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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson announced today the approval of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) of the Environmental Assessment (EA) on a proposed plan for managing a permanent herd of elk in the Park. The approved plan, signed on October 20, 2011, by National Park Service Regional Director David Vela, culminates a 10-year effort to reestablish elk to their native range.
In June 2010, the Park published the EA outlining the findings of an 8-year experimental elk release (2001-2008). The purpose of the EA was to determine the most appropriate and feasible approach to manage the existing elk population, currently totaling around 140 animals. The primary objective under the Preferred Alternative of Adaptive Management is to maintain an elk population within the Park that is self sustaining and allows only acceptable impacts to Park resources. "By creating a framework of flexibility, Park managers can employ a variety of management strategies to deal with a range of behaviors with the goal of preventing 'unacceptable' conditions as described in the EA," said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson.
Research findings from the experimental elk release indicated that the elk population was sustainable, had minimal impacts on the Park's resources, and human-elk conflicts were manageable.
The Park received 67 comments from stakeholders, agencies, and the general public during the 30-day comment period. Of those, 47 fully supported the project, 19 comments had specific concerns with the some of the action items in the EA, and one commenter opposed the plan. The FONSI, with public comments and Park responses, is available for review on-line at the National Park Service's Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website: https://parkplanning.nps.gov or at the Park's website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/parkmgmt/index.htm.
Last updated: April 14, 2015