Challenge to Wyoming's elk feeding/killing program fails in federal court

The judge ruled Wyoming’s program to test elk for brucellosis before they enter a winter feedlot (and kill the elk if it tests positive for brucellosis anti-bodies) was not an arbitrary and capricious decision. Indeed that legal standard is a high bar (that a government program is arbitrary and capricious).

Livestock groups were happy because it means they won’t have to share any winter range with elk (as ranchers do in most other Western states).

There is no way this test and slaughter will reduce the brucellosis infection rate because there are too many “false negatives” as well as even more “false positives” in the crude test they use.

I continue to be amazed that Wyoming’s version of the group “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife” continues to support this worthless elk killing program and yet keep a straight face when they talk about how horrible it is that predatory animals kill elk. I guess elk dying a natural death to predation is bad and a stupid bureaucratic-ordered death is acceptable.
Story in the Billings Gazette. Elk-feeding challenge rejected

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  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Having just returned from a pack trip to the mountains, I’ve just now learned about this decision on Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds. Obviously, I have yet to read the decision. However, it is clearly flawed.

    Let us not forget that the courts once upheld segregation too.

    The primary issue of this lawsuit was not Wyoming’s program per se, but the failure of the federal government to conduct the necessary NEPA analysis before issuing special use permits to the Wyoming Game & Fish Department to carry out the feedground program. Given that elk feedgrounds do have a primae facie major impact on the human environment, in NEPA terms, the judge’s decision is rationally inexplicable. It does show what a stranglehold the livestock industry has over judicial decision-making in the west, even in the federal courts.

    Once I get cleaned up and find a copy of the judge’s decision, perhaps I can talk more in depth about it.


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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