Let’s expand elk populations in Minnesota!

All state residents have a stake in elk management in Minnesota.
So it’s in the best interest of citizens in the Twin Cities and
across southern Minnesota to attend a public meeting in St. Paul on
Tuesday, May 5.

The state’s elk management plan will be the focus of the St.
Paul gathering. A similar meeting takes place in the northwestern
Minnesota city of Greenbush tomorrow night, April 16. The plan will
address population levels, crop depredation and hunting season
management of wild elk in northwestern Minnesota. You can bet “Big
Ag” will be well represented at the meeting in Greenbush (and
probably the St. Paul meeting, too.)

For those of you unfamiliar with elk or elk management in
Minnesota, let me explain how it works. Big Ag pretty much dictates
how we’ll manage these majestic creatures in Minnesota, and since
elk will eat crops, Big Ag hates them. Despite the species doing
its damnedest to procreate and thrive, state law (written by
legislators following Big Ag’s demands) requires that we cull elk
populations down to a barely functional herd every couple of
years.

While other states in the central and eastern United States work
to re-establish elk populations, Minnesota works feverishly to
prevent it from expanding. Because the animals exist in extreme
northwestern Minnesota, a tiny percentage of the state even knows
they exist. Big Ag and their political lackeys like it that
way.

From a conservationist’s viewpoint, it’s all pretty
embarrassing.

What’s truly sad is that, per the recent DNR press release, “elk
are native to Minnesota but likely were nearly
extinct
(my emphasis) from the state in the early 20th
century.” In 1935, the transport of Rocky Mountain elk created the
highly controversial Grygla herd.

What’s less well known is that natural immigration from Manitoba
and possibly North Dakota, have resulted in small elk populations
in Kittson and Marshall counties. When the DNR says “natural” it
means native wild elk. Who knows, perhaps some of their ancestors
crossed into Minnesota at some time, too, meaning elk perhaps were
never exterminated from Minnesota. In most conservation circles
this would be regarded as a conservation miracle to celebrate – a
species that despite tireless human persecution survived through
the decades.

But not here.

No, instead we take the same 19th Century view that all wild
beasts must be driven from the land so we can civilize it. Instead
of supporting laws allowing outer-limits aggressive management of
elk, Minnesotans should be demanding that we expand elk populations
for a multitude of reasons, including more sport hunting
opportunity.

To be fair, there’s solid evidence that some domestic elk have
gotten loose in the area and are particularly obnoxious about
tearing into farmer’s haybales and crops. For the record, this
scribe has no problem eliminating said animals from the
landscape.

That aside, need further proof that northern legislators are all
too happy to carry Big Ag’s relentless persecution of wild
Minnesota elk? Per Joe Albert’s weekly legislative wrap-up story in
this week’s Outdoor News, the Game and fish bills – HF 1238 and SF
1116 – are beginning to move through their various committee
stops.  The House bill includes one the Senate doesn’t: the
requirement that the DNR develop an elk management plan and
implement it within 90 days of the bill being passed. Should the
DNR not meet that or other requirements, the agency would – by law
– have to reduce elk numbers until there are 30 or fewer in each of
Kittson and Marshall counties.

Dave Schad, DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife director, notes
that the agency is holding the meetings this week to discuss elk
management, and the timeline called for in the bill is “consistent
with the timetable we are on.”

Even the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which I wish was about
100 times more angry about elk mismanagement in Minnesota, weighed
in – albeit with language too tame for my taste. The RMEF, in a
letter to Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, said it is disappointed
in the bill.

“It is exceptionally unreasonable to suggest the ultimatum of
depopulating elk in Kittson, Marshall, and Roseau counties,”
according to the letter, written by Ralph Cinfio III, director for
operations in the Central Division. “Minnesotans made it very clear
in November, 2008 how they value all wildlife in the state, and I
am sure they will not tolerate the forced reduction of a particular
species.”

Rank-and-file Minnesotans need to get mad about this. Moose
literally are tipping over dead in northern Minnesota. Meanwhile,
elk happily would thrive if we just gave them a chance.

One more time: Meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday,
April 16, at the Greenbush-Middle River School gymnasium, 401 Park
Ave. in Greenbush, and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5, at DNR
headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul.

A DNR press release about the meeting says that “wildlife staff
will present parts of the draft plan, facilitate discussion of
issues and answer questions. Comments received will help complete
the draft plan, which will be available for formal comment before
it is finalized.”

Copies of the draft plan and comment forms are available online.
Copies also are available at DNR headquarters in St. Paul.

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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