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Op-Ed |National Park Service Undermines America's Best Idea


Editor's note: The following column was written by Kent Nelson, executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates.

In November 2014, in a stunning, out-of-the-blue reversal of decades of settled policy, the National Park Service ceded to Wyoming authority over wildlife on approximately 2,300 acres of state- and privately-owned "inholdings" within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park.

At the time, several organizations, including the National Parks Conservation Association and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates (the organization which I represent), criticized this decision, declaring that it opened the door to hunting and trapping within the borders of one of the Park Service’s crown jewels.

Bison herd at Grand Teton National Park/Deby Dixon

If this herd of bison walks across inholdings within Grand Teton National Park, it could be hunted/Deby Dixon

And in fact, this quickly came to pass. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, responsible for managing Wyoming's wildlife, almost immediately authorized hunting of elk and bison on park inholdings. Last fall three bison were taken by hunters on inholdings within the boundaries of the park.

Then, in 2015, WGFD redrew hunt areas for several species, and authorized hunting for moose and blue grouse on inholdings. Black bear hunting was also allowed.

The WGFD manages a wide array of species, most notably the big game species, but it also has authority to manage hunting and/or trapping of fur bearing animals and game birds.

The NPS decision enables the WGFD to authorize hunting or trapping on park inholdings of any, or all, of the species under its control.

That includes moose, deer, elk, cougars, black bear, bobcat, bighorn sheep, antelope, beaver, badger, marten, mink, muskrats, rabbits and snowshoe hares, squirrels, sandhill cranes, grouse, partridge, any migratory bird not protected under federal law, and more.

Also as a consequence of the NPS decision, certain other wildlife, including red foxes, coyotes, raccoons and porcupines, may be killed in unlimited numbers at any time by any lawful means on park inholdings.

Most appalling of all, WGFD will have the authority to allow hunting of grizzly bears and gray wolves on inholdings once their Endangered Species Act protections are removed.

So why then was this decision made and how can it be justified? After all, the laws regulations seem clear.

Under the Organic Act of 1916 the “primary responsibility” of the National Park Service is to “leave park resources and values unimpaired unless a particular law directly and specifically provides otherwise.”

In furtherance of this objective, Congress has reserved to itself the exclusive authority to make exceptions to the statutory mandate to preserve park resources.

The NPS itself has explicitly acknowledged this by stating in its Management Policies that “impairment of park resources and values may not be allowed by the Service unless directly and specifically provided for by legislation or by the proclamation establishing the park.”

And while Park Service regulations generally “do not apply on non-federally owned land and waters or on Indian tribal trust lands within National Park System boundaries,” specified regulations, including wildlife protection regulations, do clearly apply “regardless of land ownership, on all lands and waters within a park area that are under the legislative jurisdiction of the United States.”

The irony of this situation is heartbreaking: in Grand Teton National Park, known worldwide as a haven for wildlife, wildlife that people from around the world come to see might well be hunted. Some species already are being hunted within park boundaries.

This gives rise to the uncomfortable prospect that visitors who come to view our abundant wildlife will instead witness it being killed, quickly by a hunter's bullet, or slowly in a trapper's snare.

This is bad, bad news for our wildlife, our parks, and our tourism-based economy. The National Park Service’s decision to cede authority over wildlife on inholdings within the park is unjustified, unlawful, unconscionable and it must be challenged.

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This is absolutely outrageous and can not be allowed to happen!

It seems our national parks are dying a slow, torturous death, caught in the traps of greed and politics....

There is no excuse for voluntarily ceeding jurisdiction over park lands and resources unless specifically directed to do so by valid legislation or the direction of the courts.  It is difficult to understand why the NPS would take such a step knowing the likely impacts that would result to park resources and values.  The resources, including wildiife, within the parks are public belonging to all American citizens and should be managed accordingly.  Cooperative management agreements between states and the NPS ,may be created to reach mutually beneficial goals, but to cede complete jurisdiction for the protection of park wildlife and resources within park boundaries is unthinkable. Are these private inholdings to become hunting/killing stations within the parks where paying hunters may bring down a trophy bear, wolf, moose or other creature when it happens to step across the boundary of a private inholding?

I am appalled by the lack of concern for and long term care for wildlife. Traps have been banned in Europe for decades since the cruel and inhumane way in which they make animals is torture and animal abuse. The FBI now keeps a listing of animal abusers, any hunters using traps or snares should be added to this list. These people are more likely to become criminals and harm other humans. The Natioanl Parks and Public lands deserve better than so called managers who are wholesale selling out wildlife to trophy hunters. Wolves and bears add in the creation of trophic cascades which allow grazing animals like Elk to be herded and protect delicate ecosystems and threatened plants and trees, rivers are helthier when predators abound. They kill the old and the sick animals, the weak. Trophy hunters target the strong and beautiful who have the best chance of leading wildlife in future generations and making their social orders strong. Where is the science. Show me the scientist who thinks that cruel traps and trophy hunting and caving into special interest ranchers is the answer? You disrespect the ancient vlaues of the Indigenous people by slaughtering Bison and delisting grizzly bears. Must a return to the bad old days of near and mass extinctions be the fututre. Have some insight, read and do your jobs with dignity respecting nature and what is right. 


I support scientific wildlife management as establishde by Aldo Leopold and implemented by among others, our US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Wyoming Fish and Game. Scientific Wildlife Management uses hunting as one of it's primary tools. I'm glad the Park Service has taken the responsible path to managing wildlife by allowing Wyoming to have controlled hunting on inholdings within Teton Park. Those hunts will not disrupt any other users of the park unless those users are trespassing on private land. 

If Mr. Nelson finds this heartbreaking I suggest he never did have an interest in wildlife, wildlife is red of tooth and claw as we saw last week with 17 young elk calves sport killed by wolves in Bonderant. There is a difference between being a supporter of wildlife and being an animal rights advocate. 

It is relavent to note that the NPS is still pursuing funding to buy the remaining 1200 acres of state school land in Grand Teton.  The $85 million dollar price tag may seem unreasonable with all the talk of a maintenance backlog but its the best way to ensure that lands not owned by the NPS are managed according to NPS policy.

Somsai, those 17 elk were killed on a feedlot, which is the equivalent of raising domesticated animals that lose their natural ability to be alert and avoid being prey.  This is exactly how some want to treat our National Parks too.  Like feedlots and game farms.

Nudy, you have no idea how awful this is for the NPS. Maybe you do know what employees are going through under Director Jarvis' "leadership". For being a career NPS'er he sure hasn't done this agency any good. The Employee Viewpoint Survey keeps getting worse and worse. Does the Director care?  Absolutely not. The organization doesn't know which way to go because Jarvis never shared his vision, maybe he did in his snide way. And we have forgotten the mission, unfortunately. I'm wondering why the Law Enforcement Rangers think they are Rambo or Superman. They are supposed to protect the resources, not try to go be a variety of Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. You have Interp Park Rangers that act like visitors are bothering them. There is zero accountability.  People are getting laterals or promotions not because of their qualifications. Jarvis himself knowingly went past the Ethics folks. Yes, the Ethics people suck and a lot of them are in that position because they were habitual grievers, but their supervisors don't care and let them suck.  And Jarvis knew how terrible they were and didn't try to correct it.  Ethics is HUGE!  Well, at least in my world, apparently not in others.


We are getting gobs of money to work on the maintenance backlog but contracting is such a joke. We are getting crappy contractors and our COs aren't competent to stop work.  Instead we just pay out contractors and start all over.  If the Feds made it easier to fire a crappy employee we probably would be in better shape. There are tons of able, willing folks that want to join the agency but cant. Our bar is so low it is pathetic and sad. NPS is really  neat agency but is being rHines really fast.  Thanks, Jarvis! 

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