The Alliance envisions healthy, wild elk populations on healthy habitats with intact migration pathways between native summer and winter ranges. The century–long practice of feeding thousands of elk hay or alfalfa pellets in confined areas is not in line with this vision.
Further, the impending arrival of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal transmissible neurological disease of deer, elk, and moose that is rapidly spreading across Wyoming, makes this practice fraught with peril.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest recently proposed to issue a one-year temporary special use permit to extend the operation of two feed grounds, Forest Park and Dell Creek, and sought comments on this proposal. During this time, the Forest Service will carry out more detailed environmental analyses before making a decision on a long-term permit.
The widely applied, currently entrenched practice of feeding elk in state and federal management has endured almost unchanged despite decades of rightful opposition by groups like ours — ending this practice will require us to rethink our approach on how we best achieve tangible change.
The Alliance, together with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC), in our comments on this proposal, asked the Forest Service to include in their one-year extension several agreed upon measures to improve conditions on the feedground. These are remedial measures that the Alliance and GYC proposed – and were recently accepted by the Forest Service – through the new “objection process” implemented by the Forest Service to raise objections and propose remedies to improve the Alkali Creek Feedground permit.
In particular, we asked that the Forest Service include the most relevant remedies from the Alkali Creek objection process:
- Ensure that the feedground permit includes best management practices for scavengers including gray wolves with a stipulation including no harassment/harvest.
- Require that the WY Game & Fish Department report the start/stop dates annually and specifically indicate the reasons (livestock/private land conflicts/elk migration or others) for feeding initiation.
- Recommend transition away from the need for supplemental feed and that the feedground is not intended to be permitted in perpetuity.
Let’s be clear: these remedies will not end elk feeding. But, they would allow us to thoughtfully reduce the need for feeding and put us on a positive path toward ultimately eliminating this practice.
The Alliance will continue working collaboratively and constructively with our agency managers, non-profit partners, and other stakeholders to realize tangible change toward our vision of healthy, wild elk populations on healthy habitats with intact migration pathways between native summer and winter ranges.