The Jackson Elk Herd: Parks, Ecology, Permaculture

26 Nov

Landless Small Farmer, Earnestly Trying to Change the WorldOn getting to Yellowstone and Jackson, Wyoming I was struck with a different way to coexist with plants and animals in a way that is part farming and part conservation. A new sustainable farming might produce value without destroying the lands on which it is based. A focus in conservation biology or habitat biology would secure the gig… so I’ll upload some pictures here and the theory and idea docs after the <more> break.

I decided to stay a while at Jackson Wyoming, and see what I could come up with. It wasn’t long until I had my idea…

Migratory animals

Permaculture Ecology

The Elk Refuge

The Elk Refuge was established by Federal government funds mid-century.

The Jackson Elk Herd — background

The Yellowstone and Grand Teton area in northwest Wyoming are blessed with a large number of (wild) Elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose, deer, and other large ruminant (grazing) animals.

Native Americans lived with the Elk, indeed following herds is posited as a possible way they could have come into the North American continent. “Wherever they roam,” bison are the primary source of food and clothing and tools from the bones. Native ecology management included burning and other methods to bring lush pastures, which attracted the grazing animals.

Elk winter range is today maintained fertile by equal diligence: irrigation, planting of native grasses, and other methods deemed necessary and affordable by Elk Refuge and Game and Fish staff in the summer. Despite their efforts, in the winter the [thousands of] elk pack down snow and deplete the grasses, going to forage and then would otherwise seek outside range unless fed… in places they would not be welcome? Now, there is an impending threat of disease that is always fatal, with no known cure and has already been spotted in a moose near the feedgrounds (in Star Valley…). A court order demands that herd numbers be reduced, such that supplemental feeding can be phased off. The park agencies, the Game and Fish department, the refuge, the science, the Department of Interior and the Courts… all now want to spread out the elk into former feedgrounds and prevent the disease.

This is where I kick into play … !

With two years experience as a shepherd…

“If one reviews the abundant literature published by state, federal, and independent scientists over the past 75 years, the “problem” is the same: too many elk maintained on too little habitat.” That is the reality western Wyoming must address. (Bruce Smith, author of Where Elk Roam)

“For the most part, other seasonal ranges remain intact, it is primarily winter range that has been impacted.” (The Jackson Elk Herd, 161)

Community: 1) See thousands as “should be” in the refuge, and tourism. 2) care about a sustainable elk harvest, 3) many educational and research agencies and opportunities.

Wapiti require only four things: diverse, nutritious forage; perennial fresh water (or snow); shelter from the wind; and land to roam from this great Earth. (Petersen, Elkheart) perhaps fence, and legal okay?

So I’m launching towards conservation biology– trying to restore state Elk habitat between private “get off my lands” – area and keep wild bull elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer gets less snow than parts of refuge. I am Eddie and I am a shepherd. I study sustainability. See my blog at or email (allies, support, feedback or reporters welcome) at

Next up:

Elk habitat, natural forage? In the national forest, Gros Ventre river

Other wild animals, permaculture habitat building and shepherding to gain experience?

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.


The Jackson Hole News and Guide.

11/16/2011 : “The quest for elk forage.” Angus Thuermer Jr.

11/9/2011 : “Time to do right by the elk.” Bruce Smith

11/9/2011 : “Can elk migration routes be restored?” Thuermer Jr.

Petersen, John. Elkheart.

Murie, Olaus and Mardy. Wapiti Wilderness. Colorado Associated University Press, Boulder, Colorado. 1985.

Boyce, Mark S. The Jackson Elk Herd: Intensive Wildlife Management in North America. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK 1985.

Smith, Bruce. Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of Our National Elk Herd.

“Feeding the Problem” viewable at

“Migrations: Examining the migratory paths of wildlife in Wyoming.” Geoff O’Grue. PBS. November 17th, 2011. US Fish and Wildlife Service : National Elk Refuge, Jackson, Wy, June 2010.

Grand Teton area travel map, Jackson Hole Picture Map, Bridger-Teton National Forest map, Buffalo + ranger, National Geographic greater Yellowstone Region map, Wyoming State Highway map, U.S. Forest and Wildlife service, “Oh Ranger” Grand Teton National Park.

Pictures included are a) elk winter range and feedgrounds, b&c) the East Gros Ventre Butte wildlife range (State owned area) d) the elk refuge and e) areas like these around Jackson and in the Gros Ventre river area could serve as additional winter grazing environment in coexistence with residents, tourism and animals. Let’s propose (in long term) to steward these animals in appropriate living environments? -EM . 440-935-5434. (need a strategic wildlife consultant?)

Jackson, Wyoming

This is the slope I (first) picked for my animal shepherding business!

The East Gros Ventre Butte

Areas like this around Jackson provide a great home for wildlife, and real human benefits also.

Existing migratory routes for the elk

Existing elk migration routes

Landless small farmer earnestly trying to change the world. CALI


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