A proposal by the National Park Service director to develop an interagency plan for managing wildlife in and around Yellowstone National Park is a great idea, according to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

The coalition has criticized the federal government and Montana government for failing to adequately address the problems of elk and bison that head north out of Yellowstone during the winter in search of forage.Park Service director William Penn Mott Jr. visited Yellowstone last month to look into the deaths of elk from starvation and the killing of bison by Montana hunters. During his stay, Mott told reporters that Yellowstone would promote a unified wildlife plan and seek acquisition of more winter range north of the park in Montana.

"We'll be looking at the whole ecosystem in connection with this report and how best to manage the wildlife," he said.

Coalition Executive Director Ed Lewis and Louisa Willcox, the group's program director, praised Mott's decision.

"We are pleased the agencies have recognized the need for coordinated approaches to manage wildlife populations in the ecosystem," said Lewis. "It is particularly appropriate for the Park Service to be taking the lead in this planning effort since much of Yellowstone's wildlife concentrates in the park yet migrates considerable distances beyond the park boundary.

"Such an effort is especially important in light of the current situation with Yellowstone's northern elk herd and bison," he added. "It demonstrates one inadequacy of current management of critical habitat, especially winter range. Clearly, neither supplemental feeding of elk nor hazing of bison is the answer. If we are to protect these populations for future generations, we must protect the habitat these animals need."

Under Mott's proposal, representatives from the Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Montana and Wyoming game agencies, the conservation community and private landowners will work on the plan.

Yellowstone Superintendent Bob Barbee said it would take a year or more to develop.