- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. (AP) - Conservationists are worried an elk-feeding operation near a Wyoming river is allowing a deadly wildlife disease to spread.

Conservationists filed a lawsuit Monday against the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s decision to allow the state to gather the animals at the Alkali Feedground by giving them elk hay, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported (https://bit.ly/2rHIZ16 ).

The conservationists claim if just one elk with chronic wasting disease comes to the feed ground, it “would likely” result in its transmission to the National Elk Refuge and the Jackson Elk Herd.

Bridger-Teton officials declined comment on the lawsuit Monday.

Groups suing include the Sierra Club, the Western Watersheds Project, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and the Gallatin Wildlife Association.

At issue is 91 acres (368,000 square meters) of feeding ground butted up against the Gros Ventre Wilderness. It’s the farthest downstream of three elk feed grounds in the Gros Ventre drainage and the nearest to the Elk Refuge.

When the Bridger-Teton reauthorized the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s use of the feed ground in 2015, forest officials recommended that the state phase out feeding at Alkali Creek Feedground and elsewhere. But the Bridger-Teton’s decision didn’t require a cessation of feeding or set a timetable for doing so.

Past lawsuits targeting elk feeding in northwest Wyoming have failed to stop the wildlife management practice that’s been entrenched in the region for a century.

“We have chronic wasting disease expanding in Wyoming at more than 3 million acres a year,” said Lloyd Dorsey, Sierra Club’s Wyoming conservation director. “The fact is that elk feed grounds promulgate diseases and the CWD endemic area is only about 20 miles east of the Alkali Creek Feedground.”

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Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, https://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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