With nothing more than a simple idea and shared dream, the N.A.P.F. was born in April of 1991 when two diehard antelope fanatics finally met after learning of the other's affliction from a common acquaintance employed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. While the concept of a foundation for pronghorn, patterned after those for elk and sheep, had been widely considered by several isolated individuals, it required the fortuitous happenstance of a mutual friend to act as the right catalyst to initiate the process.
At the time Jim Freeburn was the Platte County Agent in Wheatland, Wyoming, for the Cooperative Extension Service of the College of Agriculture at the University of Wyoming, while Robb Hitchcock was a railroad conductor for Burlington Northern Railroad and Director of the Antelope Research Group in Casper, Wyoming. Their mutual friend, Reg Rothwell, Staff Biologist with the Biological Services Division of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) in Cheyenne, noted the two men's keen interest in pronghorn and their curiosity as to why no foundation existed for their benefit.
Well, one thing led to another, and after a series of meetings with various state and federal agencies and sportsmen across the state, the decision was made to formally apply for not-for-profit incorporation status in Wyoming and begin the rigorous Internal Revenue Service process to receive tax exempt status as a 501 (c) (3) class organization. Dave Clark, then attorney for the City of Rawlins, was instrumental in drawing up the Articles of Incorporation and initial By-laws, and provided invaluable advice to the new Board of Directors regarding the application for tax-exempt status under the IRS Code.
The initial Board of Directors represented a broad cross section of individuals from widely diverse backgrounds who all shared one goal: to protect and promote the pronghorn as a free ranging species and work to preserve the ecosystems upon which they are ultimately dependent. The new Board of Directors, comprised of Dr. Steve Buskirk, Zoology Professor at the University of Wyoming; Jay Lawson, Chief Game Warden with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department; Ron Platt, an outfitter from Saratoga; Reg Rothwell, Staff Biologist with the WGFD's Biological Services Division; Gene Carrico, owner of Bi-Rite Drug Store and an outfitter in Rawlins; Don Johnson, retired Habitat Specialist with the WGFD; Bob "Buff" Terril an outfitter from Cheyenne; Nancy Swartos, a pronghorn activist from Diamondville; John Jungck, a taxidermist from Rawlins; and Robb Hitchcock, elected Bill Morris, former Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, to be the first Chairman of the Board. Various experts on pronghorn, including Jim Yoakum, a wildlife advisor with Western Wildlife from Verdi, Nevada, and Dr. Bart O'Gara, retired Montana State University Professor, agreed to serve on the Project Advisory Council. And just like that, the NAPF was off and running.
With limited capital resources, the NAPF never-the-less began to pursue its goals with a vengeance, entering into agreements to sponsor the Biennial Antelope States Workshop, support the future publication of a Wildlife Management Institute's monograph on pronghorn to be edited by the aforementioned Yokum and O'Gara, replace the deteriorating pronghorn display at the Smithsonian Institute, and develop a pronghorn interpretive center.
Over the next 10 years the Foundation funded a wide variety of projects which included scholarships to the NRA's Youth Hunter Education Challenge; census surveys for the endangered Peninsular Pronghorn in Baja, Mexico; transplants of pronghorn to former ranges like the Oklahoma panhandle; development of a visitor's diorama which featured an educational display about pronghorn in Gillette; support for a variety of research studies regarding pronghorn behavior, diet, habitat use, predator control, range conditions and management, among others; mitigation monies for those areas impacted by energy development such as the Moxa Arch Development in southwest Wyoming; sponsorship of the Wyoming Hunting and Fishing Heritage Expo; donating prizes to hunters participating in post-hunt surveys; helping to sponsor the Helluva Hunt for handicapped hunters, Wildlife Society meetings, the WGFD's Wildlife Summit, and Governor Geringer's Development Summit.
On the public education front, the NAPF has developed a first rate traveling educational display, which has received high marks for its attempt to address various controversial issues affecting pronghorn management. The display has traveled west to east from California to Nebraska, and north to south from Wyoming to Arizona in the NAPF's endeavor to educate the public regarding pronghorn and conservation issues.
When it comes to public policy, the NAPF has distinguished itself, unlike other more well-known organizations, by stepping forward when required to advocate for pronghorn and their habitat when they are threatened by socio-political intervention in wildlife management, privatization, population control and or unregulated irresponsible development of natural resources which may adversely impact their environment. For instance, the NAPF produced formal testimony and submissions regarding the recent promolgation of new management guidelines for the Thunder Basin National Forest and Grasslands as well as the Pinedale Anticline oil and gas developments.
All of the aforementioned projects and activities were accomplished by an all volunteer administration with no paid staff. Even the newsletter is produced through cooperative submissions of non-paid writers, contributors, and editors. The NAPF may no doubt be the most costeffective conservation organization operating today, with virtually no administrative costs other than rent, utilities, office supplies, some limited publishing costs and travel reimbursement, and activity advertisements. While this noble scenario may have to change if the NAPF wishes to seek a larger membership or reach out to expand its mission, that remains to be seen. For now, we will rely on our officers, Board of Directors, business and individual contributors, and most of all our loyal membership to continue to pursue our goals and objectives within our mission.