SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Acquisition of public land in southern West Virginia to reestablish an elk population is completed.   A year ago the Division of Natural Resources and the Conservation Fund collaborated to acquire more than 32,000 acres in southern West Virginia.

The acquisition however was to be in phases over three years, but a year later and the job is complete.  The Wildlife Management Areas which now constitute the bulk of the Elk Management Zone in the southern coalfields are the property of the Division of Natural Resources and West Virginia sportsmen from now on.

“This is one of the most major land acquisitions that’s ever taken place in West Virginia,” said Paul Johanson, Chief of Wildlife Resources for the West Virginia DNR.”The lands were acquired from the Conservation Fund.  Initially the lands were immediately enrolled in a ‘license agreement’ and they were opened as a wildlife management area, but it took some time to actually line up the financing and make the acquisition.”

The finances came from a combination of grants, private donations, and the dollars of sportsmen and women through the Pittman-Robertson Act to create a piece of property in the southern coalfields .  The property connects the Tomblin WMA, the Big South WMA, and the Laurel Lake WMA.  Also included in the acquisition is the Big Ugly Wildlife Management Area.  Although not directly connected, it is within the same region.

“The foresight of lawmakers 80 years ago is helping to establish a vast, protected landscape of sustainable managed land, supporting working forests and forestry-based jobs as well as increasing tourism opportunities for public hunting and other forms of wildlife-associated recreation,” said Joe Hankins, Vice President for The Conservation Fund. “Funding from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration program is critical to West Virginia, and we are proud to partner with the DNR in this effort to create new opportunities on former mining lands and redefine conservation to provide multiple tangible economic and environmental benefits for local communities.”

The next round of elk reintroduction activity will come in late January when up to 60 elk from the state of Arizona will be rounded up and transferred to West Virginia after the required quarantine period.  The elk will be introduced in the Tomblin Wildlife Management area where a release pen remains in place.