The state of Wyoming operates 23 winter feedgrounds for elk, many of them on federal lands. These feedgrounds artificially concentrate elk populations, which fuels the spread of diseases such as brucellosis and creates the prospect of a major chronic wasting disease epidemic. Conservationists sued to compel long overdue environmental analysis of alternatives to elk-feeding in Wyoming.
In July 2009 the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the four elk feed grounds on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management are exempt from a new environmental impacts analysis, due to an old memorandum of understanding agreed to by the BLM and the state of Wyoming. However, as a result of this lawsuit, the U.S. Forest Service prepared an environmental impact statement examining the impacts of feed grounds within the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
In two recent reports, Bruce Smith, the former senior wildlife biologist at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming, and Markus Peterson, an expert on wildlife diseases from Texas A&M University, conclude that elk feedgrounds are spreading brucellosis and putting Wyoming elk at risk of a major chronic wasting disease (CWD) epidemic.