Officials want clarification on elk planBISMARCK (AP) — Top state officials want the National Park Service to clarify a proposal to reduce the bloated elk herd in southwestern North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, including whether volunteer shooters would be able to keep the meat.
BISMARCK (AP) — Top state officials want the National Park Service to clarify a proposal to reduce the bloated elk herd in southwestern North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, including whether volunteer shooters would be able to keep the meat.
Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand said he and Gov. John Hoeven plan to meet with park officials on Monday to try to resolve the issues, so the state officials can decide whether to formally support the plan.
“This is certainly a step in the right direction; much, much better than what they had earlier,” Steinwand said Wednesday.
“But we still have some questions.”
The Park Service’s proposal released on Aug. 10 calls for teams of shooters including volunteers — a method similar to one pushed by Hoeven, Steinwand and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.
Dorgan has praised the plan as a victory for common sense in a state with a rich hunting heritage, but Hoeven and Steinwand say they are not yet convinced the plan is acceptable. One of the issues is whether volunteers could keep the meat — something the state advocates.
The Park Service’s proposal says the meat would be donated to state agencies, American Indian tribes or charities. Acting National Park Service Director Dan Wenk said in an Aug. 10 letter to Dorgan that “If the state then wanted to give some of the meat to the volunteers that helped in the removal effort, that would be their decision.”
Bill Whitworth, Theodore Roosevelt’s chief of resource management, on Wednesday said that the park would have to follow federal regulations for donating surplus property when disposing of the elk meat, but that once state officials had the meat in hand “then it’s up to them” what to do with it.
Steinwand said he and Hoeven want further clarification on what state agencies would handle the meat, and on other details such as what qualifications volunteers would need to have to be part of the shooting teams. The Park Service proposal says volunteers “would need to meet a number of requirements including a demonstrated level of firearm proficiency.”
“We want to know what that system would look like,” Steinwand said. “Would it be so restrictive that few people could qualify, or would even want to participate?”
The Park Service balked at the idea of having volunteer hunters because hunting is not allowed inside the park. Whitman has stressed that should shooting be the chosen method for thinning the elk herd, it would not involve traditional hunting, in which hunters take to the field alone or in small groups in pursuit of game, but rather teams of shooters that would more systematically kill the animals. A similar method is being used in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.
A plan pushed by North Dakota officials would have involved hunting inside the park in a more traditional way, “more of a one on one, man vs. animal,” Steinwand said.
At one point, state wildlife officials refused to participate in the new management plan process for the park because of the dispute. Dorgan also pushed legislation that called for forcing the Park Service to use volunteer shooters. It could be scrapped if the Park Service proposal becomes final.
The public has until Sept. 9 to comment on the proposal, after which the Park Service will make a final decision.