March 8, 2009
Missoula’s Onckens Receive Elk Foundation’s Highest Honor
MISSOULA, Mont.—Rick and Penney Oncken of Missoula, Mont., have received the highest honor given by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The Wallace Fennell Pate Wildlife Conservation Award honors contributions of lasting significance to the benefit of elk, other wildlife and their habitat across North America. The award was presented to the Onckens during the Elk Foundation’s 25th annual convention, which concluded March 8 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Onckens have been avid supporters of Elk Foundation initiatives for more than 20 years. Their service includes generous cash contributions, donated conservation easements on owned and co-owned lands in Montana and Arkansas, and leadership on the organization’s board of directors.
Presenting the award to a surprised Rick and Penney, RMEF colleague Cheryl Haralson described the Oncken’s conservation spirit.
“One day Penney drove down to the store from their home near Missoula. When she came back, there was a road cut into the side of a hill above the Bitterroot River. The day before she’d watched a herd of elk right where that road now lay. It broke her heart, but not her will. She bought that 500 acres of elk heaven, put a conservation easement on it so it could never be developed, and donated the easement to the Elk Foundation,” said Haralson.
She added, “That’s how it is with Rick and Penney—both are truly dedicated to the future of elk country.”
Wallace Fennell Pate, the Elk Foundation’s first president and chairman of the board, dedicated his time, energy and financial resources to the betterment of wildlife in North America. Pate, now deceased, became a national role model for groups or individuals concerned with natural resources conservation.