ELKO — A bigger share of the money hunters pay for Nevada elk tags could be used to compensate ranchers and others for property damage caused by elk herds under a new proposal backed by state wildlife officials.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife is sponsoring a bill in the upcoming Legislature that would give state wildlife commissioners additional flexibility to allocate more money for elk mitigation projects, including fence repair.
A fiscal note attached to the proposal this week projects it could potentially raise up to $170,000 annually for such efforts.
Currently, only $5 of each elk tag can be devoted to mitigation. That cap would be doubled to $10 under AB78.
It’s possible hunters could end up paying a bit more for elk tags if lawmakers approved the change. Elk tags currently cost Nevada residents $120 and non-residents $1,200.
Kim Jolly, NDOW’s legislative liaison, told the Elko Daily Free Press the mitigation fee wouldn’t automatically increase to $10. But she said it would give wildlife commissioners that option if the money is needed.
Ken Gray, NDOW’s supervisory wildlife biologist, said the proposed change was one of the ideas that surfaced at a meeting in Elko County he helped organize last year along with landowners, outdoorsmen and government agencies from Nevada, Utah and Idaho.
Ranchers who grow alfalfa in northeast Nevada are among those who have complained the most about elk wreaking havoc on their crops, water sources and fences.
NDOW Deputy Director Patrick Cates said in a fiscal note added to AB78 on Thursday that mitigation costs vary greatly from year to year “but are anticipated to increase in the future with an increasing elk population.”
He said there would be no immediate impact because it would require wildlife commission approval.
“This bill only gives them the ability to act in a timely manner,” he wrote, adding it would take up to a year to develop regulations and receive public input before the increase was in effect.
The new legislative session begins Feb. 2.