Dorgan puts foot down on elk planIf the National Park Service doesn’t use what Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., considers “common sense” in determining its elk management plan for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, he will introduce legislation to force them to.
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
If the National Park Service doesn’t use what Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., considers “common sense” in determining its elk management plan for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, he will introduce legislation to force them to.
Dorgan drafted legislation to require the National Park Service to use volunteer hunters to manage the elk herd at TRNP.
“I think we’re getting near a point where the Park Service will make their decisions and I’m hoping that they will be decisions with a strong dose of common sense,” Dorgan said. “There’s no reason for them not to do this the right way and that is to qualify North Dakota hunters as agents of the Park Service to come in and thin that herd under Park Service supervision and take the meat home.”
The final version of the NPS’s Elk Management Plan/Environment Impact Statement, which was released for public comment from Dec. 17 to March 19 should be complete by the end of the month, TRNP Superintendent Valerie Naylor said.
The draft version did not include volunteer hunters.
“Hunting in the park we can’t consider, because it is not legal,” Naylor said. “But beyond that, for initial reduction of the elk herd that would be a very costly and inefficient way to go about it.”
Naylor said a lot of the disagreements come down to semantics, but hunting is generally defined as a recreational activity in pursuit of game where the individual gets to keep the meat.
The park is considering six alternatives for managing the herd. They include: No action; herd reduction through the use of sharpshooters; herd reduction through roundup and euthanization; testing a representative sample for chronic wasting disease, and shipping live elk to other entities; encouraging hunting opportunities outside park boundaries; and fertility control operations.
The park received more than 350 comments from the public giving input on how they would like to see the park proceed.
“We are working on a preferred alternative that should be released by the end of the month that will be one that we feel will be most efficient, cost effective and address a good lot of the comments that we’ve received,” Naylor said. “I think the process is really important.”
Dorgan has been a strong advocate of using hunters throughout the planning process, which began over five years ago. He added $266,000 the NPS spent on consulting fees didn’t need to be spent.
Volunteer hunters have been the solution since the beginning, in Dorgan’s mind.
“The fact is they could have gone to any cafe in North Dakota and sat with three guys over coffee and come up with that conclusion,” Dorgan said. “You save the taxpayers’ money, you do the job. We didn’t have to have lots of meetings and spend lots of money on consultants.
“A lot of things are difficult and hard to understand. This is not rocket science.”
Hunting has been used by Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming to manage its elk herd, but those were allowed for in the park’s enabling legislation.
Dorgan said if the park service forces his hand he believes he can get the legislation passed.
“If I need to pass legislation I think I’ll get it done,” Dorgan said. “But hopefully I won’t need to. Hopefully they’ll do the right thing.”