Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

RMEF, Partners Honored for Pennsylvania Restoration Project

There’s nothing more majestic than seeing elk in the wild. That is, unless the elk are thriving on a landscape you helped restore that was once considered somewhat of a barren wasteland. 

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has a 22 year on-the-ground work history in Pennsylvania. It began with a conservation project, RMEF’s first acquisition east of the Mississippi River, that protected 1,359 acres in State Game Lands #311, or what’s more commonly known today as the Dents Run Watershed Restoration Project. Dents Run is a 25 square mile watershed located in the appropriately named Elk County that is in the center of the habitat range for Pennsylvania's elk herd. The upper portions of the watershed boast a blue ribbon wild trout stream, but extremely acidic mining discharges with highly elevated metals concentrations from both surface and underground mines took a severe toll on the lower stretch of the stream. 

Enter RMEF and its working partners of Bennett Branch Watershed Association, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, P & N Resources and Domtar Paper Mill of Johnsonburg, Pa. Together they joined with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers Riparian Restoration Team to carry out a rehabilitation plan. The work included using materials to help “cure” the land, surface and groundwater. Crews reworked the grade of the land and replanted vegetation across 320 acres of scarred landscape to benefit wildlife. They also did away with 23 mine openings and 10 highwalls, and improved the drainage to treatment systems so downstream sections of Dents Run are running clean and clear for the first time in a century. 

Dents Run
Because of those efforts, and the efforts of its partners, RMEF recently received the 2013 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The award highlights the best in environmental innovation and expertise throughout Pennsylvania via a cross-section of initiatives from cleaning up watersheds, saving energy, eliminating pollution, reducing waste and more.

Dents Run
2013 marks the 100th anniversary of reintroduction of elk to Pennsylvania, but to better appreciate the present you need to take a glimpse into the past. Elk once roamed throughout Pennsylvania; however the last was killed off by 1867. The state released 145 elk brought from Yellowstone National Park into seven counties between 1913 and 1926. By 1998, the herd grew to 312, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission relocated some animals to establish a new herd in the Sproul State Forest. About 850 wild elk roam Pennsylvania today.
RMEF is proud of its Pennsylvania present and past. Since 1991, RMEF contributed more than $114,000 toward acquiring property and enhancing habitat in SGL #311. Across all of Pennsylvania, RMEF and its partners completed 281 conservation and hunting outreach projects with a combined value of more than $21 million. 

Thank you for the honor and here’s to Pennsylvania elk! Long may they grow and flourish across this revamped part of their native range.

2013 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence

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