Residents share input on Elk planMEDORA — Discussion of a Theodore Roosevelt National Park issue came home Saturday when the National Park Service held the last of six public meetings on its draft Elk Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement at the Medora Community Center.
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
MEDORA — Discussion of a Theodore Roosevelt National Park issue came home Saturday when the National Park Service held the last of six public meetings on its draft Elk Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement at the Medora Community Center.
And one biologist says suggestions for the future of the herd include a range of ideas.
Since reintroducing 47 elk to the park in 1985 the population has grown to an estimated 875. The park’s target population is 100 to 400.
There is concern that a large elk population could have a negative affect on park vegetation, which other animals need, along with impacting agriculture outside the park. The park is unable to manage the population in the same way it used to, which was through roundup and relocation.
Therefore a management plan became necessary and the NPS has been working on one since 2003.
The meeting’s goal was to find out which of six alternatives the public believes will best serve the goal of managing the elk population.
Various cross-sections of the population were represented at the meetings, TRNP wildlife biologist Mike Oehler said.
“It is all over the board. I’ve talked with landowners who have been concerned about anything that would have more elk outside the park and then sportsmen that want as many elk as possible outside the park for more opportunities,” he said. “It runs the gamut.”
TRNP Superintendent Valerie Naylor said the six meetings in six days were beneficial.
“It’s been a great opportunity to reach people all over the state of North Dakota,” she said. “We’ve had good turnouts, good questions, good audiences everywhere we’ve been.”
The meetings were held as a part of the plan’s public comment period, which runs from when the plan was released on Dec. 17, until March 19.
Meetings began in Dickinson on Monday and were then held in Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot and Mandan before ending in Medora.
Naylor said that as they went through the week they noticed there were a few things people wanted to see from the meetings and adjusted accordingly.
Questions from the public included biological questions about elk, why hunting isn’t an option, questions about chronic wasting disease, as well as others.
“We really want people to understand the complexity of this,” Naylor said. “This is not a simple situation for us and there are many possible solutions and we want people to know what those alternatives are.”
Oehler said the nice thing about the meetings is hearing from the people.
“Typically at meetings you get people that do care, that care about all those different alternatives along the continuum, you don’t get the middle ground that’s apathetic,” he said.
The park service will accept comments until the March 19 deadline, after which the comments will be reviewed and considered.
Once a preferred alternative is selected there will be a public comment period and the NPS hopes to have a plan ready in December.
“I’ve been very pleased with the meetings. I’m very glad that we’ve done six different cities,” Naylor said. “We would like to go to a lot more places, but we can only do so many and I feel we did reach a good cross-section of North Dakota.”
To submit a comment visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/thro, or e-mail email@example.com or mail Superintendent, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, P.O. Box 7, Medora, N.D. 58645.