Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — Unable to secure enough support from residents of Garrett and Allegany counties, a group evaluating the reintroduction of Rocky Mountain elk there announced Wednesday the idea is being scuttled.
“Concerns ranging from vehicle collisions and crop damage to the potential for disease outweighed all other considerations,” wrote William Miles, Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation, in an email to the Maryland District 1 legislative delegation.
“Efforts to mitigate such concerns through experiences shared by other states with elk simply did not resonate,” Miles said.
The idea was jointly announced in August 2011 by the MLSF, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
“From the onset, the partnership made clear that any decision for reintroduction would be predicated upon acceptance by the citizenry,” Miles wrote. “Heartened by the results of a supportive public opinion survey coupled with projected revenues that could be realized in the region from visitor spending, the partnership thought it might be possible to secure local support. However, this did not prove to be the case.”
Early opposition came from the Garrett County commissioners and the Maryland Farm Bureau.
A meeting was conducted in Cumberland in November 2012 to obtain additional public input.
“I think they made a smart move shutting it down,” said Jerry Zembower, president of the Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Association.
“Garrett County was dead-set against it so the only place left was Allegany County. The largest tract of land in Allegany is the Green Ridge State Forest and that is where chronic wasting disease was found.”
Zembower said it would make no sense to release perfectly healthy elk into an area where a disease has been discovered to which they are susceptible.
“AGSA never did take a vote on the reintroduction, but our clubs were telling us they opposed it,” Zembower said.
Miles pointed out that no public money was used to evaluate the potential reintroduction. The elk foundation paid the bills.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.