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Hoeven meets with Interior secretary

Gov. John Hoeven on Monday met with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to press for a management plan that would use qualified hunters to trim the elk herd in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Gov. John Hoeven on Monday met with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to press for a management plan that would use qualified hunters to trim the elk herd in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The National Park Service has been considering options to reduce elk numbers in the south unit of the park, where the animals were reintroduced in 1985. The unit can sustain about 360 elk, but officials estimate between 750 and 900 elk are now there.

The Park Service has proposed a plan that would rely on paid sharpshooters, euthanasia, fertility controls and other methods to reduce the park's overabundant elk herd.

Meeting with Kempthorne in Washington, Hoeven pressed for a plan favored by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, which would entail a controlled hunt by qualified resident hunters supervised by wildlife officials.

Hoeven is in Washington this week for the National Governor's Association conference,

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"Secretary Kempthorne will work with Park Service officials to determine if we can implement our plan under existing rules," Hoeven said in a news release.

Hoeven's meeting coincided with a bill Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., introduced Monday that would allow the Park Service to use volunteer hunters to reduce the herd.

Elk have multiplied rapidly in the park because there are few natural predators, hunting is not allowed inside the park, and the animals' winter survival and reproduction rates have been good. The practice of shipping them elsewhere stopped in 2003 because of fears of chronic wasting disease.

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