By Ron VandenBoom
Karl Ohs, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor on the Judy Martz ticket, Friday told those attending the North Central Montana Pachyderm Club meeting that he could not "in principle" support a proposed initiative banning elk farms.
He told the Pachyderms that he has not yet seen the proposed initiative, but in principle, until more is known, did not think he could support it.
Papers to place an initiative on the November ballot placing a moratorium on the creation of any new elk farms in Montana and banning the transfer of existing licenses, were filed with the Secretary of State two weeks ago by MADCOW, (Montanans Against the Domestication and Commercialization Of Wildlife.) The initiative would also place an immediate ban on all existing elk shooting preserves.
MADCOW is an offshoot of the Montana Wildlife Federation that claims to no longer have any official affiliation with MWF.
"Before any decisions can be made we have to get some of the emotion out of this issue," Ohs said. "Nobody really knows what chronic wasting disease (CWD) does or what it is."
Ohs said he has heard that CWD has been in Montana for a long time and it has just never been discovered.
"Number one is that we have to have some scientific data to back up whatever decision we make," he said.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal disease that affects the brain stems of elk. It was first discovered in wild elk populations in Colorado and Wyoming about 30 years ago. In 1998 the first case ever confirmed in Montana was discovered in an elk shipped from a game farm in Philipsburg to Harden.
Ohs said he would be very willing to support funding for research into the CWD "so we know the facts." He added that he did not think it would take that much money and the work could be done right here in Montana.
Of equal concern to Ohs is where the money is coming from to pay for the initiative fight and who it is that supports the MWF.
"It is another thing we face in Montana," he said. "We have out-of-state interests (involved.)"
Ohs said he didn't care what they said. "If they were true Montanans," he said, "they would not be talking about all this, in the manner they're talking about it, until, at least, we know the facts."
He said he believed the true agenda of the MWF "is to get rid of anything almost to the point of getting rid of the people."
"I think it's another example of out of state interests trying to push something down our throats," he said.
He added that some of his opinions might change if the MWF could prove to him that CWD was going to end, or even harm, wild game hunting in Montana.
"I don't think anyone wants that," Ohs said. "I think there's a lot of emotion in this issue and people are saying there's nothing to back it up."