Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Agriculture Agency Denies Management Plan for Elk Farm

From blurt Seven Days staff blog:

Agriculture Agency Denies Management Plan for Elk Farm

250-LM-moose21 The Vermont Agency of Agriculture has rejected plans to manage wildlife on a 700-acre Irasburg game preserve owned by Doug Nelson, whose herd of elk became famous this year when it was joined by a moose — Pete the Moose.
The agency said Nelson's 20-page proposal offered few details about how he planned to ensure that his captive animials would not mix with the native species. The proposal also failed to show how Nelson planned to accurately catalogue all of the animals currently penned inside his 700-acre Irasburg preserve, and it provided the agency with no plans for how it would manage the herds going forward.
In a separate letter to Nelson the agency did approve elements of his fencing plan, which includes adding a second perimeter fence around his game preserve as a way to keep native species out and nonnative species in. However, the agency asked him to add one electrified wire at 54 inches from the ground. Nelson has proposed only going as high as 42 inches.
The rejection is the latest in a nearly one-year saga that started when a national public relations campaign was launched to "Save Pete the Moose" from being killed by state officials. Nelson has been flaunting state authority for years, and the state was trying to force Nelson to find better ways to keep wild and captive species from mixing. Their fear? Chronic wasting disease, a brain disease that affects cervids in a similar way to how "mad cow disease" affects bovines.
Part of that plan included a culling effort to thin out the herds through controlled hunts.
The public outcry eventually led to a last-minute, secretive legislative deal that ensured that Nelson could ensnare, and eventually kill, all wild animals found on his property. Nelson also owns a private stock of breeding elk in Derby.
In short, Pete may have been "saved", but Nelson also got to keep all of Pete's friends to hunt at a later date. That outraged many hunters and wildlife advocates who believe the move violated the stae's public trust doctrine. How? By handing over a public asset— the wildlife — to a private individual to later for profit.
Part of the last-minute legislative deal included a caveat that the Agency of Agriculture — not the Department of Fish and Wildlife — would regulate Nelson's herd. For years, Nelson had rebuffed efforts by DFW to regulate his herd of elk. In part, because DFW wanted Nelson to have a better culling plan to thin out his herd, and to ensure that wild deer were not mingling with some of his own captive deer.
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