The National Park Service said Tuesday there should be no hunting of grizzly bears in the 24,000-acre John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
The parkway should be “identified” as a national park unit where grizzly hunting is prohibited, Park Service regional director Sue Masica said in a memo to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The parkway is owned and managed by the Park Service, but hunting is allowed. Additionally, any hunting program in the ecosystem should limit the likelihood that “well-known or transboundary bears will be harvested,” Masica wrote.
Her comments were in response to a proposed Fish and Wildlife Service plan to remove federal protection from the Yellowstone grizzly. That delisting action is expected to be completed by the end of this year and would open the door for Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to institute hunts. The deadline for submitting comments on the delisting plan was Tuesday.
“NPS is requesting that the Proposed Rule, Conservation Strategy, state management plans and other related documents identify the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway as one of the three national park units in the [Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem] where hunting will not be permitted,” her memo said.
Wyoming has held steadfast to its opinion that it alone has authority over hunting outside national parks, including in the parkway. It has insisted that it even has jurisdiction on private land, known as inholdings, inside Grand Teton. Several conservation groups have challenged that position in court.
Wyoming doesn’t agree with the Park Service request regarding grizzly hunting in the parkway, said Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Game and Fish Department chief game warden. Founding legislation for the parkway specifically says hunting would be allowed, he said Tuesday.
“My understanding is they can’t change that,” Nesvik said. Wyoming would oppose such a designation, he said.
Grizzly hunting is unlikely in the parkway in any case, he said. Wyoming decided it would not allow wolf hunting in the parkway when it had the opportunity to institute a hunt there, Nesvik said.
“I suspect, but I’m not going to speak for the [Wyoming Game and Fish] Commission, the department’s recommendation will be the same for grizzly bears,” he said.
In her comments, Masica underscored the value of wildlife to national park visitors and the mission of the Park Service.
Grizzly bears are a premier wildlife attraction for visitors to Yellowstone Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway, her memo said. “Those visitors bring tens of millions of dollars into the regional economy. The bears contribute to the public’s enjoyment and sense of pride in our conservation heritage.”
Any hunting should respect the Park Service mission, protect regional economic benefits and the “enjoyment of bear watching,” reduce the risks of wounded bears entering the parks and limit the likelihood that popular bears will be harvested, her memo said.
Masica asked that hunting be focused away from park boundaries and in areas where human-bear conflicts are prevalent. The parks also should be included in annual meetings at which the three states surrounding around Yellowstone hash out annual hunting quotas.
(This article was corrected to reflect the proper ownership of the Rockefeller Parkway. The parkway was transferred from U.S. Forest Service ownership to the National Park Service and is administered by Grand Teton National Park. Also, language was added to support the original text that refers to the Park Service request “regarding grizzly hunting in the parkway” — Ed.)