Nevada Increases Elk Tags in Lincoln County

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Nevada's first Elk Damage Arbitration Panel convened in Lincoln County in May to settle a farmer's claim regarding elk damage to his alfalfa and potato fields. The panel met twice to settle the landowner claim for $57,000 in damages, which was reduced to $10,000.

"The challenge in this case is that it is difficult to assess damage you can't see to the potato crop – unlike alfalfa – and there was no history of crop yield for comparison," explained Russ Mason, Game Division Chief with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW).

Elk damage on private lands has been an issue in Lincoln County since the first complaint in the fall of 1989. Over the past 18 years NDOW has spent $116,281 for elk damage on private lands and spent $117,000 for installation of elk-proof fencing in various locations in Lincoln County.

The panel also recommended an increase in the number of depredation cow tags from 20 to 40. The Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners approved this increase at their May commission meeting.

The increased number of elk tags issued to the landowner may result in an increased harvest, although hunting elk in the area surrounding the property is challenging. "Sighting an elk among the piñon and juniper trees on the slopes adjacent the farm is extremely difficult," explained Mason.

"Piñon -juniper encroachment is the real issue we’re facing," Mason continued. "These trees make for unproductive habitat for most species, and force species like elk to seek food elsewhere. Piñon-juniper also create a fire hazard and severely compromises range quality for livestock production," Mason said.

The Bureau of Land Management manages piñon and juniper woodlands and other vegetation types with the goal of maintaining or improving the health of these ecosystems. Currently, the BLM is mechanically thinning more than 1,900 acres of woodlands in eastern Nevada. Thinning reduces competition for water and nutrients for the remaining trees and other vegetation types in the ecosystem.

NDOW's available cash for elk management projects, funded by a fee added to elk tag applications, may soon become insufficient to meet demand for elk-proof fencing.

Elk arbitration panels have been required under Nevada Administrative Code since 1998, however this is the first time one has convened to settle a dispute. Panels are comprised of an agricultural representative, a business representative, and a sportsmen's representative. Names are recommended to the panel by the County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife and are approved by the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners.