Jackson District Ranger Mary Moore signed the Decision Memo to authorize the use of up to 5-acres of the Bridger-Teton National Forest at Alkali Creek Feedground on the Jackson Ranger District for feed storage and feeding elk only in emergencies for the 2019-2024 feeding seasons. Authorized facilities include one elk tagging corral, one horse corral, one tack shed, one hay stack-yard containing two haysheds, and a water facility. The permit area is reduced from the 91- acres that had been authorized in previous seasons.
Specifically, the permit authorizes Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (WGFC) the use and occupancy of National Forest System Lands to feed elk only in emergencies for the 2019-2024 feeding seasons with the goal of complete cessation of feeding at Alkali Creek Feedground by or before end of the 2024 feeding season. The Decision Memo can be found on the Bridger-Teton National Forest website. https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=56850
Moore’s signing of a permit for emergency supplemental feeding at Alkali Creek allows for flexibility in managing elk that overwinter in the Gros Ventre corridor. “I have decided to authorize the use and occupancy of National Forest System lands at Alkali Creek Feedground on the Jackson Ranger District for maintaining facilities associated with feed storage and feeding elk only in emergencies for the 2019-2024 feeding seasons.” said Jackson District Ranger Mary Moore.
Due to partial losses of migration routes to suitable winter range and the direct loss of winter range due to rural development and fencing, WGFC conducts supplemental feeding of elk to prevent them from entering private lands and damaging stored crops and comingling with livestock to prevent disease transmission.
Supplemental feeding of elk (Cervus elaphus) began in northwestern Wyoming in the early 1900s with the creation of the National Elk Refuge in 1912. This was in response to large-scale winter die-offs. Additional feedgrounds were consequently established by the WGFC in the 1940’s and 1950’s to prevent elk from entering private lands and damaging stored crops.
In September, 2019 Moore began scoping the feeding proposal from WGFC. Scoping is part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process through which the Forest describes a proposed action and seeks input from other agencies, organizations, and the public on potentially affected resources, issues, and the Forest’s planned approach to analysis. Nine comments were received on the proposal.
Moore utilized a Categorical Exclusion because the project falls within the following category of actions listed in the Forest Service National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Handbook, FSH 1909.15, CHAPTER 30– 36 CFR 220.6(e)(3) Approval, modification, or continuation of minor special uses of NFS lands that require less than five contiguous acres of land.
“It is not business as usual,” said Moore. “Emergency feeding is carefully defined as; 1) feeding only if significant elk damage or an elk/livestock co-mingling situation develops on nearby private land , 2) or if it is necessary to catch or stop a large number of elk (200 or more) from moving down drainage from Patrol Cabin or Fish Creek elk feedgrounds, 3) and if I concur that one of these emergency situations exists,” she said. “When I approve an initiation of emergency feeding, I will also be specifying when emergency feeding must cease on the feedground,” she said.
As part of emergency feeding the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is now authorized (upon receiving permission) to actively trail elk away from Alkali Creek Feedground towards Patrol Cabin feedground, which is on state land. “By strategically locating hay at dusk along the most likely and efficient travel route between the feedgrounds on the Gros Ventre Road we are working toward the ultimate goal of stopping feeding at Alkali Creek Feedground by or before the end of the 2024 feeding season,” said Moore.