Friday, April 27, 2007

Anti-elk ranching editorial resorts to scare mongering

Misinformation and scare tactics concerning the Idaho domestic elk industry continue with the latest editorial of this newspaper. Using such tactics in an attempt to eliminate a legitimate, legal and highly regulated business is a serious matter. Newspapers have a responsibility to the public to research both sides of an issue before shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater.

Idaho law firmly establishes domestic elk as private property. Although the editorial makes light of private property rights, they are as validated and protected in the U.S. Constitution as the First Amendment and a vital element of Americans' individual freedoms.

Elk ranchers are entrepreneurs, whether providing elk meat to individuals and restaurants, a specialized type of hunt, or other elk byproducts. Elk meat is a unique Idaho signature dish offered by upscale restaurants and meat markets—including those in Sun Valley. Velvet antler natural remedies have been used for centuries in Eastern medicine for arthritis and other aliments. Elk antler sheds present unique opportunities for artistic design.

Elk ranchers have huge investments in their animals and businesses. It is in their best interest to keep their elk healthy and genetically pure. Let's look at the facts about domestic elk and the industry:

 All are regularly inspected and tested for disease.

 None have ever tested positive for brucellosis, TB or Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

 Development of live animal testing for CWD is funded by the domestic elk industry.

 Imported elk must come from herds certified as disease monitored.

 All are pure elk originated from the Yellowstone elk herds.

 Inferior genetics through inbreeding are not allowed.

 Hunting ranches do not "corral" animals but contain hundreds to thousands of acres of private property with various types of terrain.

 Many ranches cater to physically handicapped hunters.

 Elk ranches must follow both livestock and elk statutes and regulations.

CWD, brucellosis and TB are documented in our surrounding states' wild elk herds. It is proven that some of those herds migrate to Idaho. Out-of-state carcasses brought home by Idaho hunters have contained CWD, according to voluntary tests. These circumstances create the real risk of disease transmission to Idaho wild elk.

Brucellosis has been found in Idaho wild elk herds. Hunters would be well served if the Idaho Department of Fish and Game would test each Idaho wild elk at hunter check stations to establish herd health status. Stopping transport of disease-carrying parts of out-of-state carcasses is a needed measure.

Attempting to whip up public support using fear mongering and bad information is inappropriate. Equally faulty is blaming legislators for lacking courage and wisdom.

The majority of legislators learned the facts and declined to pass punitive measures on an already heavily regulated and innocent industry. Protecting Idaho's wild elk from out-of-state disease transmission is the correct solution.

Idaho Department of Agriculture's Cervidae (Elk) Rules and Regulations:

Idaho Department of Agriculture-Domestic Livestock Rules and Regulations:

Idaho Elk Breeder's Web site:

Kristy Sternes is the owner of Black Canyon Elk Ranch in Emmett and president of the Idaho Elk Breeders Association.

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