Who should manage elk & bison?
Public comment accepted until November 7
October 13, 2005
The public has until November 7th to weigh in on the draft Bison/Elk Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement regarding management of elk and bison in the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in northwestern Wyoming.
The plan has the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission worried about how it will affect state authority to manage wildlife. WGF officials are concerned that the plan does not clearly express Game and Fish's authority to manage wildlife on the refuge and in the national park. They believe wildlife within the state belong to Wyoming residents and should be managed as such.
In a letter to the USFWS dated October 10, 2005, WGF wrote, "The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (WGFC) and Department (WGFD) continue to have serious concerns regarding the proposed action and the other alternatives in this document. We cannot support the proposed action because of the EIS’s emphasis on eliminating feeding, emphasis on natural regulation of elk and bison populations in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) instead of hunter harvest, and the inclusion of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway (Parkway) in the Decision Area."
"In our earlier comments, we identified the distinction of management authority as one of our concerns. The document continues to utilize ambiguous wording that indicates the Federal Government has authority beyond its jurisdiction. Although some edits were made to the proposed action alternative, wording remains that diminishes the State of Wyoming’s role in managing wildlife and establishing hunting seasons in GTNP, the NER, and in the Parkway," wrote the WGF.
The bison/elk management planning process began in 1999 following earlier litigation over a bison management plan prepared by the Services for the refuge and the park and parkway. The court ordered that no reduction of the bison herd could occur on refuge lands until the Services analyzed bison management in combination with the winter feeding program on the refuge. The Services ultimately broadened the scope of the analysis to include elk management in order to meet National Wildlife Refuge System planning requirements and to address the issues related to high animal concentrations and effects on habitat all at the same time.
The National Elk Refuge, a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, is located in northwestern Wyoming, just north of Jackson. The refuge consists of 25,000 acres and provides winter range for up to 7,500 elk and habitat for 47 different mammals and 175 species of birds.
Grand Teton National Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located in northwestern Wyoming, just north and west of Jackson. The park consists of 309,995 acres of diverse habitats, ranging from sagebrush to the high mountain peaks of the Teton Range, and supports a variety of native wildlife, including elk and bison, as well as pronghorn antelope. Nearly 3.5 million people visit the park annually. The plan and EIS will also address bison and elk management issues on the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, a 23,777-acre link between the park and Yellowstone National Park.
More than 13,000 elk summer in the Park, the southern part of Yellowstone National Park, and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. At least half the herd winters on the National Elk Refuge. The Jackson elk herd is the nation’s largest. The national parks are managed by the National Park Service. The US Fish & Wildlife Service manages national wildlife refuges.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
The draft document is available for download at the Fish, Wildlife & Parks website (see link at the end of this article) Copies of the draft plan and EIS are also available by calling (307) 733-9212 or by writing to: Bison and Elk Management Planning Office, National Elk Refuge, P.O. Box 510, 675 E. Broadway, Jackson, Wyoming 83001. Comments may be sent by email to: email@example.com
Publication of the draft follows an interagency review process, in which the Services worked with the U.S. Forest Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Wyoming Fish and Game Department to refine and revise the plan and the EIS. The Services anticipate that the final plan and EIS will be completed by late 2006.
Bison/Elk Management Plan
USFWS and NPS Extend Public Comment Period for Draft Bison/Elk Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton NP and John D Rockerfeller Jr., Memorial Parkway US Fish & Wildlife Service (8/24/05)
Elk Plan Worries Game & Fish Casper-Star Tribune (10/13/05)