Safari Club International (SCI) and its partners the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association (WYOGA) and the Jackson Hole Outfitters and Guides Association (JHOGA) are involved in litigation to defend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) adaptive management of the Jackson elk herd on the National Elk Refuge in western Wyoming. SCI, WYOGA, and JHOGA are vigorously defending the USFWS’ controlled reduction of supplemental winter feeding on the Refuge, which responds to conditions on the ground and is intended to avoid the largescale starvation of elk that can no longer use natural winter habitat due to human development in the Jackson Hole area.
Anti-hunting groups are seeking to shut down the elk feeding program on the Refuge and other state-managed feed grounds, which would be a death sentence for thousands of elk that rely on these critical food sources to survive the harsh Wyoming winters.
Spurred by the recent news that a hunter harvested an elk infected by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) near the National Elk Refuge, SCI, WYOGA, and our partners stand ready to continue to defend the federal and state management of these feed grounds. Contrary to the allegations of plaintiffs in the pending litigation, we support the federal and state agencies’ efforts to adaptively manage the feed grounds in response to the needs of the elk and the risks of disease transmission.
As explained by SCI CEO W. Laird Hamberlin, “While CWD is one of the most complex threats facing North American wildlife, the idea that we can or should mitigate its spread by shutting down the winter food source for Wyoming’s massive elk herds is unthinkable. It would do little to contain the spread of disease but would without question sentence thousands of elk to death by starvation over the course of a single winter.”
The National Elk Refuge has served as a haven for elk for over a century. Supplemental winter feeding began in the winter of 1910-11, when Jackson Hole residents refused to continue to watch elk starve. These citizens took responsibility for the loss of winter habitat and migration routes as a result of human development in the Jackson Hole area through the winter feeding program. The State of Wyoming manages an additional 22 feed grounds in western Wyoming, which also face the loss of natural winter range.
SCI and its partners acknowledge the risks of CWD transmission, but we support the responsible management of federal and state authorities, which balance the issues of disease, species behavior, available habitat, and the very real risk of starvation of a large percentage of Wyoming’s elk herds.