Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Fight to Protect our Elk Industry Continues

Written by Tom Remington Idaho Elk Industry Wants Clarification Of Support From Safari Club International
May 22, 2009
Since 2006 I have spent countless hours researching and writing, seeking the truth behind efforts in Idaho to destroy a perfectly good domestic elk industry. The effort is ongoing and very unfortunate. There have been two issues used by those determined to end raising elk for livestock - high-fence hunting and disease. One thing is for sure. There is never a resolve when a discussion comes up about fair chase and hunting ethics. There are those who have determined that hunting inside a fenced-in area, regardless of its size, is wrong and violates their standards of fair chase hunting ethics. On the other side, there are those who take no issue with it, whether they do it themselves or not. Is this reason to destroy an industry? Some think so.Disease is the second issue. In Idaho’s case, it’s really a non issue because in the 20 years the domestic elk industry has been in existence, there has never been a diseased animal. Guidelines are stringent as well as testing and the practices employed seem to have an incredible track record. Most elk ranchers that I have talked with over the years have a bigger concern that their disease-free elk will contract chronic wasting disease or brucellosis from wild ranging ungulates. Again, I have to ask, is this reason to shut down an entire industry? Some think so.Back in 2006, Dr. Rex Rammell, now an announced candidate for governor of Idaho in 2010, owned and operated an elk ranch. He was one of a handful of ranchers who supplemented their ranching income by offering elk hunts on his property. Rammell became a big target when elk escaped his enclosure. Mahem ensued when then Governor Jim Risch, now a U.S. Senator, ordered that all Rammell’s elk found outside his enclosures were to be killed. His justification was fear of disease spread. No disease in any of Rammell’s elk was found and a lawsuit is still pending against Risch and the state of Idaho.Attempts have been made through citizen’s initiatives and the Idaho legislature to ban outright or limit the domestic elk industry. Those efforts have all failed but that hasn’t deterred some to continue to fight against the industry, which is their right. But is it still a protected right to use false claims to promote your personal agendas? Some think so.Kristy Sternes is president of the Idaho Elk Breeders Association. She and her organization take issue with claims of support at least one individual is using to discredit the domestic elk industry in Idaho. Mark Bell, among other things, is a member of the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council. Bell and others within the ISCAC have been very outspoken against the Idaho domestic elk industry as well as the small group of ranchers who continue to offer hunts.Sternes takes issue with Bell’s claim as to what organizations he has in support of his efforts to stop the elk industry. In a recent letter she sent to Safari Club International representatives, she is asking them to clarify whether they support his efforts and that he has permission to claim such and even advertise it on some of his banners he displays at events.
Mr. Mark Bell who is a member of your SCI chapter has been the driving force behind the destruction and ultimate elimination of our industry here in Idaho. While I know that one cannot control the personal views of an individual, I do think you have to be made aware of the fact that this individual is claiming to have the support of your organization along with various other sportsmen groups in Idaho. Every time Mr. Bell has made public appearances in regards to the domestic elk industry, he displays a banner which includes your organization’s name on it and claims that you are amongst the supporters of the banning of not only our 6 high fenced hunting operations, but also including traditional agricultural producers such as ourselves.
Sternes points out in her letter that Mark Bell is outspoken in his opposition to high-fence hunting and claims to have the support of Safari Club International, and yet SCI supports high-fence hunting world wide.
The argument Mr. Bell continues to use is the fact that high fenced elk hunting is not hunting nor is it “fair chase”. This has always perplexed me due to the fact that SCI is one of the biggest if not the biggest supporters of high fenced hunting all throughout the world.Also according to Sternes, Mark Bell is seeking to have a requirement that all fencing around elk enclosures be double wide. The cost would be enormous and to many prohibitive, aside from the fact it is unnecessary. Sternes states that Bell is promoting his efforts for double fencing by claiming to have the support of Safari Club International and all the other sportsmen clubs affiliated with the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council.A public hearing will be held Tuesday night, May 26, at 7pm at the Dept of Agriculture to discuss Bell’s request for double fencing. Sternes hopes SCI will become involved with the public hearing or at least clarify their position prior to that meeting.