Groups object to Forest Service elk-feeding proposal despite court order
JACKSON, Wyo. | Eric Galatas, (Public News Service) — On the heels of a court victory in fall 2018, conservation organizations are pressing Bridger-Teton Forest officials to not wait ten years, or even five years, to phase out winter feeding of elk east of Jackson Hole.
Lloyd Dorsey, conservation program manager with the Sierra Club’s Wyoming chapter, said he would like to see artificial feeding of elk at Alkali Creek stop as soon as possible, and no later than the spring of 2021.
“The harsh reality is that chronic wasting disease is literally surrounding the Gros Ventre Valley and Alkali Creek,” Dorsey said. “The time to end baiting, feeding and concentrating elk is now, not in another decade.”
Officials with Bridger-Teton National Forest recently released a proposal to allow the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to conduct “emergency feeding” of hundreds of elk, but the groups note the agency hasn’t conducted a comprehensive environmental analysis as directed by a Wyoming District Court. The Forest Service wants to make way for another five years of feeding at the same location near Alkali Creek, and then end the practice.
Dorsey said the proposal also allows for an additional five-year extension, if the agency thinks it’s necessary, which could extend winter feeding until 2030. He believes the Forest Service should not defer to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department when it goes against the agency’s main directives.
“The Forest Service needs to manage according to their legal directives, which require healthy habitat, healthy wildlife – a sustainable ecology and ecosystem for future generations,” he said.
Dorsey added that data collected by non-governmental organizations and state agencies show there is enough natural food to sustain the region’s elk and other big game over the winter. In 2018, after conservation groups flagged the Forest Service’s failure to take a look at the environmental consequences of artificial feeding, a Wyoming District Court reversed a 2015 decision permitting feeding at Alkali Creek.