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Deal adds 32,000 acres to area for WV elk habitat

Charleston Gazette-Mail graphic
Charleston Gazette-Mail graphic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s effort to reintroduce elk to the state’s southwestern counties just got a huge boost.

A coalition of public and private contributors has teamed up to acquire 32,000 acres of active forestland, mainly in Logan and Mingo counties, for the reintroduction effort.

“This will serve as the linchpin that allows us to move forward on a serious elk-restoration program,” said Paul Johansen, wildlife chief for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “Not only will it allow us to secure and manage habitat, but it will also help us provide perpetual access to the public for hunting and viewing not only of elk, but for a variety of wildlife species.”

Early in the push toward an active elk-restoration effort, DNR officials said they wanted to acquire at least one parcel of land comprising at least 20,000 acres. Up to now, however, the two sizable tracts the agency was able to acquire came in at roughly 4,500 acres apiece — and those tracts were located more than 30 miles from one another.

The 32,000-acre parcel, while not completely in one piece, would give the agency an adequate place to anchor its elk program. The final boundaries have not yet been negotiated, but officials familiar with the deal say most of the land surrounds the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan County, the Laurel Lake WMA in Mingo County and the Big Ugly WMA in Lincoln County.

DNR Director Bob Fala called the acquisition “pretty close to the largest chunk of land we have ever acquired…

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