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Morning Sun
  • DABLEMONT: Clearing the timber for elk

  • The state of Arkansas has had elk for thirty years, along the upper portions of the Buffalo River, where there are huge tracts of National Forestland mixed with private lands.  Landowners say the elk damage their lands by eating so much grass and crops.

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  • The state of Arkansas has had elk for thirty years, along the upper portions of the Buffalo River, where there are huge tracts of National Forestland mixed with private lands.  Landowners say the elk damage their lands by eating so much grass and crops.  They were stocked in Newton County in 1992, and today there aren’t many more than they once stocked.  The herd grew to 150 or so, and the big dreams of having elk hunting in Arkansas seems a little silly now.  The herd all across northwest Arkansas is thought to be between 400 and 500 animals, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission allows 50 of them to be hunted each year. It is sort of a situation where in past years they send someone out with the permit-holder and tell him where the elk is they want him to shoot.  It hasn’t brought them the kind of money they hoped for.
    The Missouri Department of Conservation didn’t pay any attention to that when they decided to buy multi-thousand dollar elk from Kentucky and create a herd that would have been voted down by the residents of the counties who now have them, if they had been given a choice.  
    I think the MDC had ulterior motives.  They quickly began to talk about creating elk habitat on those lands they manage in southeast Missouri.  That means they can clear thousands of acres of forestland in time, and collect huge payments from the private logging companies who will get the contracts.  For twenty years now, the state conservation agency has been selling off the timber in public owned wildlife management areas we all own.  But no one gets a say in the cutting but the forestry division of the MDC.  
    Billions of board feet of lumber have been sold to those private logging companies, and some forested public lands have been slashed to an ugly scar.  The elk makes it possible to justify the selling of billions of more feet, converting Ozark forests to grassland to support the elk.  Wildlife like flying squirrels, owls, woodpeckers, and dozens of other species will not live on that converted land.
    Not surprisingly, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the National Forest Service have learned from the MDC, and now they are planning the same thing, going into that beautiful forestland along the Buffalo and clear cutting it to make huge tracts of grassland for the small herd of elk.  
    A Forest Service spokesman said basically that what local folks, and conservationists think of the idea is of no consequence, they intend to do it anyway.  So bulldozers and chain saws, and large timber sales are coming to the Buffalo watershed.  If you are fairly wealthy and can afford an elk tag, you might get to reap the benefits someday in one of the two states by shooting yourself an elk.  
    Page 2 of 2 - And flying squirrels, owls and pileated woodpeckers, the result of standing mature forests, cannot make the Conservation agencies in either state, any money.
    When elk lived in the Ozarks of Missouri and Arkansas more than 200 years ago, they migrated over large areas, from Kansas and Oklahoma as well.  There were no giant green fields of grass, the Ozarks had small prairies here and there, and forests.  
    The small herds of elk traveled over a wide region, and were more a forest animal than anything else, as were the buffalo found here.  And yes, it is the idea that big money can be made from elk that made them so attractive to our conservation agencies, but mostly it is the sale of millions of board feet of lumber which can be justified by their presence.
    Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, MO. 65613 or e-mail me at lightninridge@windstream.net.  My website is www.larrydablemontoutdoors@blogspot.com
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