Elk Banquet A Success
Inside the Outdoors, April 08
, 2011

It was all smiles as men, some joined with their sons, met at Lakeview in Greensburg to take part in the Second Annual Laurel Mountain Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Banquet recently.

Labeled a success, people gathered from all over southwestern Pennsylvania to support this fundraiser so that elk may maintain a self-sustaining population in a natural state.

Elk once roamed throughout the state, but the last elk was killed in 1867. From 1913-1926, 177 elk were trapped and transferred from Yellowstone National Park, South Dakota and a private reserve in Monroe County in Pennsylvania, and released at five sites in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. Only the north-central releases were successful.The herd prospered, and an elk hunting season was conducted from 1923-1931. By 1938 the state’s elk population stood at 312, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission moved some animals from Elk County to establish a new herd in the Sproul State Forest. About 700 elk roam Pennsylvania today.

According to Steve Kowatch, chairman of the RMEF Laurel Mountain Chapter, “Our organization is similar to many of the other groups in as much as its goal is to protect and restore habitat and ensure the future of wildlife. Our chapter strives to continue to enhance and protect acreage so the elk population will continue to grow and roam freely throughout the state. If it wasn’t for organizations such as ours, there would be housing developments, factories and shopping malls everywhere in the United States and there would be no wildlife to hunt or fish for,” he said.

Honored for his industrious efforts for not only chairing, but working very hard to make sure the banquet went very smoothly, the Latrobe resident was given an award for his efforts. I can attest to the fact that the award was well deserved.

Another gentleman from Irwin was the recipient of The Finance Chairman Award. Kowatch revealed that “Rich Gallo was given this award for his hard work at keeping the finances in order. Our organization’s record keeping is very complicated and he does a tremendous job. I would not want to do it!”

In relating information about the Foundation, Kowatch said, “Since 1984, the
Elk Foundation has: permanently protected more than 1,400 square mile 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.

Much has been done to aid the elk in this state. The RMEG Pennsylvania project history through Jan 1, 2011 reported that up to the beginning of the year, chapters have participated in 217 lands and conservation programs projects to the tune of $20,258,644.

Categorically broken down, this includes land protection, other land activity, habitat enhancement, wildlife management, research, conservation education and hunting heritage.

“There are various opinions,” M. David Allen, president and CEO of RMEF said, “of what RMEF considers its priorities: habitat quality and conservation remain our top priority. Habitat will always remain our primary focus. However, unlike the past, we will no longer be passive toward any threat to elk, other wildlife, their habitat or our proud tradition of hunting as a management tool and a part of our heritage.”

All participants attending the banquet had a very enjoyable time, for their knew, regardless of what donations went toward bucket prizes or contributions during the auction of miscellaneous items, as Kowatch concluded, “All monies raised would be used to save and restore habitat for all wildlife."

- Paul J. Volkmann
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