A new Elk Management Plan was approved by Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Rodney Stokes at the April 5 meeting of the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) in Lansing. The plan was developed to provide guidance for managing elk by focusing on three goals:
- Manage for an elk population that can be sustained by available habitat;
- Use hunting as the primary method to control the number of elk; their distribution so that difficulties involving elk interactions with people are abated; and the proportion of males to females in the population; and
- Enhance the public’s understanding of elk management in Michigan.
The planning process began in January 2010 when the DNR Wildlife Division and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension hosted two meetings to gather input on attendees’ issues concerning elk.
Five federally recognized tribes involved in the 2007 Consent Decree were included to provide their perspective, concerns and values in the planning process. An Elk Management Advisory Team (EMAT) was also developed, composed of private landowners within the elk range as well as members from 10 different groups representing conservation, agricultural, hunting, forest management and public safety interests. The EMAT was charged with providing recommendations for the future management of elk.
“The folks who attended the initial meetings and the involvement of the EMAT were both crucial in helping us to understand the concerns people had,” said Jordan Burroughs of Michigan State University. “Public engagement was a critical step in the development of this plan.”
The DNR Elk Work Group then considered the best available science regarding elk ecology and management – along with insights offered by approaches to elk management around the country – in providing recommendations for shaping the management plan. The Elk Work Group includes representatives from the DNR’s Wildlife, Law Enforcement and Forest Resources divisions and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU.
Once the initial input was gathered, a plan was drafted and released for public review and comment. In October 2011, the DNR hosted an open house in Gaylord, giving the public the opportunity to view the plan and give comment. The final draft was presented publicly March 8, 2012, at the NRC Policy Committee on Wildlife and Fisheries, and then approved by Director Stokes at the April NRC meeting.
“I appreciate all of the hard work by DNR staff, our valued partners, and especially members of the public who committed to making sure this plan sets a scientifically based and appropriate direction for elk management in Michigan,” said Director Stokes.
The approved Elk Management Plan is available on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/elk.