Fighting a National Park Service decision to relinquish its authority to protect wildlife at Grand Teton National Park, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition filed a lawsuit earlier this week. The lawsuit stems from a decision by the National Park Service to turn over its authority to the State of Wyoming to oversee hunting on some lands within Grand Teton. The litigation also follows the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently released proposal to remove Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List. The ecosystem includes Grand Teton and would add these iconic animals to the many others put at risk by the Park Service’s actions. The two nonprofit groups are asking the court to require the National Park Service to reassert its authority over wildlife management everywhere within Grand Teton National Park.
Many inholdings, or land not owned by the Park Service, within Grand Teton National Park are near places that are enjoyed by the park’s 2.8 million annual visitors. A large number of visitors come to see the park’s wildlife. But under the Park Service’s decision, bison, moose, coyote, beaver, elk, and potentially in the future, grizzly bears that wander onto such inholdings could be shot and killed under Wyoming law. Park visitors’ experience will also be negatively impacted by the sights and sounds of such activity. Since the Park Service’s decision, a number of the park’s iconic bison have been killed by private hunters under state law within the park’s boundary.
“We find ourselves taking the National Park Service to court to force the Park Service to maintain Park Service authority over Park Service resources,” said Caroline Byrd, Executive Director for Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “After trying for months to convince them to reassert their long held authority over park inholdings, we were left with no choice but to go to court.”
The Greater Yellowstone Coalition and National Parks Conservation Association argue that the Park Service’s decision to turn wildlife management on inholdings over to the state violates federal law. The Park Service, which has the legal authority to prohibit hunting anywhere within the boundary of the park, has the responsibility under its governing statutes to exercise that authority to protect the park’s wildlife.