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Tennessee Elk Restoration
courtesy of: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

 The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Tennessee Conservation League (TCL) and the Campbell Outdoor Recreation Association (CORA) are confirming an elk reintroduction, scheduled for December 19th, into the Upper Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee.

 In early 1999, the TCL began assessing public support for the reintroduction of wild elk into the Upper Cumberland Plateau.  This assessment was spearheaded by League affiliate, CORA.  The League and CORA utilized a series of informational meetings, held in the area, to assess local support for the concept of releasing elk into the Upper Cumberland Plateau in December of 2000.

 In October, at the request of CORA, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission approved a proposal to release between 40 and 50 elk in an area approximately 670,000 acres in Campbell, Scott, Morgan, Claiborne and Anderson

 The TWRA plans to release an additional 50 to 100 elk per year during the next four years. "We are thrilled that diverse groups, ranging from conservation organizations and individual wildlife enthusiasts to the general public, local governments, and private local interests stepped forward to offer their support for this project," said Earl Bentz, chairman of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission. 

 "In addition to having suitable habitat components available, broad local support was one of the key criteria we looked at while evaluating this project."
 The TWRA has developed a detailed reintroduction plan that will provide for the needs of the elk, as well as protect the interests of citizens in the area.  Items addressed in the plan include the prevention of potential agricultural conflicts, the establishment of elk and no elk areas, and making sure the elk remain free of disease. 

 The source of the elk to be used in the reintroduction * Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada * has one of the longest histories of elk disease monitoring in North America, and every animal is designated "disease free" before it leaves the park.

 "We have coordinated with the state veterinarian's office to develop a disease testing and monitoring protocol," said Larry Marcum, chief of Wildlife for the TWRA. "These testing procedures will be some of the most stringent in the nation to help ensure that the elk brought to Tennessee are disease free when they are released in the state.

 In support of the project, the Elk Foundation has kicked off an initiative to provide funds for the reintroduction and future needs of Tennessee's new elk herd. "Elk Foundation volunteers have been working diligently in Tennessee for a number of years, helping support wildlife habitat conservation activities throughout North America," said Ron White, RMEF Director of Southeastern Field Operations. "Now we get to embark on a $200,000 fund raising effort for 2001 that will benefit every wildlife enthusiast right here in Tennessee."

 The release area, which includes the Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area, Frozen Head State Park and the Cumberland Gap National Park will also benefit from the elk reintroduction through increased tourism and conservation education opportunities.

 "We are excited about being part of such a historic event and having people coming to see our beautiful part of the state," said Judge Lee Asbury, CORA President. Elk, once native to the state, have been missing from the Tennessee landscape for more than a century. Historical records indicate that the last wild Tennessee elk was killed in Obion County in 1865. 

 Other areas east of the Mississippi River that are currently home to elk populations include: Wisconsin (approximately 60), Michigan
(approximately 1,100-1,200), Pennsylvania (approximately 650), Kentucky (approximately 900), Arkansas (approximately 450) and Ontario (approximately 300).

           "Bringing back elk to Tennessee, and the chance for our children and grandchildren to hear elk bugle will be remembered as one of the greatest conservation achievements of the new century", said Greer Tidwell, Jr., President of the Tennessee Conservation League.

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