Resource Ramblings 2008-03
Elk and their management have received local, state and national media attention. Management opinions have been expressed by State and local Government, Park neighbors, hunting, and conservation groups. This process has received national attention.
Elk were extirpated from South Dakota by 1900 and were reintroduced into the Park from Teton and Yellowstone National Parks between 1914 and 1916. In February 2007, the Park’s winter elk population was estimated at 650+, exceeding the management capacity of around 350. With an estimated annual population increase of 12 percent, the elk population continues to grow and impacts other park resources.
Vegetative surveys in the 1950-1960s found Park rangelands to be overgrazed by elk and bison. The Park established a management population of 350-400 elk. Current vegetative surveys indicate Park rangelands are overgrazed.
The Park has operated under a 1994 Elk Management Strategy dictating live trapping and relocating of elk to maintain a population between 350-400 animals.
In November 2002, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was confirmed in an elk taken from within the Park, precluding the Park from live trapping and transport of excess animals. From 2004 through the present time, the Park has conducted a surveillance program to remove elk and deer exhibiting clinical signs of CWD; nine elk and eight deer have tested positive for this disease.
In 2003, the Park entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Dakota, Department of Game, Fish and Parks to develop Park and Black Hills elk management plans, as well as a Statewide CWD management plan.
The park secured funding in 2004 to begin development of an Elk Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement and internal scoping was conducted in June of 2004 with experts on elk, NEPA, park resources, and wildlife disease. A science team was developed with elk management experts from Government and non-Government areas to address goals for elk management. Topics included range management, elk population, reduction/maintenance methods, monitoring, action thresholds, and adaptive management.
Public scoping meetings were conducted in Hot Spring, Custer, Rapid City, Pierre, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota in August 2005.
A draft plan was submitted to the NPS Midwest Region Office in March 2007 for review. The selected alternative may have features from multiple approaches. The following draft alternatives have been developed:
Alternatives Considered but Dismissed (with brief rationale for dismissal):
The draft plan is expected to be released for public review in the spring of 2008.
Comments and feedback about Resource Ramblings are encouraged and may be directed to Dan Foster, in person, or via email.