OLYMPIA – The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on fencing options designed to keep the Dungeness Roosevelt Elk Herd away from highways, farms, parks and residential areas near the town of Sequim.
The public meeting has been scheduled July 30 from 6-8 p.m. in Sequim by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which cooperatively manage the Dungeness Elk Herd.
The meeting will take place at the Guy Cole Center at Carrie Blake Park, 202 Blake Ave., in Sequim.
The proposed options are designed to keep the 60-80 member elk herd primarily on public land and prevent them from occupying Sequim’s urban areas and farmlands, where their presence has increasingly become a problem, said Jack Smith, regional WDFW wildlife manager. The decision to build the fence was reached after the public opposed a proposal put forward in 2006 to relocate the herd.
Since that time, the Dungeness Elk Working Team, which includes representatives from WDFW, the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, city, county, other state and federal agencies, and organizations with interest in the herd, has explored various fencing options and will now present those options to the public, said Smith.
“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,” Smith said. “After much review and input, the team decided that building a drift fence is the most reasonable approach. Before any final decisions are made, we want to hear from people about these various options.”
Three options have been proposed and include building a fence ranging from 3-10 miles long and eight feet high. The “drift” fence, so-called because it is open-ended, is designed to cut off normal travel routes, Smith said.
“All three fencing options are intended to keep the elk from crossing the highway and going into the town of Sequim or farmlands north of U.S. Highway 101, while keeping them close enough for people to see them,” Smith said.
The options include:
- Building the barrier along the south side of the U.S. Highway 101 right-of-way, from Sequim Bay west to the Dungeness River, which would split the urban area. 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. However, the Bell Hill and Happy Valley areas would be included in the “elk area” south of the fence.
- Building part of the fence along the south side of the highway where the elk could be viewed but kept away from the town. This option requires many easements across private property and driveways.
- Building the fence south of the highway farther away from urban areas and in a more natural environment. While this would require many private easements, few driveways or roads would be crossed. There would also be the opportunity to develop a nice elk viewing area off Happy Valley road, Smith said.
Costs for each option will also be discussed at the meeting. Past estimates have placed fencing costs at more than $1 million. Tribal and state co-managers are investigating funding options and WDFW 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 WDFW and the tribe more than $100,000 per year,” Smith said. “As urbanization continues, the cost of herd management will continue to increase.”
The co-managers and interested organizations are also discussing ways to provide additional quality forage resources in areas behind the proposed fence, Smith said. “A food supply will help them thrive and keep them from visiting farms on the other side of the proposed fence,” Smith said. “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.”