: "I have been blessed with opportunities to experience true wilderness and wild places where man's impact has been insignificant....It is our hope that future generations will enjoy our New Mexico mountains and the creatures that depend upon their unique ecoystems to survive...."