BILLINGS, Mont. — A Montana legislative committee that wants to limit Yellowstone National Park’s growing herds of bison from leaving the park sent a recommendation Thursday to park officials for Native American tribes to be allowed to hunt bison inside the park.
The committee’s letter to Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk came a day after members voted 9-7 in favor of the plan — even though there are no requests by the tribes to hunt inside the park.
Tribal representatives said Thursday they already have enough opportunities to hunt the animals outside the park.
“The idea of gunning down animals in the Lamar Valley or near Old Faithful is nothing the tribes have proposed or are considering,” said John Harrison, an attorney for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Supporters of tribal bison hunts inside the park including Republican Sen. Theresa Manzella of Hamilton pitched the idea as a potential solution to the dilemma posed by bison leaving Yellowstone and getting onto private property.
Democrats objected, pointing out that no tribes have asked to hunt inside the park.
Yellowstone spokeswoman Morgan Warthin said longstanding policy prohibits hunting in national parks unless specifically authorized by Congress.
Stephanie Adams with the National Parks Conservation Association said state officials had missed an opportunity to push for expanded habitat for bison outside the park. Under a program in place since 2000, thousands of the animals have been captured and sent to slaughter after they enter Montana.
Several tribes with longstanding treaty rights hold annual bison hunts just outside Yellowstone’s boundary.
Those hunts have stirred controversy — with bison often shot immediately after stepping beyond the park boundary — while failing to reduce the size of Yellowstone’s herds. Yellowstone at last count had roughly 5,000 bison, a near-record level for the modern era.
Many Yellowstone bison carry a disease, brucellosis, that can be harmful to livestock and cause pregnant animals to prematurely abort their young. However, no bison-to-cattle transmissions of the disease brucellosis have been recorded.
Yellowstone rejected requests from former Gov. Brian Schweitzer to allow public hunting inside the park when the Democrat was still in office.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Environmental groups filed a pair of federal lawsuits on Wednesday to stop hunting that is now allowed on hundreds of acres within Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and has claimed three bison.
The National Parks Conservation Association and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates claimed in the lawsuits other species could be hunted.
Hunting generally isn’t allowed in national parks, though Grand Teton for decades has hosted an annual elk hunt in coordination with state wildlife officials.
The hunt — formally known as an elk reduction program — was part of a state-federal compromise that enabled the park to be established in its current boundaries in 1950.
A 2014 agreement between Grand Teton and Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials improperly allows hunting dozens of species on private and state land within Grand Teton, the groups claim.
The groups worry that grizzly bears and wolves could soon be targeted by hunters if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife succeeds in removing the animals from federal protection as threatened and endangered species.
“For more than 65 years, the National Park Service rightfully and lawfully exercised authority to protect all park wildlife,” said Sharon Mader, Grand Teton program manager for the NPCA. “It should continue to do so moving forward.”
Interior Department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw declined to comment, citing agency policy on pending litigation.
The lawsuits involve dozens of parcels of state and private land called inholdings located within the park. National park land completely surrounds most inholdings, which total well under 1 percent of Grand Teton’s 485 square miles.
Significant inholdings include two state parcels, each measuring a square mile, and a pair of relatively small ranches of 450 and 120 acres.
National Park Service and state officials began discussing whether federal or state laws would be enforced on Grand Teton inholdings after a wolf was shot on a private inholding in the park in 2014.
Federal prosecutors declined to charge the shooter, finding that park officials had erred in determining that federal wildlife law for national parks took precedence on the private land.
Park officials agreed later that year that state law would take precedence on all inholdings. The four environmental groups are contesting that agreement with the lawsuits.
“Wildlife obviously don’t pay attention to title records and move around on all of those parcels,” said Tim Preso, an Earthjustice attorney representing Defenders of Wildlife and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “You cannot maintain the park, the integrity of the park as a preserve for wildlife protection, when you have these islands where wildlife can be killed.”
The number of Grand Teton inholdings dwindled after decades of buyouts by the National Park Service. Wyoming officials have been trying for years, with limited success, to get the Interior Department to acquire all remaining state inholdings.
The last two inholdings, together worth perhaps $100 million, command prime views of the Teton Range. In 2010, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal threatened to sell to the highest bidder if the federal government didn’t get serious about taking them off the state’s hands.
Recent negotiations between state and federal officials have focused on possibly trading the sections for federal land and mineral rights elsewhere in Wyoming
A crowd of hunters participating in the Teton park hunt herded elk from a no-hunting area into a barrage of bullets on Wednesday, upsetting nonhunting passersby.
Thursday, November 20, 2014 4:30 am
Witnesses say hunters in Grand Teton National Park drove a herd of elk from a no-hunt zone and toward an awaiting firing line Wednesday.
The scene at the sage flats north of Kelly was a surprise to Michigan resident and Jackson Hole visitor Joanna Childers, who was on a wildlife safari during her first visit to Teton park.
“It looked like a bunch of hunters surrounded a pack of elk,” Childers said. “Hunters were staked out in the road and around the field.
“You see these animals and they’re in a pack and there a bunch of rifles pointed at them from every direction,” she said. “Overall, it was kind of sad and pretty unfair.”
Wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen — long an opponent of the park hunt — said hunter behavior Wednesday was as egregious as he’s seen.
By Mangelsen’s account, around 11 a.m. a person pushed a herd of about 100 elk out of an area off limits to hunters near Kelly. Once the herd was on the move, chaos ensued, he said.
“All the sudden somebody shot and they just opened fire on them,” Mangelsen said. “It’s really poor sportsmanship — it was illegal and it was just a display of totally barbaric hunting.”
The photographer estimated that 30 people were involved in the drive, that 25 shots were fired and that eight to 10 elk were killed.
Teton park officials did not corroborate many of the details described by Mangelsen and others, but said some hunters were ticketed Wednesday.
“There was quite a bit of action as far as hunters go and the movement of elk near Kelly,” park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said. “At least two citations have been issued.”
Two hunters shot and killed bull elk Tuesday in the park, where harvest is restricted to cows and calves. The elk were confiscated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Skaggs said.
One of those hunters was also cited for shooting at a running herd, she said.
Rules unique to the park hunt prohibit firing more than one shot at a group of running animals.
Seven park rangers were still in the field at the time Skaggs spoke with the Jackson Hole Daily, and she said it’s possible there were other violations.
It’s legal for hunters to drive elk out of areas where hunting is prohibited in the park, Skaggs said.
Mangelsen said some people were firing from the road, which is illegal. Photos he provided show hunters with rifles and shooting sticks setting up on the roadside.
Jeff Soulliere, another local photographer, said the display left him speechless.
“It absolutely was a mess,” Soulliere said. “This is a national park, and you’ve got tourists on the road right next to hunters with high-powered rifles.
“It really struck me as, ‘you got to be kidding me,’ ” he said. “No one was taking safety into consideration because they were herding and surrounding them and they could have shot each other.”
[Too bad they didn’t.]
By Mike Koshmrl Daily | Posted: Friday, January Jackson Hole 24, 2014 12:15 am
Even though hundreds of Wyoming wolves having been killed over the years during hunting seasons and for attacking livestock, until Monday not a single one had ever been purposely killed in Grand Teton National Park.
But that’s about all one can learn about the wolf that was shot in the park four days ago. Virtually no information is being made available about the animal that was shot and killed on private land within Grand Teton.
“Since present-day Grand Teton National Park was created in 1950, this is the first intentional killing of a gray wolf,” Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
What is known, according to a statement the park issued the next day, is that the wolf was 2 years old, was not wearing a radio collar and was accompanied by three to four pack mates.
After firing the lethal shot Monday morning, someone notified the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Grand Teton rangers at 10:30 a.m. that day.
Pending completion of the investigation, no other details are available, Skaggs said.
“We’re hoping to have a determination relatively soon,” she said.
Neither outfitters nor conservationists nor residents of Moran, Kelly and the Pacific Creek subdivision phoned by the Jackson Hole Daily had heard any other details about the incident.
Skaggs said she was not allowed to confirm if the lobo had been shot in defense of pets or property. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, which is conducting a concurrent investigation, was also unable to release details.
“This falls under that state statute we have,” Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke said. He was referring to a law that prohibits the release of information related to wolf hunting.
“We did go out and investigate it and through our investigation determined it falls within that statute,” Gocke said. “At that point I can’t speak to it any more.”
In full the statute states: “Any information regarding the number or nature of legally taken within the state of Wyoming shall only be released in its aggregate form and no information of a private or confidential nature shall be released
without the written consent of the person to whom the information may refer. Information identifying any person legally taking a wolf within this state is solely for the use of the department or appropriate offices and is not a
Wolf hunting is never legal in Grand Teton National Park, including inside privately owned inholdings, Skaggs said.
[If not safe there, where?]
MOOSE, WY — A gray wolf was shot and killed at a private inholding within Grand Teton National Park on Monday, January 20, 2014. The person who fired the lethal shot notified Wyoming Game and Fish Department wardens and they reported the situation to park rangers at approximately 10:30 a.m.
Grand Teton National Park rangers and a park biologist responded to the area to investigate the incident. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is conducting a concurrent investigation.
The wolf was a two-year-old male and was not radio-collared; its pack affiliation is unknown. At the time of the shooting, this wolf was in the company of three to four pack mates.
The incident is under investigation by the National Park Service in consultation with United States Attorney’s Office, District of Wyoming, and no further information will be released until the investigation is concluded.
The government shutdown-induced closure of all federal lands — including national parks — is going to put a damper on Saturday’s opening of deer hunting season, when scores of hunters will be turned away at the gates of the Mojave National Preserve.
Compounding the situation is the fact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which regulates hunting, fishing and other game-related activities in the state, allows hunting in state wildlife areas, but must enforce the federal government’s closure of national parks and Bureau of Land Management territory — where hunting is normally permitted.
“If people are hunting, they are subject to a citation,” Andrew Hughan, California Department of Fish and Wildlife public information officer said Friday.
But there’s been confusion throughout the week as to what, if any, federal lands would be open to hunters on Saturday
The shutdown has made it difficult for state and federal agencies to communicate, and local officials are trying to clarify conflicting information.
“Mojave National Preserve is closed to all recreational use, including hunting,” said Linda Slater, the preserve’s public information officer. “Our rangers are going to use an educational and informational approach to work with hunters to help them understand the situation.”
The southern boundary of the sprawling, 1.6 million-acre preserve is north of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms in San Bernardino County, just north of the I-40 freeway, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Palm Springs. The preserve was established in 1994 with the passage of the California Desert Protection Act by Congress and is part of the national park system.
“Mojave National Preserve is arguably the most popular location for hunters in Southern California,” said David Lamfrom, senior California desert program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.
But those who purchased hunting licenses and “tags” — required for the taking of certain big game animals, including deer — might not realize they can’t enter the grounds.
The preserve has multiple access points, a situation that creates a “high potential for conflict with law enforcement,” if disgruntled hunters decide to ignore the closure, he said.
“It’s public land,” Lamfrom said. “It’s going to be another example of a portfolio of people not being served. They miss the opportunity to do the things they love to do or want to do.”
“We share everyone’s disappointment that the National Park Service is shutdown,” said Slater, who happens to be on furlough but is handling press inquiries. “We look forward to getting back open as soon as we can.”
The preserve is the third largest park unit in the lower 48 states. Only Death Valley National Park (3.4 million acres) and Yellowstone National Park (2.2 million acres) are larger.
Dennis Schramm, who retired as Mojave National Preserve superintendent in 2010, worked at the preserve during the previous government shutdown for several weeks in 1995 and 1996.
A couple of hundred hunters, many who’ve been coming since the preserve opened, look forward to the first weekend of deer hunting, he said.
“Opening day of rifle season for deer hunting is a big deal,” Schramm said. “They go to the same spots every year. The group campsites get filled up.”
He said the thinly-stretched preserve employees — only essential personnel are still working while most of their colleagues are furloughed — could face some angry hunters who might choose to bypass the barriers.
“It’s a major concern,” Schramm said. “If they don’t resolve this … it’s going to catch people off guard. Hunters are going to show up there and not be very happy. It’s going to be a very difficult impact for park staff.”
“Nothing about this situation is easy,” Schramm said. “It is difficult for the park staff to implement the closures, and equally difficult for the public to understand why they can’t just visit the parks anyway.”
Schramm, who was traveling with family through Durango, Colo. during this interview, had plans to visit some of the state’s national parks during the weeklong trip —including a visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve.
Lamfrom said the fallout is going to be felt by gateway communities that provide goods and services for hunters and campers coming in and out of the preserve.
“The shutdown of the federal government has created countless unexpected and unnecessary impacts to the National Parks in the California desert, and on the communities that rely heavily on them for their economic well-being,” he said.
How long the shutdown lasts is anyone’s guess, he said.
“We’re all in denial,” Lamfrom said. “We thought it would be over the day after the government shut down. There are economic impacts that are radiating. Look how deeply connected all these economic systems are.”
When open for business, the three California desert national parks sites – Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park – combined, welcome more than 6,500 visitors a day in October. The three parks collectively infuse more than $230,000 a day into local communities.
Having spent the better part of the last four days getting our winter’s firewood in and under cover, my wife and I are now looking forward to the season of longer nights and cozy fires. In honor of all that, here’s something I wrote while on a solo hike in the North Cascades National Park, camped outside an old miner’s cabin…
THE WAY IT USED TO BE
by Jim Robertson, circa June, 1979
There’ll be a big fire a-blazing soon
and if you’ve got the time I’d like you to
come on in and share the warmth with me.
I might not be the most social guy,
but when friends come ‘round
I like to try to show them a good time
the way it used to be.
I’d trade skiing stories with the boys out back,
while in the kitchen the women’ll yackity-yack
and we’ll get together when supper’s good and baked.
And afterwards we’ll all sit ‘round
and watch the fire as we’re burning out,
and the snoring dog will keep us entertained.
I got no TV,
no video games,
but my big stone fireplace
should take the place,
if you appreciate the way it used to be.
So if you’re all alone on this windy night,
come on in and share the light
and the warmth from the fire
the way it used to be.
On the twentieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, President Obama declared this week National Park Week. Ironically, during this very week, the U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would allow hunting on our national parks! H.R. 4089, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012,” passed the House of Representatives on April 17th and is now with the Senate. Once again the fate of our lands and waters—and the life that depends on them—has been cast into doubt. To paraphrase the president’s proclamation, as Americans and as inhabitants of this one small planet, it is up to us to preserve our national heritage for the generations (human and non-nonhuman alike) to come.
Lumped in with the “Sportsmen’s” Act are such abhorrent offerings as the Recreational Shooting Protection Act, which requires National Monument land under BLM’s jurisdiction to be open to access and use for “recreational” shooting (ground squirrels, and prairie dogs beware), and the Polar Bear “Conservation and Fairness” Act of 2012, which would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to issue a permit for the importation of any polar bear carcass killed during a sport hunt in Canada.
As long as they remain off-limits to hunting, our national parks are some of the best places for viewing and photographing wildlife without causing undue stress. Since they’ve learned they’re safe within park boundaries, animals are not so shy and distrustful of human presence—as long as said human maintains a polite distance. And because they’re protected, park moose, elk or bighorn sheep are allowed to grow the kind of impressive antlers or horns now rare in hunted populations.
We can’t let the “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act” undermine the serenity of our last few protected places. Please contact your Senator and urge them to oppose H.R. 4089: https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=5507&s_src=shareonfb