TAYLOR COUNTY—West Virginia House of Delegates Majority Leader Amy Summers recently made her way to the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area to visit with some of the state’s newest residents.
After a decline in Elk population in the state due to timbering and overhunting, officials began conducting studies to gauge the plausibility of bringing the once prosperous population back to West Virginia.
In 2015, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) began its elk restoration project. Now in its fifth season, the major conservation effort has seen growth, and the WVDNR reported 15 births just this summer, bringing the total elk population in the state to 85.
Through the program, the WVDNR used reclaimed strip mines and open spaces in the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area and seeded it with grass to provide an area for the animals to roam, grow and prosper.
Through the effort, elk were transplanted from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Majority Leader Summers, an avid hunter and angler, who is a member of the West Virginia Farm Bureau, the West Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, the American Angus Association and the NRA, has been a supporter of the initiative, noting that having an elk population could potentially be a draw for individuals to visit the area; helping to boost tourism and hunting in the Mountain State.
“I proudly supported the 2015 bill to bring elk to West Virginia, and after five years, it was a pleasure to view the elk herd up close and actually see the progress made toward our goals of increasing hunting and tourism opportunities within the state,” she explained. “Our WVDNR staff members are incredibly knowledgeable and professional in both their understanding and care of the herd. I have no doubt this bill was a big step in the right direction for WV.”
Just last week, she visited the wildlife management area to tour the lands during an on-the-ground evaluation of the state’s elk restoration project. While there she was able to speak with members from the WVDNR to further the relationship between the project and legislators.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has long worked with legislative leaders to further its mission of developing a long-range comprehensive program for the state’s natural resources.
“Our success lies in the ability to communicate our goals and to develop long-term strategies for the use of those resources with our state’s leadership, and during my time with the WVDNR, Majority Leader Summers has been one of those leaders who always answers the call,” said WVDNR Director Stephen McDaniel. “Her strong interest in Tygart Lake State Park has helped in our efforts to rebuild the facilities at the Marina, pave the roads into the park and, of course, the ongoing lodging renovations at the park.”
He added, “She worked closely with our team as we developed a plan to rebuild and renovate the aging infrastructure in our West Virginia State Parks System, and as Majority Leader, she helped us get the support we needed to pass the Governor’s State Parks bond initiative that will overhaul and rebuild the system’s aging infrastructure.”
Wildlife viewing tours have become a popular attraction at the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area since the program’s start. And while the tours were paused due to the COVID pandemic, the grounds have still remained opened to the public so that guests may see the elk.
To learn more about the elk restoration project, please visit wvdnr.gov/wildlife/elkrestorationprogram.shtm.