A well established principle of law is that any federal agency must do an environmental impact statement for any major federal action significantly affecting the environment. This includes reauthorization of continuing activities.What does “major” mean mean? There is controversy over that and many lawsuits in the past to provide guidance, but “major” likely means a controversial activity which affects the health of wildlife and livestock even if they have done this for a while on an annual basis.
A categorical exemption, or CE, is a necessarily device to avoid the time and cost of environmental analysis of certain classes of activities that are obviously minor, such as rebuilding a non-controversial fence, or a small timber sale. Unfortunately, the Bridger-Teton NF is yearly trying to reauthorize these immensely controversial feedgrounds which are the breeding grounds of brucellosis, chronic wasting disease, and other diseases with just a CE.
I imagine a lawsuit will be on its way unless they decide to do environmental analysis, which also requires far more opportunity for public comment than a CE does.
Story today in the Casper Star Tribune by Whitney Royster.
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I have moved Robert Hoskins comments up into this article because of the added detail he provides. I see his comments have generated a lot of additional comments as did my original post. RM
“Thanks for bringing attention to this. Given that Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds are a disease time bomb waiting to explode in the Greater Yellowstone, with consequences to the ecosystem that are now incalculable, the determination of the livestock industry dominated federal and state agencies to ignore the truth about feedgrounds can only be dscribed as wilful negligence of the highest order.
As a practical matter, this specific action by the Bridger-Teton National Forest is an attempt to do an end run around the current lawsuit against the BT demanding that it follow NEPA in authorizing the Wyoming Game & Fish Department to operate feedgrounds on Forest Service land. The notion that special use permits for feeding elk can be swept under a categorical exclusion is absurd. Regarding NEPA, feedgrounds have two major impacts on the human environment–they are a first class disease hazard and the unnatural concentration of elk on feedgrounds causes profound severe damage to habitat in the vicinity of those feedgrounds. Under law, the Forest Service is required to assess the hazards and impacts of granting permits to the State of Wyoming to operate feedgrounds. What it is proposing to do with this CE is simply ignore those impacts.
One of the four feedgrounds that would be covered by this proposed CE is Muddy Feedground, on which the nefarious and scientifically invalid elk test & slaughter program is being carried out. The Wyoming G&F Department is proposing to expand the test and slaughter program to two of the other feedgrounds that would be covered by this CE. However, they need approved permits to continue operating these feedgrounds. The BT wants to hand out those permits without acknowleding the severe impacts of these feedgrounds, and are using the CE provision to do so.
We should understand that the purpose of elk feedgrounds is to keep elk away from grass deemed by the livestock industry and local ranchers to be “reserved” for cattle. In other words, the livestock indusdtry is forcing the Wyoming G&F Department to operate elk feedgrounds, which have been known to be disease hazards for decades, solely for the benefit of ranchers, contrary to the public interest and at the certain risk of a disease epidemic (chronic wasting disease). This is the core fact of the feedground controversy, as it is the core fact of the bison controversy in Montana. In both cases, with Wyoming elk and Montana bison, public wildlife is being sacrificed for the private benefit of the livestock industry–that is, control of grass–with the full support of state wildlife agencies and federal land management agencies such as the National Park Service and the United States Forest Service. I can think of nothing in conservation politics that is more despicable and cowardly.
How much more deliberate negligence can the public stand as these government these agencies’ capitulate to the livestock industry, sacrificing our wildlife in the process?”