From the Missouri Department of Conservation
-- As part of its efforts to obtain public input regarding potential elk restoration in a limited area of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties, the Missouri Department of Conservation will hold three public meetings.
Meeting s will be Aug. 23, 5 to 8 p.m., Van Buren High School Cafeteria, 202 W. College; Aug. 24, 5 to 8 p.m., Eminence High School Old Gym, 1 Redwing Drive; and Aug. 26, 5 to 8 p.m., Ellington High School MultiPurpose Room, 1 School Street.
"We value public input and are gathering public comments as we work to develop an elk restoration plan for the Conservation Commission," said Bob Ziehmer, MDC director.
The department is also seeking written comments by Oct. 1. They can be sent by e-mail to http://mdc.mo.gov/contact-us/elk-restoration-comments or send mail to Missouri Department of Conservation, Director's Office, PO Box 180, Jefferson City MO 65102-0180.
There are several reasons the Department of Conservation is considering elk restoration including requests to restore the once-native species, the ecological benefits from native-species restoration and economic benefits to Missouri through tourism and hunting.
Elk once ranged throughout Missouri. Over-harvest and habitat destruction eliminated this native species from the state by the late 1800s.
Prompted by requests from Missourians and conservation organizations, the MDC conducted a feasibility study on elk restoration in 2000. The study identified an area in the Ozarks around the Peck Ranch Conservation Area as a potential restoration zone. The zone, covering parts of Carter, Shannon and Reynolds counties, has suitable habitat, high public-land ownership, low road densities and limited agriculture activity.
Due to disease and habitat concerns, the Commission suspended the Department's consideration of an elk restoration in 2001, and directed staff to facilitate additional discussion to determine if concerns regarding elk restoration could be addressed to the satisfaction of citizens.
Renewed interest from citizens and conservation organizations, along with elk restoration success in other states, recently prompted the Commission to revisit the topic. Following a period of public comment ending Oct. 1, MDC staff will present a proposed elk restoration plan to the Commission at its meeting Oct. 15 in Jefferson City.
Ziehmer said key points about the MDC's efforts to restore elk include
. Elk is a native species to Missouri, and restoring native species holds many benefits.
. Elk restoration will be limited to a targeted restoration zone in southeast Missouri.
. Elk restoration will include herd-management guidelines, with hunting as the primary tool to maintain an appropriate population.
. Elk restoration will include health protocols, such as disease testing, to ensure the health of domestic livestock and other wildlife.
. Elk restoration will include plans for dealing with elk that wander where they are not welcome.
. Elk restoration in other states has provided resource and economic benefits.
Additional information on the MDC's proposed elk restoration efforts can be found online at http://www.mdc.mo.gov/newsroom/conservation-commission-seeks-more-information-citizen-comments-elk-restoration.