NPCA Petitions Park Service to Safeguard Park Wolves in Wyoming

Gray wolf.

Gray wolf. Photo (c) Outdoorsman/Dreamstime.

Last September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) approved a plan to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in Wyoming. This controversial delisting could someday allow state-run wolf hunting within the John D. Rockefeller Parkway, a 24,000-acre national park site that connects Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

National parks are created in part to serve as sanctuaries for wildlife. It would be very bad policy to allow hunters to kill animals fresh off the Endangered Species List within a national park boundaries. While authorities in the state have not yet permitted wolf hunting in the Rockefeller Parkway, it has claimed authority to do so, and they say they will review the option to permit such hunting annually.

FWS excluded Yellowstone from the allowable wolf hunting area, but the agency chose to keep the Rockefeller Parkway within the state’s “Trophy Game Management Area” (TGMA), which defines where wolves can be hunted. During the plan development, the Park Service formally requested that the Rockefeller Parkway be removed from the TGMA, but FWS ignored the request and the Park Service failed to take further action.

Not only has the state of Wyoming succeeded in keeping the parkway within the TGMA, but state officials have indicated that they will not rule out the possibility of a wolf hunt there—a bold assertion, given the fact that the Park Service is primarily responsible for wildlife on the lands it manages.

In response, this May, NPCA presented a formal petition to the Park Service requesting a rule prohibiting wolf hunting in the Rockefeller Parkway so that the issue can be put to rest before any wolves are ever hunted there. This rule would safeguard and protect wolves in the parkway and ensure that our national parks continue to provide sanctuary for this important animal, whose reintroduction has helped to restore ecological balance to the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

According to its enabling legislation, the parkway—established in 1972—was intended to provide a “spiritual and physical connection” between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. It also provides a critical link for park wildlife, including wolves, to safely move between these iconic parks.

While the Rockefeller Parkway’s enabling legislation does permit hunting, it clearly gives the National Park Service, not the state, the primary authority to manage wildlife there. In addition, the Park Service is required to evaluate the hunting of all species within the parkway boundaries and pass formal rules that either approve or reject hunting based on the health and integrity of the natural resources, as well as the safety and enjoyment of park visitors. Park Service officials have already stated that using these criteria, they cannot support wolf hunting in the parkway. NPCA’s petition simply asks that the Park Service move forward and use its authority to assure permanent sanctuary for wolves within this critical park site.

Learn more

About the Author

Senior Program Manager, Grand Teton Field Office