BONDURANT – The Forest Service is reviewing Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s application submitted for a one-year special use permit to continue feeding elk at the Dell Creek Feedground this coming winter.
The special permit would allow Game and Fish to continue feeding hay daily, or as needed, to “a long-term average” of 275 elk from mid-November to mid- April, depending on 2021-2022 snowfall.
Last winter, biologists counted 529 native elk gathered at the feedground, which is closed to the public at that time. It is located on Bridger-Teton National Forest near private ranch and residential property.
Forest Service officials anticipate continuing the longtime use for another season holds no “extraordinary circumstances … that could result in significant environmental effects” to federally listed species, floodplains or wetlands, wilderness or wild and scenic rivers, inventoried roadless areas, research natural areas, native religious or cultural sites or historic or archeological properties.
This means the short-term permit could be authorized as a “categorical exclusion” with no further review.
As part of the process, the Big Piney Ranger District will accept public comments through Oct. 24, according to the Oct. 13 scoping letter from acting District Ranger Gregory Brooks.
On Sept. 21, U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled that the Forest Service’s 2017 permit had expired at Dell Creek, prompting both agencies to spend several days working out a solution.
The Big Piney Ranger District received the commission’s application on Oct. 5 “to continue to use the facilities at Dell Creek Feedground to conduct their winter elk-management activities,” Brooks wrote. “Therefore there is a need for the Forest Service to respond to the (Game and Fish) request.”
The permit would be temporary while the Forest Service undertakes an environmental analysis for longer-term use, leading to an environmental impact statement, according to the letter.
Public comments are “most helpful” by Oct. 24. All comments will be part of the public record. For more information or to join the project’s mailing list, contact BTNF biologist Rusty Kaiser at [email protected] or 307-276-3375.
Scoping information, maps and an electronic comment button are available on the BTNF project page at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=60948.
Also, written comments can be mailed – not delivered in person – to Gregory Brooks, Acting District Ranger, Big Piney Ranger District, Bridger-Teton National Forest, PO Box 218, Big Piney, WY 83113.