Elk Foundation Banquet March 19
Inside the Outdoors, February 18
, 2011

We are all too familiar with the deer that roam about throughout the Laurel Highlands. But did you know Pennsylvania has broken into a Top 10 list of places to find monster elk? That may raise a few eyebrows. But consider this. It would not have been possible if we didn’t have the great efforts of the chapters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Did you know there is a chapter right here in our neck of the woods? Made up of members including those from Latrobe, Derry and Ligonier, the goals of this organization are very similar to the Forbes Trail Chapter Trout Unlimited, Wild turkey Federation and Ducks Unlimited. “We are in the business of conservation and restoring nature to its original state,” said Steve Kowatch, chairman of RMEF Laurel Mountain Chapter.

According to the organization’s website, www.rmef.org, “Elk have roamed the Keystone State since 1913 after a successful restoration effort by a young Pennsylvania Game Commission , but this is Pennsylvania first-ever Top 10 appearance in Boone and Crockett Club records, and that’s a big deal, said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.”

Carl Roe, executive director of the PGC made reference to the fact that “RMEF has played a key role in the growing success of Pennsylvania’s elk herd.”

“Since 1991,” the website revealed, “RMEF has partnered with the PGC to complete more than 175 different projects to enhance and protect over 14,800 acres, open 8,088 acres for public access, fund research and management initiatives, educate some 33,000 students and promote Pennsylvania strong hunting and conservation heritage. RMEF funding has helped purchase 1,533 acres now included in State Game Lands #311 in the heart of Pennsylvania’s elk country,” it said.

And last year this organization help facilitate, launch and fund $2.4 million for construction of the largest elk watch and conservation education center in the United States located in north-central Pennsylvania.

The new center, which opened in Sept. 2010, sits on a 245-acre site is viewed as “the largest elk watching and conservation education facility in the Eastern United States.”

In addition, there is so much more the Foundation has done and continues to do. Kowatch pointed out, “Since 1984, the Elk Foundation has: permanently protected more than 1,400 square miles of critical elk habitat; opened more than 590,000 acres to the public to hunt, fish and roam; improved habitat across 4.8 million acres of elk country; and funded more than 6,500 projects to promote conservation education and North America’s hunting heritage.”

He went on to point out that “Few organizations can boast such numbers – a reflection of the efficiency that earned RMEF a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.”

In referring to the local chapter, Kowatch explained that the chapter events raise “the lion’s share of the funding for the Elk Foundation conservation work.” This is put toward wildlife habitat conservation, enhancement across Pennsylvania’s elk country and the promotion of the next generation of hunter-conservationists.

Kowatch said that “RMEF has funded programs across Pennsylvania that introduces young people and women to the outdoors, promotes hunter safety and responsibility, provides physically challenged individuals and wounded veterans with a hunting experience and involve youth in conservation,” he said.

He went on to emphasize, “Since completing its first Pennsylvania project in 1991, RMEF has helped complete 216 different conservation and education projects across Pennsylvania with a combined value of more than $20 million.”

On Saturday, March 19th, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Laurel Mountain Chapter will hold its second annual banquet and fundraiser. It will be held at Lakeview Lounge on Route 30 East in Greensburg. Pre-registration is necessary. The cost of admission is $70.00 which includes dinner and annual membership with Bugle magazine.

The doors open at 5 p.m. During the social hour, there will be drawings, raffles, games, drinks, and the silent auction. A dinner and live auction will follow.

Proceeds from this event will go toward supporting RMEF’s vital conservation efforts.

For addition information and reservations, contact Steve Kowatch at 724-537-2618.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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