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Elk fencing plan meeting set

Tonight, Wednesday, July 30, is the night to get updated on elk management activities and to throw some comments and suggestions to the Dungeness Elk Working Team.

From the metal elk-shaped Sequim city signs to the amber elk crossing flashing lights on U.S. Highway 101, the Dungeness Roosevelt elk herd is an icon of the city of Sequim and the Dungeness Valley.

However, the presence of the 400- to 1,000-pound animals in the city limits, on regional roads or on local farmers’ land can become a nuisance.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which cooperatively manage the herd, have indicated there needs to be a long-term solution to the herd’s run-ins with humans, both literally and financially.

Past proposals to handle the herd, including relocating its members to a southern portion of the Olympic Peninsula, were not well received by the public.

“The public told us they wanted to keep the elk in the area, but we still need a long-term management solution to protect the elk and address landowner and human safety concerns,” said Jack Smith, regional wildlife manager for the state agency.

The working team, which includes representatives from state Fish and Wildlife, the tribe, the city, Clallam County and organizations with interest in the herd, has been working on a new plan to fence the animals south of the highway.

Just where to put the fence, how long it should be and what people think of the proposal is the purpose of the July 30 public meeting at the Guy Cole Convention Center in Carrie Blake Park.



Fence options

The working team has identified three fencing options. The fence needs to be at least eight feet tall because some elk are able to jump nearly to that height. The length of the fence and its location are up for debate and the costs associated with decisions in each case may play a role in the final decision.

The first options identified by the team builds a barrier along the south side of the highway, from Sequim Bay west to the Dungeness River, splitting the urban area of Sequim. Openings in the fence would allow traffic to travel north and south.

“This option has the advantage of working with the current state right-of-way along the highway and would not require various private easements,” Smith said in a press release. “However, the Bell Hill and Happy Valley areas would be included in the ‘elk area’ south of the fence.”

The second option builds a fence along the south side of the highway just where the elk could be viewed, but generally kept out of the town area.

Then the third option would place a barrier south of the highway farther away from urban areas, keeping the elk further in the foothills and in a more natural environment.

“While this would require many private easements, few driveways or roads would be crossed,” Smith said in the release. “There would also be the opportunity to develop a nice elk viewing area off Happy Valley Road.”

The viewing area likely would be placed on the Keeler family property, which the city of Sequim is in the process of purchasing for a passive use park.



Costs

The costs for each option will be discussed during the meeting.

Past estimates have placed the fencing costs at anywhere from

$1 million to $3 million, depending on the length of the fence and the amount of private land the agencies would need to buy for a fence easement.

The co-managers are investigating funding options and state Fish and Wildlife is exploring a capital budget request of $1 million to $1.5 million from the state Legislature.

“It should be noted however, that herd management currently costs (the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and the (Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe) more than $100,000 per year,” Smith said. “As urbanization continues, the cost of herd management will continue to increase.”

Although not a huge part of the overall price tag, the team is looking into ways to provide additional quality forage resources in areas behind the proposed fence line.

That way the herd members will be enticed to stay south, rather than try to return north to “harvest” some of the Sequim-area agriculture.

“This plan is a long-term part of the solution to keep this wild, free-ranging elk herd a part of the Sequim area landscape,” Smith said.



A public meeting on possible Dungeness Roosevelt elk herd fencing plans is scheduled for July 30 at 6 p.m. in the Guy Cole Convention Center at Carrie Blake Park, 202 Blake Ave.

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