In March, conservation groups sued the National Elk Refuge over something it’s been doing for more than 100 years: feeding the Jackson Hole elk herd. That practice has been under scrutiny for years, but now plaintiffs say there is fresh urgency. That’s because Chronic Wasting Disease, a contagious and fatal illness that affects the brains of deer, elk and moose, was found in a Jackson mule deer in Grand Teton National Park last year. Plaintiffs, The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, point out that feeding grounds promote conditions that could spread Chronic Wasting Disease.
This is the second time Earthjustice has filed suit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife over such practices at the Elk Refuge. Tim Preso, Earthjustice’s managing attorney, says his organization sued in 2007 to force the refuge to create and stick to a timeline to phase out feeding. Twelve years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still hasn’t presented a plan or a deadline to end supplemental feeding, Preso says.