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DNR study on reintroduction of elk is needed

Reintroducing elk to West Virginia is certainly an interesting idea -- especially in terms of its economic potential.

The possibility came up this spring when the state Natural Resources Commission requested the Division of Natural Resources pursue a feasibility study on the subject. Officials from the Montana-based Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation said they might fund the study, as they recently did in Kentucky.

As detailed in a Sunday Exponent-Telegram story, elk have been absent from the state for about 125 years, the victims of over-hunting.

Several Eastern states, such as Pennsylvania and New York, have already reintroduced elk. But we encourage the DNR to complete the kind of study an official said was needed before joining the herd.

Paul Johansen, DNR assistant chief in charge of game management, said a good study should take between one and two years and would be done by university biologists. He said the questions that need to be addressed include: Biological factors, such as habitat availability and disease; social issues, such as public opinion and farmers' concerns about crop damage, and management issues, such as how increased manpower demands would balance with future hunting revenue.

We agree that such a study is an absolute necessity.

The reintroduction of elk could be a boon to the state's already significant tourism/recreation economy if it is done right. We urge the DNR to take the time to make sure it is.

Today's editorial is a reflection of the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey, Nora Edinger and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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