Sheridan biologists receives award for book on Jackson Hole elk herd

Sheridan resident Bruce Smith was recently recognized by the 2011 Montana Book Award committee for his book  “Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of the National Elk Herd,” an insight to more than 20 years of field study and conservation work as a wildlife biologist at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

In a radio interview Smith said he felt obligated to share his experience with the public and bring clarity to what he called “maybe the most complex wildlife management situation in North America.” The book addresses ecology and conservation issues with Jackson’s national elk herd.

The Montana Book Award was founded in 2001 by the Friends of the Missoula Public Library, and recognizes literary and/or artistic excellence for books published that year. Books that are written, edited or illustrated by Montana authors, are set in Montana or are written about Montana themes or issues are eligible for the award.

Smith graciously accepted the recognition, adding that the important thing is that “it gets recognition for the book so more people will be interested and pick it up, because it has a pretty important conservation message.”

He describes the elk herd and other wildlife as a resource that the public has a responsibility to maintain.

“The public owns the resources,” Smith said. “They own the wildlife, and in the case of the Jackson Hole elk, 98 percent of the land that the elk use are public lands … As citizens we have a responsibility if we think the public’s resources aren’t being stewarded or conserved or managed properly to speak up, and that’s what I was doing.”

In the radio interview Smith said that crowding elk onto feed grounds for the past century has also damaged plant communities and affected other wildlife, but a new disease that’s not yet infected the elk is maybe the greatest management concern among elk managers and the general public who own the animals.  Chronic wasting disease is marching westward across Wyoming, and may soon arrive in Jackson Hole.  Where Elk Roam is intended to alert and educate the public about this looming threat to their elk.

The book is available for purchase at Blue Herron Antiques and Gifts in Ennis as well as online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and can be special ordered through any bookstore that doesn’t carry it on the shelves.

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