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Tax Dollars, Not Hunters, Will Be Used To Manage Elk
in Rocky Mountain National Park
December 15, 2007.
The National Park Service has released its plan for managing the elk herd in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Elk are significantly overpopulated within the Park and are causing damage to the habitat within.
Previous plans to spend $18 million of our tax dollars to hire professionals to cull the herd met with vigorous protest. Many pointed out the folly of spending this money when hunters would be willing to do it for free. Others urged the re-introduction of wolves to the area as an alternative means of lethal control.
The final plan excludes both hunters and wolves, instead relying on Park Service employees and their authorized agents to thin the herd via lethal means at a 20-year cost of "only" $6 million.
The Park Service plan calls for reductions in the elk herd to be carried out by Park Service employees or authorized agents, which could "include but is not limited to qualified volunteers."
Some have expressed optimism that the "qualified volunteers" language is a reference to hunters. However, a further clarification of the qualifications of an "authorized agent" makes it seem unlikely that public hunters could volunteer to fill this role:
"Authorized agents would need to be certified in firearms training, specially trained in wildlife culling, and be required to pass a proficiency test in order to qualify to participate in lethal reduction activities. The actions to reduce elk population in the park would not be considered hunting." [emphasis added]
The Park Service plan considers a lenghty list of reasons that hunters will not be used to manage elk in the park. Chief among these are potential impact on other park users, safety concerns, efficiency, and current federal law that prohibits hunting in National Parks unless specifically allowed.
Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced legislation to authorize the Park Service to work with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to manage elk hunts in RMNP, as did Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO). Both bills (HR1179 and S917), however, have been stuck in committee since early 2007.
Note that elk hunts specially authorized for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming (units 75 and 79) have been going on successfully for many years.
The Park Service's plan is available on their website.
The Summit Daily News provided additional coverage.