Wyoming Statewide Prescoping Bison/Elk Meetings April 16-19, 2001

Riverton 4/16/01 Prescoping EIS meeting

Audience comments and Questions:

This planning process is set up as if one solution will work to manage both elk and bison. The problem is with bison, so why are we involving elk?

In the long run, combining the plans will save time and money. There is already a good basis for a bison plan, but it was not comprehensive enough and there is a need to do NEPA on the feedgrounds in the next couple of years.

We are here because a district judge said we had to reevaluate the plan. Why canít another judge overrule? Can we appeal to the new Department of Justice?

Why is the focus of this plan on the NER and not just the feedgrounds?

USFS hasnít decided yet if this process will include the feedgrounds. They will make that decision when the proposed action is clear.

CFR 734.203 Section 3, Paragraph D states that public employees involved in organizations such as Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility should not be involved in this type of decision making process.

When a public employee is working, they are representing and AGENCY and that agencyís viewpoint. What they do on their own as an individual is their business.

A desire was expressed to maintain elk numbers, continue feeding and have a viable number of bison. If a viable number canít be obtained through control measures, then we should just get rid of the bison.

How can the park and the NER be involved with the same study Ė the jurisdictions and actions are different for each agency?

An objective has to be agreed upon and managed/carried out by all agencies because we are dealing with herds that donít recognize political boundaries.

Is the planning team neutral?

No decisions have been made by anyone at this point. The planning team members work based on their respective agency missions. Everyone has an opinion, but they need to be careful to not have it come across as team or agency opinion. Be careful with public comments.

A concern was expressed about losing the right to hunt. Hunting is crucial to the people of Wyoming. Planning team needs to be aware of pitfalls of the vocal minority and silent majority. It was felt that bison numbers should be controlled Ė the method wasnít an issue.

Why do another EIS on the feedgrounds? The state feed grounds should be kept separate from this EIS. It can be addressed with an EA. If the bison show up on the state feed grounds, then they can be controlled because it is on USFS land.

Why isnít there more irrigation done on the NER?

The NER received a recommendation from Lynn Cornea to convert to sprinkler irrigation. The NER is not set up for flood irrigation to be efficient. The Flat Creek goes underground and doesnít always flow. Senator Enzi gave $400,000 to switch to a sprinkler irrigation system. The NER went through an EA. They purchased equipment, and hired a project irrigator. They were challenged on the EA because they didnít address feeding. They converted the project to "experimental" and thereby excluded it from NEPA requirements. This allows them to irrigate 264 acres. They have materials/resources to irrigate only 64 acres because they underestimated the system cost. They will start the experimental sprinkler system this spring.

Why is the NER using pellets and not hay? They could mange better to protect the woody vegetation.

Two-thirds of ungulate consumption on the NER is from naturally occurring forage. The NER converted to pellets about 25 years ago. Pellets are a more efficient use of manpower. Also the park stopped producing hay because it was determined to be incompatible with park values. The local community was concerned about having to compete with the NER for purchasing hay. So, to avoid this competition, the NER switched to pellets. Hay does have a slower consumption and consequently may reduce impacts on woody vegetation. Position/proximity of food source doesnít seem to impact the woody vegetation.

What about doing an experiment of giving SOME hay and some pellets?

How can diseases be treated and eradicated?

There is no cure for chronic wasting disease or bovine TB. The park is working with Russian scientists to find a vaccine that is effective against brucellosis. Vaccines that are researched/produced for the livestock industry are profitable because of the large quantities they can sell. When wildlife managers ask for the research/production of a vaccine, the sold quantities are less and therefore the effort is overall less profitable for the manufacturers. It is hard to make it worthwhile.

Why arenít the elk vaccinated on the NER? It appears to work on the feedgrounds.

According to NER scientists, the data that the vaccines are working on the feedgrounds is inconclusive. Department of Interior is doing some research on Strain 19 and they have determined that it is difficult to evaluate efficacy.

In 1997, the Refuge Improvement Act stated that the refuges had to identify all of the species found on the refuges. How do these other species impact decisions Ė especially if they are determined to be threatened and endangered?

The Refuge Improvement Act didnít change the refuge purpose Ė manage winter habitat for elk. Elk is still the main species the NER is concerned with. The NER, however, tries to manage for as many species as possible, but the purpose of the refuge says that it can be managed just for the elk.

What can be done to reduce the risk of transmission of diseases?

The best thing that can be done is to not allow game ranching in Wyoming and discourage neighboring states from game ranching. Habitat improvement efforts should be continued to minimize the length of time that commingling can occur. Despite that, free roaming herds have been shown to carry and perpetuate diseases such as CWD and TB.

What is Barry Reiswigís (Refuge Manager) point of view on feeding on the NER?

Feeding is a method to maintain current numbers. If another, better method was found to maintain numbers, he would be supportive of that.

WYG&F has jurisdiction over wildlife. What about on the NER?

Technically, the NER has authority, but both agencies recognize the need to work together to manage the herd. The same is true with WYG&F and Grand Teton NP. Jurisdiction is a sticky issue. State and federal agencies will continue working together to successfully manage the herd.

A comment was made that the public did not want to see a reduction in elk herd size.

The Stateís have a right to manage their resources and they feel that is being taken away because of "treehuggers." When do people of Wyoming get to determine their way of life? Decisions are driven by a small group of people with a lot of money.

What is the true prevalence of brucellosis?

In the GYA, in unfed free ranging animals, it is .5-2%. On the feedgrounds, it is 37 +/- 5%. These numbers are variable. Vaccination does suppress brucellosis and provide some protection.

A US Attorney should review the lawsuit to see if it is appropriate to continue this effort. The money would be better spent on research.

Desire Future Conditions (Flipcharts):

 

Casper 4/17/01 Prescoping Meeting:

Why are elk numbers down on the refuge this year?

Possibly due to predation (human, bear, wolf) which is leading to low calf recruitment. Hunting emphasis has been put on cow elk harvest.

What options are there for moving the animals?

The state vet and animal health people are concerned about the perceived risk of

disease transmission to livestock.

What is the effect of brucellosis on calves?

It affects 7 out of every 100 animals.

Are the wolves to blame for the low calf ratio?

Prior to the wolves, there was a low calf ratio, but certainly elk calves are the primary food source for wolves. There is the possibility of a greater impact of wolves in the future as their numbers increase. Right now, they consume about 300 elk calves/year.

How do hunting objectives get set each year?

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission sets the objectives with input from the other involved agencies.

How many animals can the NER afford to feed? How do bison impact this?

The NER will feed however many animals come to the refuge. If necessary, they will just buy more feed. The issue with bison are 1) disease concerns, 2) they eat 3 times more than an elk, and 3) they are very hard on the habitat.

Who manage the bison?

The Game and Fish Department and Wyoming Livestock Board manage the bison. The bison are often classified as livestock, but not in this area. Here they are considered wildlife. If they are a threat to livestock health, human safety, or property damage, then they can be legally removed. Increasing bison numbers will inevitably lead to increased risk of conflict.

Do the bison move between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks?

There have been a few animals that have been documented that have moved between the parks. In YNP, the brucellosis seroprevalence rate is 44% and in GTNP it is 90%.

How is this similar to the YNP bison plan?

The science is similar, but the issues are different.

Is brucellosis found elsewhere in the US?

This area is the last reservoir for brucellosis in the US.

Flip Chart:

 

Cheyenne 4/18/01 Prescoping Meeting:

Suggestions for better media coverage:

Traders/Shoppers Guide

Casper Star Tribune (put it in the Thursday outdoor section, Bill Gruber)

Denver News/Post (Sunday paper has outdoor section)

RMEF newsletter

Colorado Dept of Wildlife issues a newsletter

Hunting and Fishing News (out of Seattle?)

Wyoming Game and Fish Newsletter

Flip Chart Comments:

 

Rock Springs 4/19/01 Prescoping

Comments: