Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials will hold a public meeting Jan. 11 in Mount Vernon for review and comment on a proposed plan for managing the dwindling North Cascade (Nooksack) elk herd.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Hearing Room C of the Skagit County Administrative Building, 700 South 2nd Street, Mt. Vernon.
The draft herd management plan, developed by WDFW wildlife biologists, sets out goals and strategies for managing the herd, with the aim of increasing its size over the next five years. It also identifies spending priorities, such as population and herd composition surveys, augmentation activities and preservation of critical winter range habitat on private lands.
The North Cascades herd, one of 10 in Washington state, ranges in scattered groups near the south fork of the Nooksack River. The herd has declined from 1,700 animals estimated 15 years ago to some 350 today.
WDFW biologists are continuing to study the herd to determine reasons for the decline. Habitat loss and alteration are believed to be among the causes, along with unexplained animal mortality despite the closure of hunting five years ago by WDFW and tribal officials.
The complete draft herd management plan, along with a public comment form, can be accessed on the department's website.
Written public comments on the draft herd plan will be accepted through Jan. 12 and should be mailed to WDFW, Attn: George Tsukamoto, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA 98501-1091.