Maryland Looks at Restoring Elk
The Old Line State may once again hear the bugle of wild, free-ranging elk, if a new study deems that wapiti can thrive and live alongside residents and farmers in the western part of the state.
Eastern elk once roamed throughout Maryland, but herds were extirpated by 1850. Recently the RMEF joined forces with the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation (MLSF) and Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help conduct a biological, social and economic feasibility study to determine the viability of reintroducing elk there.
“This study has been a long time coming,” says RMEF Maryland state chair Steve Bird. “Just the fact that we’ve come this far says a lot about the dedication, perseverance and professionalism of our volunteers and the credibility of RMEF.”
DNR will oversee the project and assess potential elk habitat in western Maryland. A $125,000 RMEF grant will help fund this habitat assessment, along with an economic impact analysis and a survey of public opinion on whether elk should be reintroduced to the state. MLSF, acting on behalf of DNR, will coordinate the survey, which will include outreach to farmers and other stakeholders who may be impacted by a return of the species.
The study will require a minimum of 12 months to complete, and will be fully evaluated by DNR before they make a decision.
“As with all of our ecological programs, science and informed public input will be our guide,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin in a joint press release. “Consensus from our experts and all impacted stakeholders will be a prerequisite to this decision.”
The RMEF and its eastern volunteers have been key players in restoring elk populations in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and, most recently, Missouri.
“If all the pieces fall into place in Maryland, we’ll be thrilled to support the state in another historic elk restoration effort in the eastern U.S.,” says RMEF president and CEO David Allen.