July 24, 2013

The Future of Elk Reintroduction in Western Maryland Rests with its Citizenry

ANNAPOLIS, MD (July 17, 2013) — On August 22, 2011, the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation (MLSF), the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) announced the formation of a partnership to determine the viability of elk reintroduction to Western Maryland.  Few realize that elk once roamed all of Maryland; but, have been extirpated since the last 1700’s.  A 3-fold feasibility assessment was required:  biological, social and economic.  Of critical interest to the partnership was the expressed willingness of the local citizenry to support the reintroduction of elk.

On May 15, 2012 the results of a statewide public opinion survey found that nearly three out of four Maryland residents (72%), including two-thirds of Western Maryland residents (68%) specifically, support the reintroduction of elk into the western part of the State.  Coupled with the public opinion survey was an economic assessment that determined Western Maryland could realize a projected $4 million annually in visitor spending should elk be reintroduced there.  Below are the respective links.

http://www.responsivemanagement.com/download/reports/MD Elk Report.pdf
www.responsivemanagement.com/download/reports/MD Elk Economic Report.pdf

Despite these findings, discussions with local stakeholder groups found little support for elk reintroduction.  Principally among the stated reasons of opposition:  vehicle collisions, crop damage and potential for disease.  Efforts to mitigate such concerns through experiences shared by other states simply did not resonate.

Consequently, the partnership has agreed that local support does not exist to pursue continued efforts to reintroduce elk in Western Maryland at this time.  “We did our best to honestly paint all the facts in the clearest way possible during the last 2 years.  However, it is evident that now is not the time to move forward.  Perhaps tomorrow will be different, but not today” stated Bill Miles, Vice-Chair of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation.  Dave Ragantesi, Senior Regional Director of the Missoula-based Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation noted “We thank the good people of Western Maryland for listening.  If local opinions about elk are changed we at RMEF stand ready to be of assistance.”

A copy of the final report can be obtained by contacting MLSF via billmilesmd@comcast.net

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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