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MoHuntress

Missouri Farm Bureau wants conservation department to pay for elk damage

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Sunday, April 17, 2011By Dick Aldrich ~ Missouri News HorizonJEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- By the end of the month, Missouri once again will be home to elk, and the Missouri Farm Bureau says the Department of Conservation needs to pick up the tab for any damage they do. Conceding defeat in their battle to stop the department from bringing the animals in to the state, MFB President Blake Hurst told the Conservation Commission Friday that the department should pay for any damages elk do on farm or other residential property. Twenty states now have some form of payment structure for damage done by wildlife to property owners. But most of those programs are paid for using state general revenue funds. Hurst told the commission during a short presentation that the department has enough money to cover any damage recovery program itself. \"To our knowledge, no other state has the conservation resources Missouri has with nearly $100 million generated in annual revenue generated by a perpetual, dedicated sales tax, in addition to millions of dollars in permit fee revenue, federal funding through reimbursements and grants, and private funding through various organizations,\" Hurst said in prepared remarks to the commission. Farm Bureau has battled the department since last summer over its decision to bring elk into the state, re-establishing a species that disappeared from the state about 150 years ago. Farm Bureau claims the department has overlooked opposition from landowners near the area in south central Missouri where the animals will be released by mid May. In remarks made to the commission before Hurst spoke, Aaron Jeffries, assistant to department director Bob Ziehmer, reminded commissioners of support the department has received in and near the elk release area on the remote Peck Ranch Conservation Area that covers 346 square miles of land in Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties. Jeffries said department staff and leadership had met with business groups, farm organizations and local officials throughout the area. He said all the meetings had been positive. \"Information gathered from those meetings has proven to be very beneficial in both identifying and working to mitigate areas of concern,\" Jeffries said. He pointed to local celebrations planned in the towns of Van Buren, Ellington and Eminence to mark the arrival of the elk at the end of April. In fact, Jeffries told the commission, Eminence has declared itself to be the \"Elk Capital of Missouri.\" Hurst warned the commission that experience with elk reintroduction in other states shows that local infatuation soon fades into stories of crop loss and property destruction. He pointed to problems in Minnesota and Wisconsin where damage from elk is causing those states to create programs to pay for it. Chances are looking likely that if the department doesn\'t agree to create a fund to pay for elk damage, the Missouri Legislature may enforce one, if not this session, in sessions to come. Jeffries, who is also the department\'s legislative liaison, said he was working with the sponsors of House Bill 115 and Senate Bill 299, both of which are on calendars to be debated in the coming days. House Bill 115 states that the department would have title and ownership of the elk herd and be responsible for its movement and any damages the animals may cause, leaving the department liable. The Senate bill merely states that the department must compensate individuals who can prove that they have suffered any loss by damage done by elk. The Senate bill also allows landowners to kill any elk that come on to their property. The bills have a long way to go with just four weeks left in the legislative session and are not expected to pass, but they both passed committee votes easily on their way to the floor. Thirty-four elk are expected to arrive in Missouri from their quarantine holding pens in Kentucky where they\'ve been held since their capture in January. They will be held in pens for two weeks once they arrive in Missouri awaiting results of final health tests run on the animals in Kentucky. After the test results come through, they will be released into the wild and will have more than 220,000 acres of rugged terrain to roam. The elk have been ear tagged and fitted with GPS tracking collars to keep track of their movements both for MDC information and for a University of Missouri research project on elk behavior. Eventually, conservation officials would like to release an initial herd of about 150 animals into the re-establishment zone. Hurst told the commission someone is going to have to pay for damage done by elk in Missouri. \"On behalf of Missouri Farm Bureau, I urge you to convene a group which includes department members and farmers to develop guidelines for a compensation program for damage caused by elk in Missouri,\" Hurst said. \"We look forward to working with the department to this end.\" Commissioners thanked Hurst for his presentation, but took no further action. Pertinent address: Peck Ranch Conservation Area, MO

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Granted this is an old release but there is a push in Jeff City to follow through. If the Legislature does indeed pass such a bill and it is signed into law they need to provide the funding for this unfunded mandate IMO. The state legislature needs to keep their fingers off of the MDC\'s purse strings. I would be fine with the MDC opting to compensate farmers IF the elk do get out of hand and start causing problems but they should not be forcefed this from the legislature. I would hope the problem be handled in a much simpler manner via elk steaks and burger. Just my opinion.

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I agree killmode, the farmer who is getting his profits eaten is perfectly able to include them in his freezer.... I hope they make it full of fine elk meat if they get to the goods... Not too familiar with the area down there but not too much AG ground, is there????

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I didn\'t mean landowners could do as they pleased, I meant if problems arise I would hope the MDC would allow harvest in those areas on as needed basis. And no, not much crop land but there are cattle.

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With the generations that have lived and died here since Missouri had a thriving Elk population, it\'s gonna be nearly impossible to convince land owners that the Elk were here first.:thumbdown: I think this feather in the MDC\'s hat will be severly singed of not burned by the ensueing flame.

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