Meeting on moving Sequim elk herd south has no leader
by DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ
Peninsula Daily News
SEQUIM -- A public presentation of the proposal to relocate the Dungeness herd of Roosevelt elk south to Grays Harbor County is set for Aug. 29.
The herd's co-managers, the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe and the state Fish and Wildlife Department, are officially the hosts of the meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Carrie Blake Park's Guy Cole Convention Center, 202 N. Blake Ave.
But, with the event a week away, neither group has found a facilitator to manage the meeting.
The Dungeness Elk Working Team, comprised of local, state and tribal officials and community members, has had many long discussions since February, when the Jamestown tribe announced its ``preferred alternative'' of moving the herd away.
Richard Stone, a state Fish and Wildlife Department biologist, moderated some of those meetings.
But he just retired -- and didn't budge when other elk team members almost pleaded with him to run just one more.
Shelly Ament, a Fish and Wildlife biologist who lives in Sequim and is perhaps one of the best-acquainted with the herd, doesn't want to be the one to lead the forthcoming presentation.
And when members of the elk working team met last Thursday, no one else stepped up.
The team had also talked about holding another public meeting today at the Gardiner Community Center, since the relocation proposal includes moving elk to the nearby Snow Creek area
But that meeting has been postponed to a date yet to be announced.
Ament and the elk team also asked Wayne Marion of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which has funded projects benefiting elk on the Olympic Peninsula for many years, to run the Sequim meeting.
He declined, and said he disagrees with the whole idea of relocating the herd.
Elk swap specifics
The proposed move involves an elk swap:
* Dungeness animals would be transported, in early 2008, to the Wynoochee River Valley in north-central Grays Harbor County.
* Elk from that area would be brought up to Snow Creek in southeast Clallam County-northeast Jefferson County.
Elk working team members hope none would migrate back to their home ranges.
The elk are a threat to public safety, elk team member and Sequim City Councilwoman Patricia Kasovia-Schmitt has said.
They wreak too much damage on the farms north of Sequim, added Jeremy Sage, the wildlife biologist representing the Jamestown tribe.
Marion said his experience with elk tells him they're not a threat to people -- and that the relocation process threatens the animals.
The stress on the elk -- trapping followed by the four-hour trip in trailers to the Wynoochee Valley, and the hunters awaiting them at their destination -- make the proposed move the wrong thing for the herd's well-being, Marion said.
``I'm pretty angry with the decision,'' to transport Sequim's iconic animals out, he said.