Minnesota Statute 97B.516 recognizes the value and uniqueness of elk; provides for integrated management of an elk population in harmony with the environment; and directs management to afford optimum recreational opportunities.
When developing the elk management plan, the DNR must not only consider the biological, social, and environmental issues, but also the potential economic benefits associated with a viable elk population. Elk have the potential to attract significant tourism by providing viewing opportunities and recreational hunting that benefits the local economies.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, state residents and nonresidents spent $3.9 billion on wildlife recreation in Minnesota in 2011. The survey reports that Minnesotans hunt an average of 12 days/year and spend an average of $42/day. Wildlife viewers engage in viewing activities an average of 14 days/year and spend an average of $33/day.
Several studies on the economic benefits to elk viewing in states such as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Oregon demonstrate that wildlife viewing benefits to local economies are substantial. Although difficult to estimate, wildlife viewing can contribute greatly to the economic development opportunities for communities.
Elk-related tourism, which includes hunting and recreational viewing, has bolstered local economies in other states where elk have been reestablished, most notably Kentucky (Cox 2011) and Virginia (McClafferty 2000). People from outside of the elk range travel to northwest Minnesota to view and hunt elk, and likely spend considerable resources in doing so. Elk have also been highlighted as one of the species to see at several of the stops on the area’s Pine-to-Prairie Birding Trail and shed antler hunting is also popular.
The intrinsic value of maintaining elk on Minnesota’s landscape is significant. Elk are a large, charismatic native species and a valuable but vulnerable part of Minnesota’s natural history. The NW Minnesota Aspen Parkland and Tallgrass Prairie ecosystems are rich with abundant wildlife species, including elk,
that offer great opportunity for recreation and economic benefit.

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