By the late 1920s, wolves had been completely eradicated from western Wyoming, removing from the local ecosystem its primary predator and knocking the ecosystem out of balance. But thanks to a successful and hard won reintroduction effort starting in the 1990s, the wolf population in the northern Rockies is on the road to recovery.
That's the good news. The bad news is that immediately upon delisting Wyoming's wolves from Endangered Species Act protection, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Wyoming are proposing a plan to hunt them across the state, including within the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, a National Park System unit between Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Parks were intended for the preservation and protection of wildlife, and it would be unprecedented for a federal agency to allow for a hunt of a newly delisted species on national park lands immediately upon delisting.
The Department of the Interior needs to act now to change the delisting rule, clearly prohibiting wolf hunting in parks, and removing these lands from the state's Trophy Game Management Area. Otherwise, wolves should remain protected by the Endangered Species Act.
I am writing to express my concern over the proposed delisting and future management of gray wolves in Wyoming. There appears to be serious omissions and errors in the proposed rule that may jeopardize and ultimately allow the hunting of wolves on national park lands, specifically the John D. Rockefeller Parkway (JDR Parkway)-- an important migration corridor between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
The American people rightly expect that national park lands are sacrosanct and serve as places of refuge for wildlife -- not as hunting grounds for a species fresh off the endangered species list. Park visitors travel thousands of miles to view wolves within our national parks. Wolves are valued as a park species, worthy of the same protections afforded to other predators within national parks. The desire of the State of Wyoming to manage wolves at the most minimal levels does not justify their attempts to hunt wolves in our national parks.
I am specifically concerned about the inclusion of Grand Teton National Park and the JDR Parkway in Wyoming's wolf management plan and identified hunt areas. This grave error opens the door to a future hunt in the parkway, which threatens wolves moving across the parkway -- a critical swath of land between Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Already there have been many press accounts and interviews from Governor Mead and other Wyoming officials proclaiming the state's desire to hunt inside Grand Teton and the JDR Parkway and the National Park Service has said they would consider Wyoming's request to do so.
These grave omissions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must be corrected immediately by demanding that the state remove the park units in Grand Teton and the JDR Parkway from the Trophy Game Management Area of the state plan and clearly including language in the proposed plans that prohibits hunting on these park units. Otherwise, the Interior Department should withdraw the rule.
As a staunch supporter of America's National Park System, I would expect that our national parks and their wildlife would receive the respect and protection afforded them by the Organic Act, which set aside these cherished lands.
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