MN elk herd in trouble...

Storm Widgeon

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It never ceases to amaze the amount of crap legislators pull, especially when the AG industry is shoving money down their throats...

If this passes, it's a sure bet that it will be the begging of the end of our pathetic elk herds in MN.

This latest AG bill regarding expanding elk herds and the limitations it provides to the DNR is outrageous.

In my understanding, if this bill passes, it will give the commissioner of the state department of agriculture oversight to management practices of the elk herds. I don't think I need to point out the level of manipulation and exploitation the AG industry carries out, to twist legislation for their own selfish desires.

We all know how much backing the AG industry has and how much weight they like to throw around when they want something, and letting them have this death grip on Minnesota's elk herd is not only devastating for the elk but it opens an incredibly slippery slope to them getting a grasp on management of our other wildlife.

Governor Dayton needs to slam the door on this bill AT ALL COSTS.


http://www.outdoornews.com/2016/05/31/elk-plan-faces-limitations-following-passage-of-ag-bill/
 

MinnesotaHunter

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I believe Dayton already signed it.

However, He also signed the bill that opened the feasibility study to introduce a herd in the NE; which at least by my estimation is land much more conducive to a thriving elk herd than the NW area. I believe what the DNR and all other interested parties need to pursue during the study is a delineation between the areas of MN where reintroduction could occur. The whole point of the NE herd, is by the nature of the current land use, there would be significantly less chance of conflict with AG.

It is a shame what is happening around the NW herd. To my knowledge, it is one of the only genetically isolated herds of prairie dwelling elk, that never went away in the lower 48 states. Based on its consistent conflict with local agriculture it will likely never be much more than it is.
 

MinnesotaHunter

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In my understanding, if this bill passes, it will give the commissioner of the state department of agriculture oversight to management practices of the elk herds. I don't think I need to point out the level of manipulation and exploitation the AG industry carries out, to twist legislation for their own selfish desires.
Someone might correct me here, but my interpretation was that elk will continue to be managed as wildlife, and thus by the MN DNR. However, it does say that the DNR can’t take any action to grow an elk herd unless the Commissioner of Agriculture verifies there has been no increase in the amount paid for elk related crop and fence damage in the previous two years.

This is where some more nuanced conversation and education needs to occur in the next couple of years, to refine or remove this criteria.
 

NoWiser

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Last I heard Dayton signed it. This effectively ended any chance of a real elk herd in Minnesota beyond what I consider a novelty herd right now. This is after the long process of getting public input to help determine the future of elk in the state. All of that work was thrown out the window.

The feasibility study for elk in NE Minnesota will proceed, but the language in the bill passed will almost certainly prevent actually putting any elk on the ground there.

Turkeys and whitetail cause crop damage too, but if the Department of Ag tried to pull this on them, the whole damn state would be up in arms. Until now, I've not heard anyone even mention this outside of the Outdoor News. Not even from my RMEF chapter. This has been eating at me for two weeks now. If anyone has any ideas beyond the typical "contact your legislature" I'm all ears. The Department of Agriculture has no business restricting the management of elk in this state when they've made it pretty clear they'd get rid of every last one if they had it their way.
 

Storm Widgeon

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I guess that wouldn't surprise me that he already signed it, as I caught wind of this a couple weeks after it was sent to his desk, but I couldn't verify he had.

I don't think the AG commissioner would ever relinquish control of wildlife once they receive it. Knowing how head strong they are when it comes to promoting AG interests, it's just never going to be allowed to happen IMO.

I personally own two chunks of land right in the heart of the Grygla herd here in MN. I've offered my land for food plots as the DNR already plants food plots to help relieve pressure from neighboring crop lands, yet all I hear is whining from the massive farming operations up there. Last year our elk herd had a WHOPPING 18 animals in it. Yet the commissioner of AG feels they need to have a strangle hold on any growth. I just don't see it. Yes there are two other small herds up in NW MN besides the Grygla herd, but all totally it's pretty small fry stuff, especially when considering how much the DNR spends to support those animals with alternative food plots planted, crop damage subsidies and numerous other projects.

After being turned down by the DNR, we've decided to plant food plots on our own dime. We don't deer hunt the area, as we hunt together with extended family around the brainerd area.

The way I understood it was the attempt to introduce elk in the NE has been spear headed by the tribal reservations, and are looking for support from the MN DNR. I'm all for that, I just don't think the small presence of elk in NW MN warrants further restrictions and loop hole created by passage of this bill.
 

MinnesotaHunter

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The way I understood it was the attempt to introduce elk in the NE has been spear headed by the tribal reservations, and are looking for support from the MN DNR. I'm all for that, I just don't think the small presence of elk in NW MN warrants further restrictions and loop hole created by passage of this bill.
RMEF, the U of M, and the MNDNR are all involved. Here is a quote from a MN DNR Bio, I received through RMEF, regarding the potential NE reintroduction:

To recap, our project is a partnership between the University of Minnesota, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to study the feasibility of restoring elk to eastern Minnesota. Specifically we propose to focus on southern St. Louis, Carlton and northern Pine Counties as potential restoration sites. Our study has two parts. The first part will look at public attitudes towards elk, and the second part will determine where and how much potential elk habitat there is. The studies will be led by Drs. James Forester and David Fulton at the University.

Based on the recommendation of the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources, the State appropriated $300,000 from the ENRTF for this study. RMEF has put up $15,000 in matching funds and the Fond du Lac Band has secured $15,000 and is working on another $30,000 in additional matches. The ENTRF funds become available on July 1st. Dr. Fulton already has a student (Eric Walberg) working on public attitudes towards elk as part of the DNR’s elk research in northwest Minnesota. We anticipate Eric can transition from the northwest work to our project in the east sometime this winter. The habitat portion would get going in full gear next year, and we’re looking at a June, 2019 completion date for the final report. The answers to these initial feasibility studies should determine if we have enough potential elk habitat and enough public support to take any next steps in the process of restoring elk.
 

Storm Widgeon

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Thanks MM for posting that. Glad to hear so many groups getting involved. I have friends that own land in St. Louis county, and will certainly get them to contact the UofM to show their support for the reintroduction in the NE.

I made a call to John Williams, the regional wildlife manager for the NW. I've met him before, most recently at the public informational elk meetings this past winter, seems to be a good guy.

Anyway, He said they were pretty blind sided by that piece of legislation as it was introduced at the last minute.

He said it ties their hands considerably, and throws a lot of work collecting public input and setting up management plans out the window.

Overall, they seemed to be frustrated, but it's pretty clear MN will never have anything other then a novelty herd of elk (as NoWiser puts it) anytime in the near future.
 

Epfd217

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Nowiser's comments are an echo of the explanation I heard from several DNR representatives. In essence, the representative up there, took his constituents concerns (ag producers) and found a way to craft a bill that handcuffs wildlife managers for the elk herd. It seeks to directly correlate damage and depredation claims to the size of the herd.

The final language says they cannot expand the herd until they can show two years of same or lower depredation claims. So, the herd will remain at its current level for now. It is possible it can expand, and recent studies have shown that the herd can be much larger, but the politics are seeking to let damage claims be a measuring stick for sound wildlife management. Its a clear conflict of interest, but it passed, so I guess we get to see how it plays out.
 

MinnesotaHunter

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Things are looking up here in MN for some future elk expansion. I spoke with Mike Schrage at the South of the RIVER RMEF Banquet (one of the founders of the chapter happens to be one our own HTers), and he was pretty confident we would see this change in the legislation this summer. Now it looks like it is official.
“Language restricting the growth of an elk herd in the state was successfully modified in the just completed legislative session. Under the old statute, the Department of Natural Resources was prevented from growing an elk herd in the state unless the Commissioner of Agriculture certified there had been no increase in damage complaints in the previous 2 years. As written, the old language applied statewide and would have crippled any effort someday to grow an elk herd in eastern Minnesota or anywhere else in the state. The new language is contained in the Environment and Natural Resources Bill and modifies the restriction so it only applies to Kittson, Roseau, Marshall and Beltrami Counties in NW Minnesota. This will make it significantly easier to establish and grow an elk herd someday if we can get to that point in eastern Minnesota.” –Mike Schrage, Wildlife Biologist-Fond du Lac Resource Management Division
elk study info.jpg
 

NoWiser

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Ross, I just forwarded you an email from Mike with a bit more information that I thought you might find interesting.

Though it would have been nice to see this statute killed completely, there is no way that was going to happen. This is a big step forward!

I do a lot of hunting in one of the recovery areas. It sure would be fun to run across elk up there!
 

Northwoods Labs

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I'll have to keep an eye on these reintroduction efforts. I'll be moving to Burnett County in Wisconsin, which is right across the St. Croix from Pine County. Would be neat to have an elk herd nearby
 
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