Starting in 2012 and continuing into 2014, DWR released 75 elk within the current Elk Management Zone (EMZ) comprised of three counties: Buchanan, Dickenson, and Wise. Since 2014, the elk population in Virginia has grown, and with this increase has come challenges and opportunities.
Given the controversy associated with elk restoration in Virginia, and an expressed recognition of need for having an elk management plan, DWR contracted Virginia Tech in 2016 to initiate a facilitated public involvement process leading to the development of the Virginia Elk Management Plan.
This 10-year management plan consists of 4 Overarching Guiding Principles and 5 Goals that lay out how DWR intends to manage a sustainable population of elk in the EMZ for the benefit of all constituents of the Commonwealth. The agency sought professional input and the shared wisdom of wildlife managers from other eastern states where elk recently have been established to help guide management. However, the core of the plan reflects value choices expressed by a diverse array of stakeholders from across both public and private sectors who may be affected by or have interest in elk.
To accomplish this, a 17-member Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) was convened to represent the interests of a cross section of stakeholders, including hunters, agricultural and livestock producers, homeowners, forest landowners, animal and ecological health interests, business and tourism industries, motorists, and local, state, and federal agencies. The SAC was responsible for identifying goals that should drive elk management in Virginia.
DWR staff with technical expertise in matters related to elk management comprised an Elk Technical Committee, which was responsible for developing the objectives and strategies to attain the goals set forth by the SAC and to assure that management is consistent with sound biological foundations and with Virginia Code and regulations. Additional public input obtained via a survey of stakeholders and through advertisement of the draft plan for broad public review has been incorporated to create the final plan. Resource managers and researchers external to DWR provided technical feedback on the draft plan.
The plan was presented to, and endorsed by, the DWR Board of Directors on March 21, 2019.