Newsroom Midwest Region

Tribal Wildlife Grant helps Ho-Chunk Nation in state-wide effort to reactivate elk hunting in Wisconsin after 22 years

April 12, 2018

Elk herd grazing. Photo by Danielle Brigida/USFWS. 
Elk herd grazing. Photo by Danielle Brigida/USFWS.

In Wisconsin, conservation and wildlife groups answered the call from residents to reintroduce elk into the state, restore historic populations and revitalize the tradition of recreational elk hunting. On March 7, 2018, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Elk Advisory Committee recommended the first managed elk harvest after 22 years of introduction efforts! The planned harvest will take place in the Clam Lake elk range of Ashland, Bayfield, Price and Sawyer counties.

The Elk Advisory Committee is represented by biologists, researchers and groups that significantly contributed to the reintroduction efforts. Ho-Chunk Nation is one of those representatives. They earned their seat on the committee by providing financial assistance and staffing for the reintroducing of 73 elk into the Black River State Forest of Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supported Ho-Chunk Nation’s efforts by awarding a competitive Tribal Wildlife Grant to assist in their Wildlife Management and Native Species Restoration Plan.

“Tribes are key partners in the management of our nation’s wildlife and fisheries resources. Tribal Wildlife Grants enable tribes to take a leadership role in developing and carrying out conservation activities that directly benefit these resources and the habitats that support them,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius. “When Midwest tribes are able to partner with states and other conservation agencies to restore our wildlife and fisheries resources, the American people benefit greatly from that collaboration.”

Tribal Wildlife Grants are used to provide technical and financial assistance to federally recognized tribes. Grant funding can be used to develop and implement programs that benefit wildlife resources. When Ho-Chunk Nation applied for a Tribal Wildlife Grant their goals were clear. They wanted to develop infrastructure to implement elk restoration efforts, develop a native species restoration plan and provide an education program to promote a conservation legacy for future generations.

“Ho-Chunk Nation has always looked out for the needs of their citizens and understands the desire to practice their cultural heritage - including hunting. By working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on elk restoration, we are increasing the odds of elk restoration across the state,” said Nelson Smith, Wildlife Biologist for the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Natural Resources. “Ho-Chunk Nation plans to continue our involvement by working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to monitor populations, develop a range map and conduct spring calf surveys.”

Ho-Chunk Nation’s success and contribution to native wildlife restoration, biological research and their role on the Elk Advisory Committee validates that federally recognized tribes are valuable partners in natural resource conservation for tribal and non-tribal members. With the population rebound of the Clam Lake elk range and the opening of the 2018 elk harvest, Ho-Chunk Nation, and other federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin are looking forward to continuing their cultural traditions of hunting.

The quota for the 2018 Clam Lake elk harvest (bull-only) has been set at 10 tags. Four tags will be awarded to Wisconsin residents through a random drawing. Tribal members of federally recognized tribes who are Wisconsin residents are eligible to apply for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources drawing. Five other tags will be reserved for Chippewa tribes who are members of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and signatory to the 1837 treaty. Tribal members can contact their tribal natural resource department for more information. One additional tag will be awarded through a raffle open to Wisconsin residents and conducted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a valuable partner in the Wisconsin elk translocation.

The Service supports tribes and tribal sovereignty in natural resource management. Tribal Wildlife Grants are successfully assisting tribes in enhancing their natural resource programs to benefit tribal members and native species recovery. Learn more about the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Elk Harvest.

Group photo of staff from Ho-Chunk Nation Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and many volunteers. Photo courtesy of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
Group photo of staff from Ho-Chunk Nation Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and many volunteers. Photo courtesy of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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