REGIONAL— Public support for the restoration of wild elk populations in portions of St. Louis, Carlton and Pine counties appears to be high according to survey data generated by two University of …
REGIONAL— Public support for the restoration of wild elk populations in portions of St. Louis, Carlton and Pine counties appears to be high according to survey data generated by two University of Minnesota researchers.
The surveys were part of a broader look at the potential for restoring wild elk to three separate study areas, including a portion of southeastern and east-central St. Louis County. That study area extends from Makinen to Cotton, and east to Brimson, encompassing much of the Cloquet Valley State Forest and a small portion of the Superior National Forest. The restoration effort is a partnership project between University of Minnesota, the Fond du Lac band, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The Minnesota DNR and county land departments have also been providing assistance. Funding for the project comes primarily from the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources.
According to the survey results, overall public support for the elk restoration is extremely high across the study areas surveyed, ranging from 81 percent in Pine County to 75 percent on the Fond du Lac Reservation. The researchers sent out 4,500 surveys and received a nearly 60-percent overall response rate, including a 67.5-percent response rate from landowners within the study areas.
Public support is just one aspect of overall study of the restoration proposal. “The second part of our feasibility effort is measuring habitat suitability in our three different study areas,” said Mike Schrage, a biologist with the Fond du Lac band. That work got underway in 2017, with a University field crew assessing potential elk forage in the study areas. The group is now focused on mapping of suitable habitat and attempting to determinate if survey respondents living in potential future elk range are among those supporting the effort.
The group will issue a final report on its findings to the LCCMR in June.