Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill earlier in the week that will provide $300,000 in funding toward a study to determine if elk can be restored into the eastern region of the state.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has also kicked in $15K along with another $15K from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to help move the study along. The two-pronged study is intended to both determine whether or not the elk population can be sustained in the Carlton, southern St. Louis and northern Pine counties, but also aims to gauge the public’s attitude about the reintroduction of the ungulates.
“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,” wildlife biologist for the Fond du Lac Band Mike Schrage said in a letter.
Schrage also noted that, if approved, the project of then transplanting 200-300 elk from other states could take up to ten years to complete and will likely be accompanied by an approximate $1 million price tag.
Where researchers expect the most opposition is among the agricultural community in the state. In addition to this bill, Dayton also signed an agriculture policy bill limiting the Department of Natural Resources from growing the elk population until the Minnesota Department of Agriculture can demonstrate that crop and fence damages from elk haven’t increased for at least two years.
The DNR has stated that they plan to continue to work closely with producers that are affected by elk damage in an effort to alleviate the problem.
“It’s a little bit confusing, but we’ll manage as best we can to meet the intent of the language,” wildlife section chief for the DNR Paul Telander told Inforum. “We’ll continue to work with producers and provide more opportunities for them to have input on food plot location on public and private lands, habitat management efforts, and technical and material assistance for preventing elk damage.
“We’ll work with producers and even try to strengthen those relationships as we move forward.”