LOGAN – As part of its new elk reintroduction plan for southern West Virginia, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced leases of nearly 9,000 acres in Logan and McDowell counties that will be a major part of the new “elk zone.” The announcement was made by DNR Director Bob Fala Sept. 11 at Chief Logan Lodge during a reception for many of the organizations and individuals who have played a major part in the elk program. In particular, Ecosystem Investment Partners (EIP), the lessor of the property, was thanked.
In McDowell County, 4,500 acres will adjoin the existing Tug Fork Wildlife Management area, which already covers 2,266 acres between Iaeger and Welch. Additionally, 4,300 acres has been leased near Holden in the west-central part of Logan County and has been named “the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area” after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Logan County native who has made the elk reintroduction a priority of his administration.
“The Tomblin WMA will be managed by the DNR in cooperation with EIP,” Director Fala said. “Though the area is in the typically steep, rugged terrain of southern West Virginia, it is unique in that most of the ridge-tops have been surface mined and reclaimed to ‘wildlife habitat,’ most recently by Alpha Natural Resources.
“The combination of mined mountain tops and forested valleys creates a mosaic of mixed habitat types which already serves as home to a wide variety of wildlife species. It will serve as a great place to host an elk population. Its entry into WMA status will ensure that the public will have the opportunity to enjoy all that it has to offer.”
Fala says the properties are under long-term leases from Ecosystem Investment Partners and may eventually be purchased by the DNR to ensure that the public will have access long after the elk reintroduction program is put into effect.
Fala also reported that negotiations are still underway with Kentucky to import some of their healthy elk herd at the earliest opportunity, perhaps as early as this winter. In the meantime, DNR is working with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which is providing more than $97,000 in grants, to prepare facilities and provide equipment and training for DNR wildlife staff to handle and manage the elk when they arrive.