WY elk feedgrounds get temporary permit from US Forest Service

Despite a lawsuit against issuing another permit for Wyoming to continue its dangerous disease-spreading practice of mass feeding of elk in the wintertime, the Forest Service has prevailed in its effort to reissue the permit for the elk feedlots on national forest land without any analysis of its environmental impacts.

The Forest Service used a categorical exclusion or CE, which has become a very common end run around the National Environmental Policy Act during the Bush Administration. The pretension of a CE is that the effects are so minor and the controversy so little, that analysis doesn’t have to be done, something absolute contrary to the facts in this case (and many others).

Story in the Casper Star Tribune. By Whitney Royster.

Included in this is Wyoming Game and Fish’s new “test and slaughter” program for elk that react positively for the presence of antibodies to brucellosis. They kill the elk that test positive. They let the rest enter the winter feedlot. Unfortunately, the testing has lots of false-positives and false-negatives.

Just a reminder that Wyoming’s governor is complaining about the decimation of the elk herds by wolves at the same time this slaughter is going on. Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Wyoming is also complaining about wolves as they stand idly by and let the state shoot elk and then send them onto feedots which perpetuate the infection.

A solution that would work is to buy up winter range for elk (Wyoming is rolling in money from the energy boom) and then abolish the feedlots. Brucellosis would soon virtually disappear as has been shown among those Wyoming elk that avoid feedlots.

The objections to this come from those make a living pitching hay to the elk, those who like to see the herds of elk standing behind a fence, and, of course, ranchers who don’t want elk on the winter range they would rather use for cattle.

If Montana doesn’t feed elk and it does well, Wyoming should follow Montana’s example.

As a footnote, Idaho feeds a little bit, and the result was the elk passed brucellosis to nearby cattle and the state lost its “brucellosis-free” status for a year.

Earlier stories on this:

Newer article Jan. 9, 2007.  Jackson Hole News and Guide. 4 feed grounds receive permits. By Cory Hatch.







  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Ralph’s comments above are accurate.

    In refusing to deal with the presence of elk feedgrounds on Forest (and BLM) land in Wyoming–13 of the 22 Wyoming state feedgrounds are on federal land–the Federal government is making the false argument that it has no authority over wildlife management–that the State has full authority over wildlife management, including feeding elk, and all the Forest Service and BLM are doing is permitting, under special use permits, the presence of buildings, haystacks, and access roads. Technically, so it’s argued, the federal government isn’t granting permits for the feeding of elk.

    As anyone who’s worked on conservation issues on federal land can tell you, there is ample federal case law that demonstrates that the federal government does have considerable authority over wildlife management on federal lands, when it chooses to exert authority.

    In short, the federal government is aiding and abetting the State of Wyoming in maintaining wildlife disease hazards on federal land: elk feedgrounds, which are in fack elk ghettos.

    Of course, what the federal government is really doing is aiding and abetting the livestock industry’s desperate determination to maintain its fading power and privileges over wildlife management. That’s as true of Wyoming’s elk as it is of Montana’s bison.

    The livestock industry is more than willing to sacrifice wildlife to hold on to its oligarchical powers and privileges. It’s greed is palpable.

    Government, in thus aiding and abetting the livestock industry, is engaging in wilful negligence of a public trust: the conservation and management of wildlife in the public interest.

    Hunters, by refusing to act against feedgrounds, are demonstrating their ignorance and stupidity. What will they do when a CWD epidemic hits the feedgrounds.

    Conservation groups, by refusing to work steadfastly for the immediate closure of the feedgrounds, are demonstrating their fear of the livestock industry, hiding behind the “collaborate and capitulate” excuse that has so marred conservation action over the last decade. The lawsuit that the Wyoming Outdoor Council, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance is a fraud; the only remedy the groups are truly seeking is another study of feedgrounds through NEPA. We don’t need another study. We need to close feedgrounds before CWD arrives. Further, the attempt to stop the elk test and slaughter program that is a part of the lawsuit is half-hearted and lacks punch.

    Here comes the epedemic folks.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan