Allowing Hunters to Assist with Wildlife Management on National Parks  

Bill Numbers :  H.R. 1179 – Rep. Udall (D-CO) “Elk Population Mgt for Rocky Mtn Nat’l Park”, S. 684 – Sen. Dorgan (D-ND) “Elk Population Mgt Act of 2007”

Position: Support

Status: The National Park Service has taken a position that bars hunting on any National Park unit unless statutory language specifically permits hunting on a particular park. Recently, when two National Parks (Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota) found need to aggressively reduce the size of their elk herds, the NPS not only rejected hunting as a management tool, but also rejected the use of qualified hunters to act as agents of the NPS or the state to assist in the cull of these populations. National Park units in other states are facing similar problems with other species, including elk in South Dakota; deer in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland; and deer and feral pigs in California.

Two legislators, Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Congressman Mark Udall of Colorado, each introduced separate bills to deal with the specific elk management problem in their own state’s National Park.

Senator Dorgan’s bill, S.684, allows qualified “authorized individuals,” who have valid resident big-game hunting licenses issued by North Dakota, to assist the NPS and the state of North Dakota in using lethal means to reduce Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s elk herd in accordance with the Park’s Elk Management Plan.

Congressman Udall’s bill, H.R.1179, allows “qualified individuals” with valid resident big-game hunting licenses, issued by the state of Colorado, to assist the NPS and the state of Colorado, either as volunteers or by contract, to use lethal means to reduce Rocky Mountain National Park’s elk herd in accordance with the Park’s Elk and Vegetation Management Plan.

Safari Club International supports both these bills. SCI hopes, in the future, to see broader legislation that would authorize the use of qualified hunters on any NPS land for the purpose of management of park wildlife populations.

Talking Points:

  • Need for Wildlife Management – Several National Parks are now dealing with overpopulations of wildlife (for example, elk, deer, or feral pigs) that overbrowse vegetation and in other ways harm the environment. The NPS has recognized the need to find efficient, economical and safe methods to reduce these populations.
  • States Support Use of the Hunting Community -- State wildlife management agencies in the states where these National Parks exist (e.g. Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota) and who bear the responsibility for managing wildlife in their states, including wildlife on the National Parks, strongly support the use of qualified members of the hunting community to assist them and/or the NPS in maintaining healthy wildlife populations and protecting the environment.
  • National Park Service Refuses to Use Members of the Hunting Community -- The NPS incorrectly has taken the position that the federal laws, regulations and policies, as they currently exist, do not permit National Park superintendents to utilize members of the hunting community to assist in their wildlife population reduction efforts.
  • Sharpshooters Are Too Costly -- To deal with these wildlife overpopulations, the NPS has proposed plans to use sharpshooters – independent contractors, NPS personnel, or a combination of the two -- at a cost of millions of dollars to the public. This expenditure will reduce funds available for other worthwhile projects at National Park units. For example, the NPS has a maintenance backlog in the billions of dollars.
  • The Cost to the Public of Using Members of the Hunting Community Will be Significantly Less -- Members of the hunting community will not only assist in the take of these game animals at lower cost but will also save the cost of disposal by removing the carcasses for personal consumption and/or donation to local food banks.
  • Limited Use of this Authority – The NPS would use this authority only in response to a strong need to manage excessive wildlife populations that are causing damage to the environment (e.g. over browsing of native vegetation).