Roosevelt Elk are a subspecies of Elk belonging to the deer family. Elk are an important component of ecosystem biodiversity and have also recreational values. Two behavioural patterns have been observed for Elk herds : migratory (Elk who change range according to season), or resident (Elk who occupy only one range for the entire year). Migration patterns of migratory Elk, including duration of the stay in every seasonal range, vary from year to year according to weather and food conditions. Some specific factors, mentioned in the report, favour herd size growth.
There is a lack of data about historic range and population size of the species in British Columbia. However, it is estimated that the species was broadly present along the coast and that its habitat range fragmented after 1850s. The Roosevelt Elk species is on the Blue list of species of special concern because of their sensitivity to human activities.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) successfully implemented a program to preserve Roosevelt Elk. The program encompasses different actions including translocation of Roosevelt Elk in specific areas and measures to protect their habitat. Thanks to this program, Roosevelt Elk population is constantly growing. However, this increase of population size engenders more and more issues for forestry activities due to damages generated by Elk. The Silviculture Working Group of the Coast Region FRPA Implementation Team (CRIT) was designed to study issues and establish solutions.
The objective of this report is essentially to provide information and to raise awareness of forest professionals about key factors to integrate in management plans, legal options to compensate Elk damages and recommendations to improve information collected, plans and regulation.
Discussion and Recommendations
Elk damages are increasingly observed as a result of Elk population translocation or size increase. Forestry productivity can be impacted in different ways as the damages generated by Elk are various. The importance of the damage is also highly variable and is influenced by physical and biological factors such as distance to Elk habitat range, Elk behavioural pattern or herd size but a complete impact assessment study needs to be done to confirm factors presented in the report. Reforestation is particularly impacted, resulting in rising expenses to reach Forest and Range Practices Act obligations. To compensate damages to timber supply level, operational adjustment factors can be adapted if impacts are above a threshold. However, suitability of this method still needs to be evaluated.
Globally, Elk population management plans need to take into account all values concerned, ecological as well as economical or any other value implicated. Plans have to keep the balance between all interests through consultation and cooperation between all stakeholders in order to reach a sustainable system. Plans might include measures to limit Elk population size in areas where the efforts to restore Elk population have led to herds exceeding the habitat carrying capacity, in order to mitigate negative impacts on other interests. Furthermore, the question of forestry tenure holders absorbing additional costs due to elk damages remains to be answered.
Professionals in the forestry business should be aware of elk damage risks and factors that favour it. On this basis they should assess damage risk level in order to adapt their management measures to mitigate negative impacts on their productivity and objectives. For instance, in some cases, reforestation goals can be adapted. Factors that favour Elk-associated damage risk, options to mitigate the resulting impacts and legislative options existing when Elk damages occur are presented in the report. There are two different legislative options that differs according to the awareness or not of Elk presence in the area, before forestry activities were approved : Pre-harvest and post-harvest options. One of the issues is that Elk damages are not always foreseeable and appropriate mitigating actions can only be implemented after damages occur.
Finally, a list of recommendations is proposed for the CRIT, such as raising awareness of, among others, MFLNRO and discuss issues resulting from contradictory governmental mandates, coordinating studies to collect important data, coordinating discussion and collaboration between forest tenure holders and MFLNRO scientists to identify strategy for elk translocation and management and proposing MFLNRO to create a reference document in collaboration with industry and government forest professionals concerning Elk population status and management objective and plan.
Efforts realized to recover and preserve Roosevelt Elk population have been successful. Now, in some areas population even exceed sustainable levels, with increasing impacts on forestry activities, especially reforestation. Elk population management plans should take into consideration every aspect related to Elk populations and their habitat. Plans should balance ecological, economical, social and any other value concerned, in order to maintain ecosystem biodiversity while mitigating impacts on other activities.
- Source Silviculture Working Group Coast Forest Region FRPA Implementation Team. June 29, 2011. Roosevelt Elk Impacts on Reforestation: Mitigation Options. Available at : https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/rco/stewardship/crit/docs/Elk%20Working%20Paper%20Final%20June%2029%202011%20(2).pdf [Accessed 03/2021].