BURLEY • Officials from three states met with private landowners in Cassia County on Tuesday to address the problems caused by increasing elk herds in Idaho, Utah and Nevada.
Commissioners from several adjoining counties, Idaho Fish and Game officials, farmers and ranchers met at the courthouse.
Organic wheat farmer Cleve Smith said he believes the elk are bringing morning glory seeds onto his property. The weed must be treated chemically, and the land has to sit idle for three years before it can be put back into the organic program, which is strictly regulated.
Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Jerome Hansen said he does not know whether the elk are bringing weed seeds onto farmland.
“There is a lot of emotion and concern here, and it’s all real,” Hansen said.
Jay Tanner, of Grouse Creek, Utah, said 600 elk are in the Grouse Creek valley, and the management plan calls for 150.
“I’m not proposing we eliminate all the elk. I’m not against it, but I’m not proposing it,” Tanner said.
Hansen said Fish and Game is working on a draft elk management plan that will go before the Fish and Game Commission in a few weeks, but the plan does not include limits on elk numbers.
Hansen said it is difficult to get accurate elk counts because they tend to move between the states.
“We need to open up hunts, and we need honest counts,” said Bud Bedke, a rancher in Elko County.
Fish and Game has several programs to help reduce the elk-related problems, including depredation hunts and hunt tags available to landowners.
“We are playing a more active role with landowners,” Hansen said.
In Idaho, he said, landowners can’t sell the tags, but they can sell access to their land to hunters to help offset damage costs caused by the elk.
Jack Williams, commissioner in Elko County, Nev., said part of the solution is bringing officials from all three states together to work on solutions.
“Elk and hunting elk is a big economic issue in Elko. There’s got to be a way to deal with it,” Williams said.
Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke, an Oakley Republican, said the elk problem is getting worse.
When they turned out the cattle to graze this year on his ranch, which extends from Cassia County to Box Elder and Elko counties, they saw up to 500 head of elk, he said.
Not that many elk are harvested by hunters, Bedke said.
Other suggestions included planting candy crops or crops that will entice the elk to move away from unwanted areas and opening cow hunts.
No further meetings were scheduled.