Arizona Elk Management
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission is considering a wide range of "alternative elk management" proposals during its March 23-24 meeting in Tucson.

The commission is meeting at the Inn Suites, 6201 N. Oracle Road, Tucson, starting at 8 a.m. on both days. The elk management proposals will be heard on Saturday, March 24.

A Game and Fish Department team of elk managers was assembled to explore and design possible elk management strategies to ease conflicts between elk and other resource users.

The team leader, Richard Remington, who is the Pinetop regional supervisor, explained that the Elk Harvest Management Strategy Team developed short-term strategies within existing regulatory and hunt frameworks, and long-term strategies including those that would require some sort of regulatory changes.

"This team of experienced elk managers was told to 'think outside the box' and come up with a range of elk management proposals and tools, including those that might be considered unconventional," said Remington.

At the first meeting of the team, two different articles on elk from the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff were studied — one was dated 1948, and the other from January of this year. "You can take the dates off, and the articles are almost interchangeable. These elk issues have been with us for a long time," Remington stated.

Elk management has gone through a lot of evolution in the past 50 or so years, but some conflicts have continued, and others have arisen as the human population has grown and expanded into previous elk habitats. "The question we, as a team, had to ask ourselves was 'Are these conflicts insurmountable? And if not, what can we do in the way of management to either ease the conflicts, or eliminate them?' "

Remington explained that even though such an approach has been taken at various times in the past, Game and Fish now has a new tool to use — Total Quality Management. Total Quality Management (TQM) is actually a process for getting to the heart of issues and developing possible resolutions.

"I think that using the TQ process, we have come up with a range of elk management alternatives that gets us to where we need to be. But TQ also means we must objectively measure our success at reaching objectives, and refine our approach — or even find a new approach — if necessary. This process also means determining if we are meeting the needs of our customers — which in this case is the general public and various stakeholders," Remington said.

The Elk Harvest Management Strategy Team is making a recommendation to the Game and Fish Commission containing an aggressive private land hunting package with the objective of significantly reducing elk numbers on or adjacent to private land, or to meet public land resource issues such as aspen regeneration protection.

"The proposed hunts are within existing frameworks and are designed to allow for control of hunter numbers on private land," Remington said.

The team is also recommending a new statewide elk management strategy whereby all areas occupied by elk will be analyzed under standard criteria and classified into one of three separate management zones. These elk management zones include:
1. Standard Population Management
2. Winter Range Population Management
3. Limited Range Population Management
Each management zone has specific management objectives and harvest alternatives that can be "selected" to achieve specific elk population management objectives.

"The specific zones will also have specific goals regarding private land and conflict resolution, along with action alternatives, that may be selected to address conflicts," Remington advised. However, to completely implement the new guidelines will take some regulatory changes or modifications, he added.

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