Environmental Groups Sue To Curtail Hunting in Grand Teton

A coalition of environmental groups have sued the National Park Service over hunting on inholdings in Grand Teton National Park.

The National Parks Conservation Association and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, as well as Defenders of Wildlife and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, filed a pair of lawsuits earlier this week, requesting that hunting be curtailed on patches of private/state land within Grand Teton’s boundaries.

According to the Casper Star Tribune, hunting has been permitted on these inholdings since 2014, due to an agreement between Grand Teton National Park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department; the lawsuits allege the agreement is improper. Further, the groups are worried that, should Yellowstone-area grizzly bears be delisted from the Endangered Species Act, they will become the target of hunters on these Grand Teton inholdings. From the Tribune:

“For more than 65 years, the National Park Service rightfully and lawfully exercised authority to protect all park wildlife,” said Sharon Mader, Grand Teton program manager for the NPCA. “It should continue to do so moving forward.”

Interior Department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw declined to comment, citing agency policy on pending litigation.

The lawsuits involve dozens of parcels of state and private land called inholdings located within the park. National park land completely surrounds most inholdings, which total well under 1 percent of Grand Teton’s 485 square miles.

Significant inholdings include two state parcels, each measuring a square mile, and a pair of relatively small ranches of 450 and 120 acres.

National Park Service and state officials began discussing whether federal or state laws would be enforced on Grand Teton inholdings after a wolf was shot on a private inholding in the park in 2014.

Federal prosecutors declined to charge the shooter, finding that park officials had erred in determining that federal wildlife law for national parks took precedence on the private land.

These lawsuits mirror, in some ways, the suit brought against the NPS earlier this year by bison advocates over media access to the Stephens Creek Bison Facility. Although each of these suits take on different issues, they appear to share similar endgames: highlighting the treatment of wildlife in national parks.

The Grand Teton suit further highlights the complicated patchwork of land ownership within that park. From the Tribune:

The number of Grand Teton inholdings dwindled after decades of buyouts by the National Park Service. Wyoming officials have been trying for years, with limited success, to get the Interior Department to acquire all remaining state inholdings.

The last two inholdings, together worth perhaps $100 million, command prime views of the Teton Range. In 2010, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal threatened to sell to the highest bidder if the federal government didn’t get serious about taking them off the state’s hands.

Recent negotiations between state and federal officials have focused on possibly trading the sections for federal land and mineral rights elsewhere in Wyoming.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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