JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - A proposed conservation plan for the National Elk Refuge in northwest Wyoming includes building wildlife crossings over a highway, restoring beavers to wetlands and allowing wildfires to burn naturally.
The proposed plan, which was released this past week, outlines goals for the refuge over the next 15 years.
The 306-page document addresses all aspects of management on the National Elk Refuge except for two iconic species for which the preserve is best known: elk and bison.
“The Comprehensive Conservation Plan will not address bison and elk management on the refuge, but it will address all other aspects of management including migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, cultural resources and visitor use,” spokeswoman Lori Iverson said. “This is a complementary document to the 2007 Bison and Elk Management Plan.”
Elk refuge managers are fielding public comment until Oct. 10 on the latest plan, which is packaged with an environmental assessment.
Of the four options in the plan, the refuge is proposing to implement an alternative that promotes natural habitat and balanced public use.
“We would strike a balance between management activity and allowing natural processes and would identify priorities for research and monitoring between refuge and ecosystem because more public use would still require refuge-specific monitoring,” the plan said. “The proposed action represents balanced public use by providing some increase in developed areas while allowing other areas to remain undeveloped or to return to a natural state.”
Iverson said the preferred plan would allow for increases in public use within moderation.
“We want to do it in a thoughtful way that stays true to our mission,” Iverson told the Jackson Hole News & Guide (https://bit.ly/1rPJ8Xz).
“Hopefully the Comprehensive Conservation Plan will help people understand the refuge’s role in federal land management here in the Jackson Hole valley,” she said. “Some of these may be changes that the public doesn’t see for a long time, because it’s dependent on staffing and finances.”
Besides overpasses, beavers and wildfires, the plan proposes creating ponds “to support nesting swans” and using temporary enclosures to protect young trees.
It also explores some changes to the annual elk hunt.
A hunting program targeted at young people would be developed, which could be accompanied by youth-only hunts.
Southern and western portions of the refuge now closed to all hunting could be opened to archers. Refuge managers would also work with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to develop a bull elk hunt “to provide more quality opportunities.”
Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, https://www.jhnewsandguide.com
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