Wildlife open house draws large crowd
January 30, 2016
On Wednesday, Nancy Bradish attended a wildlife open house hosted by the Division of Wildlife Resources to discuss the "slaughtering of the animals on the highway." However, Bradish said her comments fell on deaf ears.
"I feel like it is really rigid and they fall back on policy and they aren’t really interested in listening to what we say," said Bradish, a Summit Park resident. "They have already made up their minds about what they are doing. They are acting like they are being receptive, but they are not. I was talking to someone with DWR and he kept saying, ‘its policy.’ Well I’m telling him that policy doesn’t work in every situation and it could be changed."
Approximately 150 people attended the open house at the Sheldon Richins Building after recent events sparked concern about the fate of the area’s wildlife.
"I came here to talk about the moose relocations and the animals dying on the highway, but I felt like I was talking to a wall," Bradish said.
More than 20 Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff members joined representatives of Wild Aware Utah and spent about two hours having one-on-one discussions with attendees about living with wildlife, transplant and relocation policies, public and pet safety, moose and elk management plans, predators and feeding the wildlife.
Phil Douglass, Division of Wildlife Resources conservation outreach manager for northern Utah,
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told The Park Record that DWR considers itself a factual agency that structures its policies based on the data that is collected from its staff. He said the purpose of the open house was for DWR to present its data to the public in the hopes of quelling some misinformation that is circulating the community and resulting in accusations.
"When I first suggested that we have this open house I was very sincere in wanting to have a dialogue and I think it has been a great dialogue," Douglass said. "People are passionate and we understand that passion sometimes turns to anger, but for the most part people have been very civil and they have been wanting to understand things better. Why shouldn’t we be thrilled with that?"
Jen Heineman, a Highland Estates resident, walked away with several misconceptions cleared up, especially considering moose and elk relocations. Heineman said she also found several areas that could be improved, such as conservation easements.
"It was really nice to see some of the facts and some of the numbers," Heineman said. "No they are not getting rid of the elk and that’s what everyone thinks. Yes they are responding to homeowners, but it’s not them that are getting them removed. It’s because of the agriculture damage."
Dean Mitchell, conservation outreach chief with DNR, said the staff was simply attempting to help people learn to live responsibly with wildlife.
"Anytime a moose walks in their backyard it doesn’t mean they need to call DWR to report it," Mitchell said. "We just want people to understand how to live with wildlife because we think there is a lot of misinformation out there."
Residents were particularly interested in discussing the feasibility of installing freeway overpasses or wildlife crossing near Jeremy Ranch because of the number of moose and elk that are killed along the Interstate, relocations of elk in Round Valley, euthanization policies and hunting permits.
Most attendees left comments such as "evaluate situations on a case-by-case basis," "don’t have such a knee-jerk reaction," "accommodate wildlife," "bring back the wolves," and "support hunting the elk."
Sharon Cantwell, who is also a member of the organization Save People Save Wildlife, said she had several interesting discussions with staff members and that the representatives were "welcoming and tried to be open." However, Cantwell said she didn’t believe the community "got what we were hoping for."
"I feel like we all threw our questions into the suggestion box, but there is no plan for addressing any of those questions or the concerns of the community," Cantwell said. "Having a turnout like this, in the thick of Sundance, to me demonstrated that the community is extremely concerned and doesn’t know where to turn to get actual information on any of the issues and concerns."
The wildlife issue has been a divisive topic among the community, pitting residents who enjoy the wildlife against those who consider them a nuisance.
Wednesday’s open house was the first that has been held in Summit County in several years. DRW officials have not said how they plan to respond to Wednesday’s feedback.
Rob Karz, a Park Meadows resident, said he thought the meeting was beneficial in helping him understanding the relocation policies, particularly as they concern the herd in Round Valley.
"I think the preponderance of people that attended the meeting wanted to see the elk stay and make sure that they are healthy," Karz said. "I’d like to see a public outcry to change the relocating policies or amend the policy at least. The rules and policies can change if they get enough feedback, but how do they monitor it and are they really willing to change the policy."