Cumberland Times-News

Outdoors

October 27, 2012

Elk reintro meeting set Friday

The possible reintroduction of Rocky Mountain elk into Garrett and/or Allegany counties has been the quietest big story I have experienced in 3-plus decades here at your hometown newspaper.

In the 15 months that have passed since the idea was brought up, nothing much has been said about it by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and only a little has been said by the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation.

I mean we are talking about a once-in-a-lifetime conservation issue here. Large ungulates which have not lived in Maryland for more than 200 years may be brought back.

Some people like that basic idea. Some people don’t.

Bill Miles of the MLSF has been our sole source of information, but that has been mostly letting us know in a general way how the process has been coming along. At least somebody was staying in touch.

I can’t think of any better way to reach the outdoorspeople of Almost Maryland than putting it on the Outdoors page of the Cumberland Times-News. No brag, just fact. I wrote that in my best Walter Brennan voice in his role as Will Sonnett. If you are a young person who doesn’t understand what that means, that’s why Al Gore invented the Internet.

I was hoping that by now I could have provided readers with some information from a study showing whether or not Western Maryland has the habitat to support elk.

I was hoping that by now I could have passed on information from an economic study showing who may or may not prosper from having elk out here in Maryland’s panhandle.

If I could have provided that kind of info, then people who choose to attend the Nov. 2 public meeting about the potential reintroduction could have had something upon which to base opinions and statements.

That public meeting will take place at 8 a.m. at 9 N. Centre St. in downtown Cumberland. That is the address of the Allegany Arts Council.

I know. It’s an odd time. Miles said the scheduling of the meeting was the role of the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce and that has been confirmed by the chamber’s executive director, Stu Czapski.

“The Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation requested the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce to facilitate this forum, meaning we wanted them to pick the best time and location in order to maximize attendance,” Miles wrote in an email.

Anyway, that meeting will be your chance to have input.

I know drivers are concerned about hitting an elk with a vehicle. They have told me so. Just show up at the meeting and go on record.

I know others want the elk brought back, hoping that someday there may be a huntable population. Put in your 2 cents worth.

Farmers don’t want elk eating their crops. Say so.

Some folks want to hear elk bugle in the fall. Let ’em know.

There are deer hunters wondering what kind of competition the elk will provide the whitetails.

And now that chronic wasting disease has been confirmed in Allegany County, what role will that play in a reintroduction decision?

At the Nov. 2 meeting, Dave Ragantesi will represent the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. That group, based in Montana, put up $125,000 for the studies dealing with reintroduction.

Miles will represent the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation, the business arm of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. The caucus is made up of state delegates and senators from throughout Maryland.

Paul Peditto, the director of the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service, will represent the DNR. Peditto’s agency has provided the wildlife management expertise that will be a critical part of the decision-making process.

Mark Duda, the president of Responsive Management, will be there as well. RM conducted the statewide telephone survey that found 75 percent of Marylanders favoring a reintroduction.

A written meeting invitation to the Allegany County commissioners included the following by Miles: “As stated from day one, the decision rests solely with the good people of Western Maryland and sound wildlife management science. We are at the point of ascertaining those opinions and findings.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that the state’s wildlife specialists are not all that eager to add elk management to their bucket lists, but money (and elected representatives) talks and male bovine droppings walk. Just saying.

Maybe we’ll get some answers Friday.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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