5/18/2010                                               The Big Bend Sentinel - Landowner lock…Todays Date: May 18, 2010  ...
5/18/2010 in of school board members  The swearing                                    The Big Bend Sentinel - Landowner lo...
5/18/2010                               The Big Bend Sentinel - Landowner lock…                                           ...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

Christopher Gill to Editor of Big Bend Sentinel on Elk Removals


Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Christopher Gill to Editor of Big Bend Sentinel on Elk Removals

  1. 1. 5/18/2010 The Big Bend Sentinel - Landowner lock…Todays Date: May 18, 2010 ABOUT US - CONTACT US - SUBSCRIBE - ADVERTISE - CONTRIBUTE Landowner locks horns with Parks and Wildlife over elk shootings By STERRY BUTCHER It’s Beebe, Baeza, Brijalba at the city; FRONT PAGE CULBERSON COUNTY – A Van Horn-area rancher is challenging Lujan stays on school board Texas Parks and Wildlife’s practice of shooting elk in the Sierra FEATURES Diablo Wildlife Management Area. MARFA – Voters on Saturday put two EVENTS incumbents and a political newcomer into Christopher Gill and his family own the 32,000-acre Circle Ranch ARTS not far from Van Horn. The ranch neighbors the Sierra Diablo City Hall and reelected the current school board president to her seat at Marfa ISD. LETTERS WMA, an 11,000-acre tract that was set aside, in 1945, as habitat for desert bighorn sheep. This winter, said Gill, he was troubled to Four candidates ran for three spots on the COLUMNISTS learn that over the course of several years, Parks and Wildlife city council. Incumbent David Beebe led personnel had shot 25 elk on the state property. CARTOONS the pack with 295 votes, followed by fellow council member Manny Baeza, with PHOTOS “These are good guys at Parks and Wildlife whose efforts on our 260, and former city of Marfa employee behalf we need,” Gill said. “But we’ve got to get them on the right BLOG Corina Brijalba, who polled 209 votes. path. People love elk; they don’t want their removal.” VIDEOS The 148 votes cast for candidate Abe Elk indeed have been shot, acknowledged Parks and Wildlife ARCHIVES Executive Director Carter Smith, and there is a purpose for it. Gonzales, a former Presidio County sheriff, put him out of the running, since CLASSIFIEDS the top three vote getters will take office. “Bighorn conservation is the reason we’re in the Sierra Diablo,” he HEALTHCARE maintained. “Our team has a management goal of working to Voters also re-approved a quarter-cent city EDUCATION manage elk in lowest numbers practicable, due to concerns over sales tax that goes to street maintenance. competition with bighorn sheep.” The issue has to go before voters every SPORTS four years. Reintroduction efforts since 1945 have yielded a present, OBITUARIES successful population of about 1,500 bighorn in Texas, both free At the school district, incumbent Yvonne MARFA LINKS range and in the Sierra Diablo, Elephant Mountain and Black Gap Lujan will continue as the Place 5 RMAs. No concrete census number exists for elk in the same NEWS region, though populations have been reported in the Sierra Diablo, representative. She earned 211 votes, outpolling challengers Fred Martinez, with Film Festival the Chinati and the Glass mountain ranges. 145 votes, and Raul Lara, who was chosen Noticias Español Elk are among North America’s largest mammals. Five feet tall at by 106 voters. SENIOR the shoulder and weighing close to 1,000 pounds, elk are prized School board trustees Elvia Agan and SPOTLIGHT game animals in places like Colorado and Oregon. Not so in Texas, Robert Halpern were not opposed and will where the Legislature in 1997 declared them a non-game animal. return to office. Most of them are captive-bred and released onto private property. If you’re strolling on your land and come upon an elk, it’s legal to The council members will be sworn into shoot it, so long as you have a valid state hunting permit. office individually between May 15 and May 31, according to Mayor Dan Dunlap. “They’re treated by Parks and Wildlife as an exotic species – there’s no management of them, no elk license, bag limit or “That way they can bring in their family season,” said Michael Gookins, the Texas director for the Rocky members and do it at their convenience,” Mountain Elk Foundation, which has provided funding for Sul he explained. “It’s the way I’ve done it in Ross State University elk studies in the Glass Mountains. “If it the past.” were a game animal, Parks and Wildlife would have to take up that task and do counts, issue permits and all that.” The swearing in of school board membersbigbendsentinel.com/index.php?option… 1/3
  2. 2. 5/18/2010 in of school board members The swearing The Big Bend Sentinel - Landowner lock… will take place at a board meeting later this month. Johnson re-elected Alpine mayor; Davidson takes council seat ALPINE - Jerry Johnson won re-election as Alpine’s mayor Saturday by nearly a two-to-one margin over his challenger, (photo courtesy Christopher Gill) Clarence Russeau. Elk on the Circle Ranch in Culberson County. Johnson won 254 votes, or 60 percent, to Texas Parks and Wildlife’s management plan for the Sierra Diablo Russo’s 168. states concerns about elk: they can forage for the same food as bighorn and rely on the same, scanty water sources. They’re really In the three-way race for the Ward 2 city good at surviving in Far West Texas. council seat, Mike Davidson won 42 votes, or nearly 50 percent; Stephanie McGraw “Both aoudad and elk and their high level of adaptability pose a received 27 votes; Susan Curry 17. threat to native species and native ecosystems,” reads the management plan. “All exotics on the WMA will be lethally Julian Gonzalez, who did not face removed when encountered.” opposition, was elected to his post as Ward 4 council member. Gill and Smith traded extensive letters on elk this winter and spring and Smith, along with other Parks and Wildlife officials, traveled to Ferguson, Carrerra, Ramirez win city the Circle Ranch to meet with Gill personally. After these council seats discussions, and to be sensitive to Gill’s objections, Parks and Wildlife amended the management plan very slightly to read “exotic By TOM HAI ES ungulate populations will be controlled at the lowest numbers PRESIDIO - Challenger Rafa Carrerra and possible.” The part about elk being “lethally removed when incumbents John Ferguson and Jaime encountered” is still in the plan. Ramirez won the three contested city council seats in Saturday’s election. “This is a conflict that’s limited to one disagreement with one landowner and one mountain range,” said Smith. “It’d be Alcee Tavarez and Eliza Mills placed fourth practically impossible to now eliminate elk from the WMA – the and fifth in the voting. terrain is too rough and too rugged. Our revised goal in respect to elk reflects that. It also reflects the 70 years of conservation Ferguson won 231 votes, or 30 percent; history we have with many partners to bring back the bighorn. Carrerra won 157, or 20 percent; Ramirez We’re loathe to see that compromised because of a single 134, or 18 percent. Tavarez, who garnered landowner’s interest in introducing elk to the mountain range.” 133 votes, missed tying Ramirez for the third council seat by one vote. Mills Elk are shot only when they are encountered incidentally, he added. received 110 votes. “We’ve harvested 25 elk in the last eight years, but by no means It was uncertain whether Tavarez, an have we put a dent in the population,” Smith said. “When the incumbent, will seek a recount to verify the occasion presented itself and staff could act, they were close result. occasionally successful in controlling elk, but there are not organized harvest efforts.” “I am debating whether to ask for a recount, but haven’t decided yet,” Tavarez Gill pronounced himself “deeply disappointed” with the slim said. revision. His ranch is a recreational hunting property. Gill’s a passionate and informed practitioner of holistic management strategies for his land, in which he aims to restore flora and fauna to what it was prior to European settlement. Elk are vital to that plan, according to Gill, and he’s released about 50 of them over the years. “It is a ranch we manage primarily for wildlife,” he said. “The primary habitat tools we use are animals, including cattle, sheep, elk, deer and pronghorn. We manage according to our understanding of communities of living organisms that are symbiotic – if parts of one die, parts of others die with them.” At the center of the elk issue is the lingering question of whether elk are indigenous to regions of Texas beyond their range in the Guadalupe Mountains. Parks and Wildlife says no; Gills says yes, and points to cave paintings of elk-like figures in West Texas, early Texas landscape paintings that include elk, notations of elk by pre- 1900 travelers and an elk bone found in a Circle Ranch cave. The landowner claims elk already roamed the Circle Ranch when he bought the place in 1999. “The northeast Sierra Diablos are only 20 miles from the southwest Guadalupes, where there have always been elk,” he said. “The animals move around. When a friend of ours brought elk cows to a fenced enclosure, the next morning male elk were on the outside looking in.”bigbendsentinel.com/index.php?option… 2/3
  3. 3. 5/18/2010 The Big Bend Sentinel - Landowner lock… Smith agreed that academic scholarship on Texas elk before 1880 is not satisfyingly complete. “We recognize that our information is limited and we are open to any group that would like to probe that further to shore up scientific record on this,” he commented. Gill has worked amicably with Parks and Wildlife on other issues and both he and Smith say that will continue, despite their elk disagreement. It would take an act of Legislature to change elk to have game animal status, though as Gookins, from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, points out, “that’s not likely to happen next week.” Elk hunting in Texas on private ranches is a growing economic engine. A bull elk hunt at the Circle Ranch last year brought $10,000. Right now, public access to the Sierra Diablo WMA is limited to a very few hunts per year, mostly due to its severe landscape and wild inaccessibility. Still, said Gill, Parks and Wildlife could parlay elk to its own financial benefit through public hunting and viewership opportunities. “Where can a person see pronghorn, mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep in the same place?” he said. “Texans can do it on public land right here in Texas.” home | privacy policy | terms & conditions | sitemap | contact ©copyright Big Bend Sentinel 2008bigbendsentinel.com/index.php?option… 3/3