Bridger-Teton National Forest seeks public comment on the fate of two elk feedgrounds
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department runs 22 elk feedgrounds around the state. The fate of two of those depends on a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, which is currently in a public comment period.
After several harsh winters in the early 20th century, the government created several feedgrounds to help elk survive. But now, with diseases like the fatal chronic wasting disease (CWD), environmentalists question whether they will potentially reduce elk populations in large numbers.
Last year, a federal judge considered lawsuits brought by conservationists alleging that the feedgrounds were being used improperly. The judge found that the state had no permit to operate the Dell Creek feedground and only a temporary one for Forest Park. This initiated the current environmental impact statement (EIS).
Evan Guzik, the public affairs specialist for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, said this is the start of the long process of NEPA.
"An EIS is the highest level of NEPA. So it's usually a multi-year process of going through all of the studies and making sure that our analysis reflects the whole ecosystem," he said. "So right now, we're looking at 2024 for a decision."
The proposed action is up for comment: will the Forest Service permit two locations, Dell Creek and Forest Park, to Wyoming Game and Fish for the purpose of elk feedgrounds? The permits requested are for 20 years.
The EIS also offers three preliminary alternatives: phasing out the use of elk feedgrounds, not allowing the state to use the land as feedgrounds, or using the land as feedgrounds for emergencies only. The state currently has permits until 2024. The public can comment on the EIS through Feb. 14.