Laramie, Wy – The federal government's chief veterinarian for wildlife says animal feedgrounds have caused significant damage to the ecosystem.
The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service's Tom Roffe says the government is working to restore the natural vegetation that has been damaged on the National Elk Refuge near Jackson. " And you know how we have to do it with the number of animals there? We are going to put fences up. Is that the wise conservation? Is that the way ecosystems should be functioning? "
Roffe says evidence suggests feedgrounds interfere with nature in other ways. He disagrees with those who favor feedgrounds because they reduce competition for food between elk and other animals like deer and bighorn sheep.
"Elk are one component on the landscape, and to say we are going to have an abundance of one component, and we will keep that abundance away from others in order to do better, suggests to me that we have lost that vision of a functioning ecosystem." Roffe says feedgrounds may have outlived their usefulness. He says they undoubtedly spread disease. And with the first sign of chronic wasting disease discovered in a moose just a few miles from a feedground in Star Valley, Roffe says it's only a matter of time before the disease ripples through those populations.
"I used to think I would make it to retirement before it got there maybe not."
The National Forest Service just upheld a decision that allows the state to use feedgrounds for another 20 years. State officials say there is no data suggesting that C-W-D will devastate a herd in the long-term.