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State plans to introduce more elk in West Virginia, expand wildlife tourism

CHARLESTON, WV — In his State of the State Address on Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) will introduce 40 new elk to the state’s growing herd in 2024 and create a visitors center and observation tower in Logan County to help tourists and wildlife enthusiasts see these majestic animals in a natural setting.

“As a lifelong sportsman, I am beyond proud of the work the WVDNR has done since I took office to not only restore elk to West Virginia but to manage our growing herd so that folks can enjoy this magnificent native species for years to come,” said Gov. Justice.

West Virginia’s elk population was 22 when Gov. Justice took office. Since 2018, the WVDNR has introduced 57 elk (15 from Kentucky and 42 from Arizona) to the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan County. The current elk population is 110.

“Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Justice and the support of our partner agencies, West Virginia’s total elk population is five times greater today than when we started our Elk Restoration Project in 2016,” said WVDNR Director Brett McMillion.

Partner agencies include the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The 40 elk will be transported from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky and are scheduled to arrive Jan. 22-26. Upon arrival, the elk will be evaluated and held for a short period of time before being released into the wild.

Since 2018, the WVDNR has offered guided elk tours in Logan County, where participants can learn more about the history of elk in West Virginia and get a chance to see elk in a natural setting. Tours are offered in September and October each year and usually sell out. 

Elk visitor center and viewing tower coming to Logan County
In the coming weeks, the WVDNR will be reviewing bids for the construction of an elk viewing tower and visitor center, which will be built in the Tomblin WMA’s elk management area in Logan County. Funding for the project will come from $2.5 million in Abandoned Mine Lands grants awarded by Gov. Justice. 

The elk viewing tower will provide an elevated platform for enhanced viewing areas and a level viewing area that will be accessible for those with mobility issues. The visitor center will complement the elk viewing tower with more than 2,000 square feet of displays, conference facilities, offices and other amenities for visitors, volunteers, researchers and staff. There will also be more than 500 square feet dedicated to the history of the elk program and the reclaimed mine areas where they have been introduced. 

“The growth of our elk herd and the success of our management program is a testament to the hard work of our wildlife biologists and this administration’s commitment to protecting and preserving our natural resources,” said McMillion.

Since Gov. Justice took office, more than 83,000 acres of public lands and 61 miles of rail trail have been added to the state’s public lands, which are managed by the WVDNR. Major additions include the 72-mile Elk River Trail, 177-acre Summersville Lake State Park and nine new WMAs. Several WMAs have been expanded and all state parks and forests have received major renovations and facility expansions.

To learn more about the WVDNR’s elk restoration program, visit WVdnr.gov/elk. To download a copy of the WVDNR’s Elk Management Plan, visit WVdnr.gov/publications-and-guides.