Published since 1946
There is such a thing as too many elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
Research and observations have shown that the elk herd in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), in Colorado, has steadily grown, is becoming less migratory and more concentrated, and is seriously impacting plant species in the park, such as willow and aspen, reports the Wildlife Management Institute. RMNP officials estimate the elk herd to number between 2,200 and 3,000 animals.
In response to the problem, the National Park Service has announced the availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for public review and comment regarding potential plans for elk and vegetation management in RMNP. The DEIS, which has taken several years to prepare, presents five management alternatives for elk and their habitat for the next 20 years, and corresponding, projected environmental impacts:
? Alternative 1: No action; current management for elk and vegetation would continue.
? Alternative 2: Preferred alternative; employ lethal reduction of elk by agency personnel to achieve an elk population target of 1,200 to 1,700 within the plan's first four years. Lethal reductions would continue as needed for the next 16 years to maintain the population target. Elk would also be moved and dispersed (redistributed) in the park by herding dogs, riders on horseback, staff members using noisemakers or visual devices, or by aircraft (including helicopters). In addition, 545 acres of aspen would be fenced to exclude elk. This alternative also proposes that, in later stages of implementation and given appropriate interagency cooperation, the release of intensively managed wolves could be considered as a potential elk redistribution technique.
? Alternative 3: Employ lethal reduction over 20 years to reach a population target of 1,600 to 2,100 elk. Elk would be redistributed, and up to 1,405 acres of aspen and montane riparian willow communities would be fenced to exclude elk.
? Alternative 4: Employ a fertility control agent and lethal reduction over 20 years to reach an elk population target of 1,600 to 2,100. Elk would be redistributed, and up to 1,405 acres of aspen and montane riparian willow communities would be fenced to exclude elk.
? Alternative 5: The release of a limited number of wolves to be intensively managed and maintained in the park, plus lethal reduction of elk to a target population of 1,600-2,100 within the first four years. This would be followed by lower levels of lethal reduction during the next 16 years to maintain a target population of 1,200 to 2,100 elk. Up to 545 acres of aspen would be fenced to exclude elk as needed.
Needless to say, lethal reductions of elk in a national park and the potential introduction of wolves to an entirely new area has made this DEIS a hot topic and undoubtedly will prompt considerable public interest and input.
To see a copy of the complete document, go to http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.htm?projectId=11012&documentID=14855.
The National Park Service is asking for public input and comment on the DEIS and has scheduled several public meetings during May (specifics to be posted on the RMNP website). Comments also can be submitted via the Web at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ or by mail to Superintendent, RMNP, Estes Park, Colorado 80517, by fax (970-586-1297), by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hand delivered to RMNP headquarters, 1000 Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado. The deadline for comments is July 4, 2006.