by Cody McLaughlin - Monday, September 27, 2021
Wayne Pacelle, the disgraced former CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and founder of Animal Wellness Action (AWA), orchestrated a letter campaign from a cadre of legislators in Congress urging the National Park Service (NPS) to halt its lethal management plan for bison in Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP). Specifically, on Sept. 17, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (CO-02), Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, along with Representatives Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Deputy Director Shawn Benge expressing concerns over the scheduled culling of park bison by citizen-hunter volunteers. The letter instead urges consideration of non-lethal and costly herd management practices.
The problem with those who do not understand hunting as a wildlife management tool weighing in is that the NPS estimates there are anywhere from 400 to 600 bison in GCNP. As reported by this NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website as far back as September 2019, the park’s bison population must be trimmed to rescue native vegetation and biodiversity from rampant destruction the bison are causing. Park officials have already cited studies showing the need to reduce the herd to about 200 animals to decrease environmental impacts to “water, vegetation, soils, archaeological sites and values such as visitor experience and wilderness character.”
Park officials now warn that the herd could reach 1,500 animals in size—a whopping 7.5 times the allowable carrying capacity for the ecosystem, which is why they have instituted a management hunt for this year. The plan is to use a lottery system and recruit 12 citizen-hunter volunteers (following a background check and interview) to remove 12 bison from the park, where hunting is otherwise banned. Yes, you read that right: Out of a 400-animal-reduction goal, all this hubbub is over the removal of 12 bison, or 3% of the overall removal goal.
In a deal purportedly “brokered” by the AWA’s Wayne Pacelle, the Southern Plains Land Trust has offered to “accept” the bison onto its preserve in Bent County in Southeast Colorado. What is unclear about this deal is who is funding the effort to move the bison. In the meantime, the AWA also is pushing a non-lethal solution on Twitter.
For those guided by common sense, the brass tacks here are simple. As this website reported in 2016, a study showed that having citizen-hunter volunteers cull some of the animals in national parks to maintain wildlife management objectives is a win-win for everyone involved. In fact, the study, which entailed using citizen volunteers to conduct culling operations in both Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, documented that using citizen volunteers as culling agents is a cost-effective way to manage our renewable wildlife resources—especially over-populated ungulates that are creating headaches in our parks nationwide. Such a plan is a wise move considering hunters have an impeccable record on every other type of land they hunt nationwide when it comes to helping to protect and preserve wildlife populations through legal, regulated hunting.
Stay tuned for updates as this issue unfolds.
About the Author
Cody McLaughlin is a wildlife conservationist and conservative thought leader on public policy issues including hunting, fishing, gun rights, free-market tax and wage policy and the environment. A GOP consultant for conservative political causes, he serves as a trustee of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, helping to represent the state’s 1.2 million sportsmen in the political arena.
Editor’s Note: In giving credit where it is due, it was the NRA and Safari Club International (SCI) that for years pressed the NPS to allow hunters to assist with culling overpopulated ungulates on national park lands. The NPS dug in its heels, favoring the use of contract sharpshooters and federal personnel, partly to avoid battling the antis over allowing “hunting” in park boundaries. The NPS also claimed that using volunteer cullers would be illegal and costly. Thanks to continued pressure from NRA and SCI, the NPS conducted the RMNP and TRNP study using hunters to reduce elk populations. When the study report was released in 2016, it confirmed that the use of hunter volunteers in culling operations on NPS units was legal, cost effective and a great idea. In 2019, the NRA-backed Senate Bill 47 was signed in Public Law specifically authorizing the NPS to use qualified volunteers to reduce the size of wildlife populations (Public Law No.116-9).—Karen Mehall Phillips
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