Trapping Might Occur in Park Inholdings
Grand Teton’s Wildlife Face a New Threat
High Country News recently published an in-depth look at an issue we’ve been concerned about for quite some time at Wyoming Untrapped. We, along with countless other conservationists and groups around the valley, were surprised to hear that a recent National Park Service (NPS) review, sparked by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), concluded that wildlife management on all of the in-holdings in Grand Teton National Park would now be under the authority of the WGFD. This effectively opens up inholdings to both hunting and trapping.
We wholly recognize this is a complex and difficult issue for all the stakeholders involved. Private property rights are an especially important issue here in Wyoming. Additionally, the way in which wildlife is managed in National Parks is very different than the way it is managed by the state on private, state, and federal lands across Wyoming. On one hand, you have wildlife in the park that are preserved for the benefit of the public—their ‘owners’ across the nation, while state wildlife management focuses on the conservation of wildlife, which includes harvest, as ‘state-owned’ resources. In-holdings essentially bring these management paradigms to a head.
We are very concerned about the trapping of park wildlife. The boundaries we draw have little meaning to wildlife. We worry that, under this change in management, baited traps could be placed along park boundaries, which would draw in park wildlife to the in-holding. This means that an unlimited number of any furbearer (weasels like martens, badgers, and mink, bobcats, beavers, muskrats, etc.) or predators (foxes, coyotes, wolves, etc.) could be trapped on in-holdings. Many of the best wildlife watching areas in Grand Teton—places like the outer park road around Elk Ranch Flats (HWY 89/191/26), Moose-Wilson Road, and the Gros-Ventre- Antelope Flats roads, are dotted with in-holdings. The wildlife that millions of visitors enjoy each year could theoretically be siphoned off of parklands to be killed for the benefit of a handful of trappers.
Many of our supporters understand the benefit of wildlife in Grand Teton. Wildlife watching tours in Grand Teton alone are a multi-million dollar industry. Ecotourism in the region generates over a billion in economic activity each year. Photographers rely on wildlife for not only the subjects of their art, but often for their livelihoods. Indeed, park critters are more valuable outside a trap than in.
Even with this policy change, there is a way to ensure park wildlife stay protected. What happens on private lands is ultimately up to the private landowner. Trapping does not have to happen on these lands. We at Wyoming Untrapped would welcome the opportunity to work with the owners of the inholdings in Grand Teton to help, in whatever way we can, to ensure that coexistence with park wildlife continues in a positive direction, and that the wildlife that so many enjoy and benefit from in non-consumptive ways continues to thrive within the park area.
Excerpt From High Country News:
But another issue has conservationists concerned: the impacts of hunting. After Game and Fish received Whittington’s letter last year, the agency promptly opened bison hunting on Moose Head Ranch, the park’s second-largest inholding at 120 acres; the state is proposing to continue the Moose Head bison hunt this year. On another inholding, the 450-acre Pinto Ranch, the state has proposed treating the land like a regular hunting area in 2015, meaning it would be open to the pursuit of game species from waterfowl to mule deer to cougars. Those proposals will be finalized in late April.
“We’re not against hunting in general, but we would have liked to see the state respect the sanctuary of the park,” says Sharon Mader, Grand Teton program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “People come to parks to view wildlife in its native habitat, unmolested.” Mader also points out that hunters on inholdings can now shoot non-game critters, including coyotes, foxes, jackrabbits and porcupines, on sight.