[Federal Register: February 2, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 22)]
[Page 5078-5080]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Final Bison and Elk Management Plan and Environmental Impact 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park 
Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, as lead agencies, announce 
the fnal Bison and Elk Management Plan (Plan) and Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) for the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National 
Park/John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway (Grand Teton National 
Park) is available. The final Plan/EIS was prepared pursuant to the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended 
(16 U.S.C. 668dd, et. seq.); the National Park Service Management 
Policies of 2006; and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The 
final Plan/EIS was prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); the 
U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service; the Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM); and the State of Wyoming Game and Fish Department 
(WGFD). The final Plan/EIS describes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service's and the National Park Service's proposal for management of 
the Jackson bison and elk populations within their respective 
jurisdictions for 15 years, beginning at the issuance of a Record of 
Decision (ROD) on the final Plan/EIS. The effects of six alternatives 
for the management of bison and elk populations for the National Elk 
Refuge and Grand Teton National Park are disclosed in the final Plan/

DATES: A ROD selecting the Preferred Alternative for implementation of 
the Bison and Elk Management Plan will be signed by the Regional 
Directors for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Region 6) and the 
National Park Service (Intermountain Region) no sooner than 30 days 
after the publication of this notice. March 5, 2007.

ADDRESSES: To review or obtain a copy of the final Plan/EIS, or to 
review public comments and hearing testimony, see ``Document Review'' 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Shannon, Planning Team Leader, 
Region 6, 134 Union Boulevard, Lakewood, Colorado 80028, 303-236-4317 
(phone); 303-236-4792 (fax); laurie_shannon@fws.gov (e-mail).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton 
National Park are located north of Jackson, Wyoming. Together with the 
Bridger-Teton National Forest, they make up most of the southern half 
of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The National Elk Refuge comprises 
approximately 24,700 acres, Grand Teton National Park comprises 309,995 
acres, and the John D. Rockefeller Jr., Memorial Parkway is 
approximately 23,777 acres. The Jackson bison and elk herds make up one 
of the largest concentrations of free-ranging ungulates in North 
America. Currently, these herds number about 1,000 bison and 13,000 
elk. The herds migrate across several jurisdictional boundaries, 
including Grand Teton National Park and southern Yellowstone National 
Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, BLM resource areas, and State and 
private lands, before they winter primarily on the National Elk Refuge. 
Due to the wide range of authorities and interests, including 
management of

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resident wildlife by the State of Wyoming on many federal lands, the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service have used 
a cooperative approach to management planning involving all of the 
associated federal agencies and the WGFD.
    A bison management plan (Jackson Bison Herd Long Term Management 
Plan and Environmental Assessment) was developed by the National Park 
Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the 
WGFD and the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and finalized in September 
1996. In 1998, a lawsuit was brought by the Fund for Animals enjoining 
most federal management actions proposed in the 1996 plan. The court 
ruled that the destruction of bison on federal lands for population 
control purposes could not be carried out until additional NEPA 
compliance was completed for those actions. The court also directed 
that additional NEPA compliance consider the effects on the Jackson 
bison population of the supplemental winter-feeding of elk on the 
National Elk Refuge.
    Significant issues addressed in the final Plan/EIS include: Bison 
and elk populations and their ecology; restoration of habitat and 
management of other species of wildlife; supplemental winter feeding 
operations of bison and elk; disease prevalence and transmission; 
recreational opportunities; cultural opportunities and western 
traditions and lifestyles; commercial operations; and the local and 
regional economy.
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, 
in cooperation with the WGFD and the other federal agencies, developed 
six alternatives for the management of bison and elk. These 
alternatives, as presented in the final Plan/EIS, include: Alternative 
1--No Action; Alternative 2--Minimal Management of Habitat and 
Populations, Support Migration; Alternative 3--Restore Habitat, Support 
Migration, and Phase Back Supplemental Feeding; Alternative 4--
Adaptively Manage Habitat and Populations; Alternative 5--Restore 
Habitat, Improve Forage, and Continue Supplemental Feeding; and 
Alternative 6--Restore Habitat, Adaptively Manage Populations, and 
Phase Out Supplemental Feeding.
    Alternative 4, the agencies' Preferred Alternative in the final 
EIS, balances the major issues and stakeholder perspectives identified 
during the planning process, with the purposes, missions, and 
management policies of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the 
National Park Service. Assuming the WGFD's herd objective of 11,000 had 
been met, and that higher numbers of elk would use the winter range, 
the agencies would recommend that approximately 5,000 elk and 500 bison 
winter on the National Elk Refuge at the end of the first phase of 
implementation. The elk hunt on the National Elk Refuge, and elk herd 
reductions as needed in Grand Teton National Park would continue. A 
public bison hunt would be instituted on the National Elk Refuge and 
managed in accordance with the State of Wyoming licensing requirements 
and an approved refuge hunting plan. As herd sizes and objectives were 
achieved, further reductions in feeding or elk numbers could occur 
based on established criteria developed in collaboration with WGFD.
    On July 21, 2005, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National 
Park Service announced the availability of the draft Plan/EIS for 
public review and comment in the Federal Register (70 FR 42089-42090). 
During the public review period, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 
the National Park Service held a series of public open houses and 
formal hearings in Bozeman, Montana; Jackson, Wyoming; and Riverton, 
Wyoming, to allow public input on the proposed management plan and its 
alternatives. During the draft Plan/EIS comment period that occurred 
from July 21, 2005 to November 7, 2005, the agencies received more than 
11,900 comments from 241 individuals (public hearing testimony, 
letters, and e-mails); 37 agencies or organizations; and 1,751 form 
letters or petitions. Some of the significant changes from the draft 
Plan/EIS that resulted from public comments include:
    1. For all alternatives, the inclusion of a statement clarifying 
the desired conditions to be achieved by the end of 15-year plan. This 
statement briefly describes what the agencies intend to accomplish by 
implementing the plan. The goals of the plan, which include habitat 
conservation, sustainable populations, numbers of elk and bison, and 
disease management, would essentially remain the same with minor word 
changes to the sustainable population goal for Grand Teton National 
Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway.
    2. Modification of Alternative 4 (Preferred Alternative) to 
emphasize adaptive management of habitat and populations. The agencies, 
in cooperation with WGFD, would use existing conditions, trends, new 
research findings, and other changing circumstances to provide the 
basis for developing and implementing a dynamic framework for 
decreasing the need for supplemental food on the National Elk Refuge. 
As modified, Alternative 4 would not identify the number of years 
supplemental feeding would occur, but instead would emphasize 
achievement of the desired conditions by the end of the plan. 
Alternative 4 would implement a phased approach to reducing feeding, 
but would not dictate a timeline for phasing out or reducing feeding. 
Following implementation of the first phase, approximately 5,000 elk 
would be expected to winter on the refuge. As habitat objectives and 
herd sizes were achieved, further reductions in feeding or elk numbers 
could occur based on established criteria developed in collaboration 
with WGFD.
    3. Target population for bison. Under Alternative 4, the agencies 
would work cooperatively with WGFD to maintain and ensure a genetically 
viable population of approximately 500 bison. The target bison 
population in Alternative 6 was modified to be about 500 animals 
instead of 400.
    4. Modification of the bison hunt. Under Alternative 4, a public 
bison hunt on the refuge would be used to reduce the bison population 
to approximately 500 animals in accordance with the State of Wyoming 
licensing regulations and an approved refuge hunting plan. The U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service could potentially allow for the removal of a 
small number of bison by Native American tribes for ceremonial 
purposes, but unlike Alternative 3 and 6, it would not specify that it 
would be provided.
    5. Development of a framework and criteria to reduce feeding. A key 
element of the modified Alternative 4 would be the development of a 
framework, developed in collaboration with WGFD, that would identify 
criteria necessary for progressively transitioning from intensive 
supplemental winter feeding to greater reliance on free-standing forage 
based on forage production, herd sizes, effective mitigation of bison-
elk-cattle mingling on private lands, winter distribution patterns of 
elk and bison, prevalence of diseases, and public support.
    6. Mitigation of conflicts on adjacent lands. Alternative 4 would 
adopt the mitigation components of Alternative 6 to work with private 
and agency partners to minimize conflicts with adjacent landowners by 
providing human and/or financial resources to manage co-mingling and 
reduce crop depredation by elk and/or bison on private lands.
    7. Vaccination of elk and bison. Alternative 4, as modified, would

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accommodate WGFD vaccination of elk and bison for brucellosis on the 
refuge as long as it was logistically feasible and safe for wildlife.
    8. Public education component. Alternative 4 would include the 
initiation of a public education effort to build understanding of 
natural elk and bison behavior, ecology, distribution, disease 
implications, and effects to other species.
    All substantive issues raised in the comments were addressed in the 
final Plan/EIS. Responses to comments are included as a companion 
document to the final Plan/EIS. Public comments and hearing testimony 
are also available for review at the National Elk Refuge Headquarters, 
675 East Broadway, Jackson, Wyoming 83001, during normal business 
hours. All information provided voluntarily by mail, phone, or at 
public meetings becomes part of the official public record (i.e., 
names, addresses, letters of comment, input recorded during meetings). 
If requested under the Freedom of Information Act by a private citizen 
or organization, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may provide copies 
of such information.
    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the NEPA Act of 1969, as amended 
(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); Council on Environmental Quality NEPA 
Regulations); other appropriate Federal laws and regulations; Executive 
Order 12996; the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 
1997; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policies and procedures for 
compliance with those laws and regulations.

Document Review

Final Plan/EIS

    A copy of the final Plan/EIS may be obtained by writing to: Jackson 
Bison and Elk Management Planning Office, P.O. Box 510, Jackson, 
Wyoming 83001; by telephone: 307-733-9212; by e-mail: 
bisonelk_planning@fws.[fxsp0]gov; or by download from the project Web site: 


    The final Plan/EIS will be available for reading at the following 
main branch libraries: State of Wyoming: Albany County--Laramie; 
Fremont County--Dubois, Lander, and Riverton; Laramie County--Cheyenne; 
Lincoln County--Afton; Park County--Cody; Natrona County--Casper; 
Sheridan County--Sheridan; Sublette County--Pinedale and Big Piney; 
Sweetwater County--Rock Springs; and Teton County--Jackson and Alta. 
State of Idaho: Idaho Falls, Rexburg, Swan Valley and Victor. State of 
Montana: Bozeman, Livingston, Missoula, and Ennis. State of Colorado: 
Denver and Fort Collins. It will also be available at the following 
colleges and universities: State of Wyoming: Casper College Library, 
Casper; Central Wyoming College Library, Riverton; University of 
Wyoming Library, Laramie; Northwest College Library, Powell; Sheridan 
College Library, Sheridan; and Western Wyoming College Library, Rock 
Springs. State of Montana: Montana State University Library, Bozeman; 
and the University of Montana Library, Missoula. State of Idaho: 
Albertsons Library, Boise State University, Boise; University of Idaho 
Library, Moscow. State of Colorado: Colorado State University Library, 
Fort Collins.

    Dated: November 9, 2006.
James J. Slack,
Deputy Regional Director, Region 6, Denver, Colorado.
 [FR Doc. E7-1605 Filed 2-1-07; 8:45 am]