Elk NetworkA Mover and Shaker for Elk

Volunteer News | August 13, 2012

A Mover and Shaker for Elk

By Clayton Paddie, Bugle Intern

This year’s Elk Camp and Expo left one award recipient in shock.

“I was totally surprised. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” says Kathy Johnson, a district wildlife biologist on the Humboldt-Toyabe National Forest who received the RMEF’s Elk Country Award for Individual Achievement for her inspiring dedication to improving and protecting habitat for elk and other wildlife on over 1 million acres in east-central Nevada. 

Johnson has a long history of working aggressively on habitat projects. Her list of accomplishments runs the gamut from improving sagebrush and aspen habitat to installing water guzzlers and supporting fundraising efforts. 

In fact, Johnson and her crew of volunteers (that include many from RMEF’s Ely Chapter) have installed at least one water guzzler every year since 2003, sometimes more. These efforts have expanded habitats for elk and other wildlife by tens of thousands of acres in east-central Nevada. “I like doing stuff on the ground and getting projects done,” she says. “I get a real sense of accomplishment because you get an end product, something you can look back on.”

A love of the outdoors and a respect for nature comes naturally to Johnson. “I’ve always loved being outside and working outdoors. I like to get my hands dirty,” she says. 

Yet her love began a long ways from the Nevada desert. Kathy grew up ocean fishing and originally aspired to study marine biology, but a summer of backpacking shifted her focus. Kathy says she soon saw the error of her ways and went terrestrial—although she never passes up a chance to go snorkeling on coral reefs. 

Soon after she discovered her love for the mountains, she began her journey toward a degree in wildlife biology from Humboldt State University in northern California and has been combing the mountains rather than the beaches ever since.

Kathy’s longstanding history of commitment to wildlife has been marked with achievements, beginning when she worked for the Boise National Forest’s Emmett District in Idaho. In 2003, Johnson was the project leader for the Anderson/Pyle burn project which received RMEF’s first-ever Elk Country Award for habitat enhancement.

Both Johnson and her husband Gary are committee members on the Ely Chapter and enjoy helping with the annual banquet. For several years they stored all the banquet merchandise at their house. Johnson says they lost their living space for a month or so, but at least they got to preview all the stuff. 

“Kathy’s a real mover and shaker,” says Tom Toman, RMEF director of conservation programs. “She always goes out of her way to help other people.”