CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin today joined representatives from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Conservation Fund to welcome elk from Kentucky to West Virginia. Today’s welcoming ceremony, held at the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area, included the arrival of 20 elk to Southern West Virginia.
“Today, I was proud to join both state and federal partners to celebrate a historic conservation effort in the Mountain State,” Gov. Tomblin said. “Today’s reintroduction is the beginning of a wonderful success story, one that has received overwhelming support from sportsmen and women across West Virginia. I look forward to the increased recreational wildlife opportunities and the economic impact this project will have on our state now and for decades to come.”
Elk were native to West Virginia more than 140 years ago. Legislation in 2015 authorized the Division of Natural Resources to begin an active elk restoration plan, starting with finding enough suitable land for the elk management area to sustain an elk population.
Through a partnership with The Conservation Fund, more than 32,000 acres of publicly accessible land has been acquired for wildlife management and wildlife recreation. The DNR also recently acquired an additional 10,000 acres under lease agreements. In total, the DNR now manages more than 42,000 acres of land within an 11-mile radius of the initial elk release site.
“The reintroduction of a once-native wildlife species to sustainable populations is part of the mission of the Division of Natural Resources, and all of our staff are proud to be part of this effort to bring elk back to our state,” said DNR Director Bob Fala. “With many thanks to one key partner, The Conservation Fund, we have added the largest single land parcel in state history to provide for both our fledgling elk restoration program and for other wildlife as well. We also are deeply appreciative of all the support provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which has provided assistance from the beginning and continues to do so as this project will expand in coming years.”
“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation applauds Gov. Tomblin, Director Fala and all who have a role in bringing back elk to the Mountain State. It’s a tremendous payday for RMEF’s volunteers and members in West Virginia and the surrounding area,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “We are proud to be part of such a successful collaborative partnership that made this happen in a relatively short time but with great leadership shown by the folks in West Virginia state government.”
The restoration of elk into West Virginia is a major conservation initiative, involving a number of partners, including: U.S. Forest Service, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; The Conservation Fund; Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; West Virginia Department of Agriculture; West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection – Division of Mining and Reclamation; Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Walmart Acres for America Program; Knobloch Family Foundation; Richard King Mellon Foundation; Ecosystem Investment Partners; Ark Land Company; Alpha Natural Resources; Arch Coal; West Virginia State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation; West Virginia Bowhunters Association; West Virginia Trophy Hunters Association; the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund; and numerous volunteers.
Joe Manchin, U.S. Senator, West Virginia
“As a lifelong sportsman I am thrilled to see elk successfully reintroduced into West Virginia. The reintroduction of elk will bring new economic opportunities to southern West Virginia by showcasing our wild and wonderful outdoor heritage. I wish to applaud all those involved with the successful reintroduction of elk into the Mountain State.”
Shelley Moore Capito, U.S. Senator, West Virginia
“It has been over 100 years since wild elk freely roamed our state, and I am thrilled the Division of Natural Resources is reintroducing this species to a place they previously called home. I was a strong advocate for this project, signing a letter of support that enabled funding to bring this idea to fruition. This is exciting news for our state, and I hope all West Virginians will have the opportunity to see and appreciate these magnificent animals.”
Evan Jenkins, U.S. Representative, West Virginia’s 3rd District
“Thanks to public and private efforts to protect elk habitat, we are now able to successfully reintroduce elk to West Virginia. Wild elk have not lived in West Virginia since 1865, but decades of work have paid off as these majestic creatures make their home again in our great state. I congratulate everyone involved in making this ambitious project a reality.”
Joe Hankins, West Virginia Director, The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund is helping the State conserve 32,396 acres of working forestland in southern West Virginia-the largest single conservation acquisition in State history-to create a large, protected block of prime habitat for elk restoration.
“The Conservation Fund is proud to partner with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources in establishing a vast protected landscape of sustainably managed land for the new elk population. This historic effort is creating new opportunities on land that once supported the state through it resources, and it is redefining conservation in West Virginia to provide multiple tangible economic and environmental benefits to local communities. We thank Governor Tomblin for his leadership, the DNR for seeing this vision through, and U.S. Senators Manchin and Capito and U.S. Representative Jenkins for their continued support of this project and important conservation programs like the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program.”
Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
A grant from the Acres for America program, established by Walmart and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, supported the transfer of 10,922 acres from The Conservation Fund to the WV DNR in 2016.
“The return of any species to its native range is a reason for celebration. Bringing such a magnificent species as the elk back to the hills of West Virginia is one of the most significant reintroductions in recent years. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation applauds the work of the State of West Virginia and we are proud to help support this effort.”
John Clark, Vice President of Store Planning, Walmart
“Walmart is proud to support the longstanding efforts to bring elk back to West Virginia today. We know they will both thrive and help to inspire future generations of West Virginians to take care of and appreciate the state’s incredible wildlife and natural resources.”