December 9, 2022

As Many As Nine Bills Proposed For Idaho Elk Regulation

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Soon the Idaho legislature will convene and it seems there’s not a lot to talk about in Idaho except elk. This past summer elk escaped from the Chief Joseph ranch near Rexburg in eastern Idaho. (* Scroll for related stories *) That event set off a myriad of confusion and fear which prompted the Governor to order all the escaped elk killed, along with several wild elk that got caught up in the slaughter.

The confusion came because some didn’t know who was in charge, the Fish and Game Department, the Agriculture Department or the Governor. Sometimes I wondered if the Governor of Wyoming was showing more authority in Idaho than Gov. Risch. Fear was the result of rumors and misinformation that the elk had been crossbred with perhaps red deer and that the animals would be carrying disease. Tests showed none of the animals had any disease but some of the wild elk tested, showed large liver flukes. Only one cow elk tested positive for some red deer genes. No one really understands how that could be which adds to the confusion.

Fear, confusion, misinformation and contradiction still seem to be the rule as hunting groups are insisting that the state ban elk farming to protect their hunting interests and future of the elk. Now lawmakers are scrambling around, composing bills for the upcoming session scheduled to begin after the New Year’s break.

Senator Tom Gannon, (R) Buhl, who will be the incoming chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, says he knows of at least eight bills in the works.

Up to eight different proposed bills may be introduced, calling for everything from a total ban on elk farms in Idaho to tightening how they’re regulated to varying degrees, said Sen. Tom Gannon, R-Buhl, incoming chairman of the Senate ag committee.

At least one proposal may come from the elk industry itself, seeking more regulation and inspection, he said.

And Senator Dean Cameron says nine bills await the scrutiny of the legislature when it returns. Cameron met with elk breeders and sportsmen on Thursday to give each side a heads up on what’s expected in hopes the two sides can find some common ground.

Rep. Tom Trail (R) Moscow, says he thinks it would be a good idea for everyone to get the facts straight before making any decisions.

“There have been so many news articles and rumors circulating around exactly what happened in Eastern Idaho that we need to get our facts straight before we act,” Trail said. “Right now, I’m not sure exactly what the situation was.”

Trail suggests a joint committee meeting with the Governor’s office, the Department of Agriculture and the Fish and Game to sort over what’s fact and what’s not. While the idea seems good, I’m not sure that those three offices are going to come up with facts. Already there is too much politicking going on here. The Governor has made no effort to keep secret his desire to see elk farming banned and the Agriculture and Fish and Game departments seem to be warring half the time over who controls elk. Perhaps this committee should reach out a bit more and include some neutral interests and even first conduct an investigation by non-partisan individuals who can come up with the facts.

There are several sides to this issue. This is an issue that is very scientific. Before Congress can make any laws, they need to know the real science behind elk, disease, genetic morphing, dangers and all that it entails. It’s also a rights issue. People in Idaho should have the freedom and rights to conduct free enterprise in a way that is not detrimental to the safety of the people. Has it ever been really determined that elk farming is a public safety issue? And it’s an economic issue. The elk industry claims that their business brings in over $24 million a year to the state. This means a lot of jobs for Idahoans. In the same way, elk hunting is big business and brings not only local businesses a lot of money but licenses and permits creates big revenue for the Fish and Game Department. This in itself can cause quite a conflict.

While I understand the plight of the elk hunter, one has to wonder if the threat of the spread of disease and the accidental cross breeding of different species of deer warrants a complete ban on elk farming. It would seem logical that the experts can determine what changes might be needed in the elk farming industry that would make it virtually “safe”. Better testing and record keeping along with inspections could provide a way for the elk industry to continue to thrive and at the same time would protect the wild herd and the elk hunting and tourism industries.

It is unlikely that this session of Congress is going to place an outright ban on elk farming. Reasonable measures would call for changes to make elk farming better regulated. At worse a stoppage of any new elk farms and perhaps a gradual phase out. It would be prudent to offer changes with heavy monitoring to determine if the changes would work and make adjustments accordingly.

*Previous Posts*

Do As I Say And Not As I Do
Wyoming “Brucellosis-Free”
Rex Rammell Arrested, Again….Cow Elk Tests Positive For Red Deer Genes
Fanning The Flames
Idaho’s Escaped Elk Test Negative – Elk Ranchers Face Banning Advocates
Idaho Governor Calls Off Elk Depredation Hunt…..Sort Of
In Response To Malnourished Elk
Rex Rammell’s Letter To The Editor
Has Government Gone Too Far? More Escaped Elk Shot
What Do Malnurished Elk Look Like?
Idaho Elk Breeders Association Opens New Website
Bull Elk Shot Inside Rex Rammell’s Ranch
Wyoming Governor Asks Idaho Governor To Ban Game Farms
Escaped Idaho Elk Shot In Wyoming
Rex Rammell Arrested
Governor Jim Risch Defends His Decision To Shoot Escaped Elk
Idaho Gubernatorial Candidates Have A Say About Elk Farming
Rammell For Governor, Ranch Sold, Elk Still Being Hunted
Wyoming Governor Freudenthal Says Interior Department Not Doing Enough About Escaped Elk
Idaho’s Escaped Elk Now Getting National Attention
Idaho Elk Farmer Says All His Elk Accounted For
Idaho Governor Expands Hunt For Escaped Elk
More Elk Killed In Idaho – Some By Hunters
Idaho Elk Farmer Plans To Sue The State
Scientists Will Test Killed Idaho Elk For Disease And Genetic Make-up
A Helicopter, A Plane And 25 Agents Can’t Find 160 Domestic Elk
Escaped Idaho Elk Being Slaughtered. Wyoming Ordered To Kill Elk Also
Domestic Elk Crash The Gate – Escape!

Tom Remington