Online Messenger #283
Western Watersheds Project has filed a court challenge contesting the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s daily feeding of elk on five feedgrounds during the winter on public lands within the Bridger-Teton National Forest and adjacent to the Palisades Wilderness Study Area. The contested feedlots are attracting between 73 and 84 percent of the elk in northwest Wyoming each year, but the Forest Service has not sufficiently analyzed the consequences of issuing a 20-year permit to WGFD to feed the wildlife on these federal lands.
Elk feedgrounds arise from another era, when the idea was to keep elk away from haystacks on private ranch lands. Now, feedgrounds are maintained in large part to alleviate the fears of ranchers about the transmission of brucellosis to cattle. These feedgrounds have sustained artificially high populations of elk and led to unnatural concentrations of the animal in a few sites on National Forest lands.
Unnatural concentrations of elk increase the potential for disease transmission of serious illnesses like Brucellosis and Chronic Wasting Disease, which some scientists predict could seriously impact elk populations in northwest Wyoming. Locating feedlots on public land also leads to serious ecological impacts, including reduced stream bank stability and impacts to water quality, as well as heavy use of vegetation in the area. Additionally, concentrating prey species can skew predator distribution as grizzlies,wolves and scavengers may be drawn to feedlot areas.
Western Watersheds Project knows its time for the Forest Service to manage public lands to protect wildlife, not the special interests of Wyoming ranchers.
A copy of the complaint can be found here.
Many thanks to Andrea Santarsiere for representing Western Watersheds Project in this litigation!