State gets its way on a national refuge

  • National Elk Refuge

    RICCARDS SAVI, for USFWS
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "Sound science goes sour."

Endangered species management isn’t the only hot-point issue for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Political pressure is also affecting how the agency manages 540 national wildlife refuges across the country.

In 1998, the state of Wyoming sued the Fish and Wildlife Service, trying to force the agency to vaccinate elk for brucellosis on the National Elk Refuge (HCN, 3/16/98: Elk are the battleground). Wyoming officials worried that the elk, which come to the refuge by the thousands each winter to feed on pellets and hay dispersed by managers, could spread the disease to cattle. The state lost that suit, appealed it and lost again. Eventually, however, Fish and Wildlife conceded and agreed to study vaccination.

The agency’s study found the vaccine unreliable. The public, which was given a chance to comment on the proposal, overwhelmingly favored improving elk habitat off the refuge and reducing the herd’s numbers, rather than continuing to feed elk on the refuge, and then vaccinating them for the disease.

But last December, Fish and Wildlife officials decided to go ahead with vaccination. When Barry Reiswig, the manager of the 25,000-acre refuge, opposed the plan, saying it wasn’t compatible with the objectives of the refuge, Fish and Wildlife Regional Director Ralph Morgenweck withdrew Reiswig’s authority over the decision.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Wyoming Outdoor Council obtained e-mails and memos detailing the agency’s decision. One e-mail, to Reiswig from Steve Berendzen, the refuge supervisor for Montana, Wyoming and Utah, reads: “I encourage you to keep your comments to yourself (or very discreet) when asked your opinions on much of this.” Berendzen explains that Steve Williams, the director of Fish and Wildlife, is “very serious” about getting the vaccination program through, and doesn’t want to “impact the tenuous relationship” with the Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department.

“Fish and Wildlife ruled against public opinion and made a mockery of the process,” says Meredith Taylor of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. “It’s a political sham perpetrated by Fish and Wildlife in (Washington,) D.C., and their pawns in Denver.”

Vaccination will begin this winter.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance, a leading grassroots conservation advocacy organization for over 30 years, seeks a passionate, dynamic, organized, and technology-savvy communications professional to help...
  • OPERATIONS AND FINANCE MANAGER
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness, a national grassroots organization led by women, seeks a resourceful, self-motivated, team player to serve as Operations and Finance Manager....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    ORGANIZATIONAL BACKGROUND Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) fosters community stewardship, education and awareness of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...
  • WYOMING STATE DIRECTOR
    Save the World ... or at least a piece of it! Join The Nature Conservancy and make a tangible and lasting impact by creating a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY NON-PROFIT NEAR YOSEMITE
    Demanding, but rewarding, advocacy work on forest, water, wildland, and wildlife issues. Applicants should have experience dealing with land management planning, public speaking, grassroots organizing,...
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR AT WILDERNESS WORKSHOP
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...
  • 2 PROPERTIES ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Organic farm, hot springs, San Francisco River runs through both. [email protected]