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Minnesota’s elk plan still in limbo

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- A controversial proposal to increase the number of elk in northwest Minnesota remains up in the air, with opponents fighting it in the state legislature.

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Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR

BEMIDJI, Minn. - A controversial proposal to increase the number of elk in northwest Minnesota remains up in the air, with opponents fighting it in the state legislature.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which manages wildlife in the state, had been expected to release its final operational plan for 2016 to 2020 elk management this spring, possibly by the middle of March.
DNR is still in the process of finishing the plan, however, says John Williams, DNR Northwest Region wildlife manager and project manager.
The operational plan is supposed to fine-tune an already released draft plan that calls for expanding elk in the state from about 130 to about 200.
Supporters say doing so would increase tourism in northwest Minnesota. They note that elk are native to the state and were widespread in Minnesota before European colonization.
Critics, particularly northwest Minnesota ranchers and the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, say elk already damage hay, fields and fences, and more elk would be even more destructive.
The Cattlemen’s Association is pushing the Minnesota State Legislature, which is in session, to amend the DNR plan. Legislation to do so has been introduced in both houses, but the effort “is in limbo,” says Ashley Kohls, executive director of the Cattlemen’s Association.
The House version, HF3022, made it through committee and is on the House general register. The Senate version, SF 2951, is tied up in committee, Kohl says.
At this point, legislative committees generally have stopped meeting, complicating efforts to win Senate approval, legislative observers say.
More information about elk and elk management in Minnesota: dnr.state.mn.us/elk/index.html.

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