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HELENA - The owners of a game farm will ask the Montana Supreme Court to

overturn a judge's order blocking their transfer of hundreds of elk to

the Crow Indian Reservation for release into the wild.

Stan Kaleczyc, attorney for Len and Pamela Wallace, said Tuesday the

same issues argued in District Court will be raised before the high

court, including claims that the state's opposition to the transfer

illegally imposes restrictions on a tribal government and interstate

commerce.

Meanwhile, eight sportsmen groups have asked to get involved in the

case, saying they have a legitimate interest in protecting Montana's

wildlife and ensuring game farm laws are enforced.

"Sportsmen across Montana are deeply concerned that any release in the

wild of game-farm animals will compromise the genetic purity, the health

and integrity of our wild, free-ranging public wildlife," said Craig

Sharpe, executive director for the Montana Wildlife Federation.

The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks last week obtained a

permanent injunction prohibiting the Wallaces from allowing another 384

elk to be shipped to the tribe.

District Judge Dorothy McCarter of Helena said state law requires such

animals be kept only on a licensed game farm, and the reservation does

not meet that criteria.

The Wallaces sent 68 head from their Big Velvet Ranch at Darby to the

Crow Reservation before the state went to court two weeks ago. Those

animals were released to roam freely and state wildlife officials have

argued the Wallaces, as licensed game farm operators, have a legal

obligation to make sure their animals end up in a secure facility.

One of the fish and game agency's greatest fears is that some of the

Wallaces' elk have chronic wasting disease and will spread that to wild

elk.

The Wallaces contend they met all requirements for transferring their

elk and should be allowed to do so. They said the state veterinarian

believes the animals are an unlikely danger to wildlife and that the

state has no authority over what the sovereign Crow nation does with the

animals.

Kaleczyc said time is critical because many of the elk waiting to be

shipped to the tribe are within weeks of giving birth and too long a

delay will require the Wallaces to continue feeding animals for months

after the calves are born.

"Mr. Wallace is incurring ongoing daily expense in keeping those elk on

his property," he said. "We would like the case heard and a decision

from the Supreme Court as soon as possible."

In their request to have a say in the legal dispute, the sportsmen

groups said they represent people who benefit from the state's

obligation to manage and protect Montana's wildlife.

"They feel that the transfer and release of captive-bred elk from the

Wallace operation poses a potentially devastating risk to Montana's wild

elk," the groups said in their court document.

Those filing the request are the Montana and Wyoming wildlife

federations, Ravalli Fish and Game Association, Anaconda Sportsmen

Association, Skyline Sportsmen Association, Public Lands Access

Association, Anaconda Sportsmen's Club and Russell Country Sportsmen.

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