MOSCA – The National Park Service (NPS) released its Abbreviated Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Ungulate Management Plan (UMP). This is a public comprehensive plan June 27 to manage elk and bison in the park.
In the plan, the NPS outlines tools to alter elk distribution in the park while continuing to allow public elk hunting in the preserve. Additionally, the NPS plans on partnering with The Nature Conservancy as it assumes responsibilities of managing bison density and distribution in the park. Over the long term, the NPS will adaptively manage elk and bison to meet desired conditions for wetland ecological integrity.
“We value the contributions of our partners throughout the process, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy and tribes,” said Great Sand Dunes Superintendent Pamela Rice. “The National Park Service is in the unique position of working with our partners to meet mutual goals for elk and bison management and furthering the bison conservation legacy of The Nature Conservancy and the Department of the Interior. We look forward to our continued work with the public and our local, state, federal and tribal partners.”
Elk and bison have long been present in the park. The elk herd in the eastern San Luis Valley has grown to more than 5,000, and The Nature Conservancy manages approximately 1,700 bison on the Medano Ranch. Historic levels of elk are leading to adverse impacts on sensitive areas of the park, including the wetland vegetation communities where the existing bison herd also spends a disproportionate amount of time. This planning effort will support the long-term protection of resources and is compatible with activities across the broader eastern San Luis Valley landscape, to the extent practicable.