May 28, 2023

Are Our National Parks Being Run By Those Who Think They Own Them?

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The Rocky Mountain National Park has an overgrown population of elk. I have covered this story previously. The solutions being recommended by the National Parks people appear to be exactly what they want even though some think their ideas are bogus, expensive and contrary to good science.

Although no final decisions have been made as to how to reduce elk populations, the favorite idea of the parks system is to hire sharpshooters with silencers to go into the park at night and kill elk, around 7,000 of them over a ten-year period of time.

Today in the National Parks Conservation Association magazine and article clearly states what the plans are for the elk.

As part of the scoping process, the park presented a 600-page document outlining the problems and potential solutions for public comment. Four primary solutions were presented, ranging from continuing current management practices to alternatives including birth control, reintroduction of wolves, and a cull conducted by government agencies. Birth control and wolf reintroduction would require a sizable investment of resources, and neither addresses short-term concerns, so the Park Service’s preferred approach emphasizes culling the herd. The work would most likely be performed by sharpshooters during evening hours to limit the impact to visitors. Fencing would be used to redistribute the elk and protect vegetation, and wolves might be introduced in latter stages of the comprehensive 20-year program, estimated to cost as much as $18 million.

I have a story I always tell when I am confronted by people who will make excuses for anything. It goes something like this.

A man’s next door neighbor came to borrow his axe. When he asked his neighbor if he could borrow the axe, the neighbor said, “No, it’s Tuesday.” He asked him what Tuesday had to do with whether or not he could borrow the axe and the man answered, “Nothing! But if I don’t want you to borrow my axe, one excuse is as good as another.”

It is seeming more and more to me that this might be the case in Colorado and the situation with the elk. Solutions have been suggested for alternative ways of solving the elk problem but those ideas seem to be met with excuses and unproven statements being made by park officials. The same article points out reasons why having a public hunt to cull the elk herd won’t work.

Some factions have suggested a public hunt would serve the same purposes with a lower price tag. But it’s a solution that introduces its own set of obstacles, and one that may not improve matters at all. Hunting is illegal in national parks, so an act of Congress would be necessary to waive that rule, setting a troubling precedent for parks nationwide. And contrary to popular belief, the time and cost associated with administering a hunt would be significant. Many hunters prefer to mount six-point bulls above their mantle rather than cows, which must be targeted for effective population control. Because chronic wasting disease affects many of the animals, strict and costly measures would need to be put in place to prevent hunters from taking diseased meat.

The lame excuses abound. There are already precedents set for hunting in national parks. It may require an act of Congress but I don’t think it would be as difficult an action as the writer would have us believe.

Nobody would dispute the fact that administering a public hunt for elk would be expensive but the writer somehow fails to point out a couple things. One, much of the cost of the hunt would be absorbed by permit applications and license fees. The other is that the cost to administer an elk hunt would be considerably less that the costs associated with paying sharpshooters and all associated costs of disposing of and processing the animals over at least a ten-year period of time. The parks people are seriously considering reintroducing wolves into the park at an estimated cost of $18 million. That’s not expensive?

The excuses get bigger. The writer claims that there would be a problem getting hunters to shoot cow elks as all they would want are trophies to mount on their walls. What a bunch of bologna. How is it that states that administer elk hunts now don’t seem to have any trouble getting hunters to take whatever kind of elk their tag dictates?

These are the kind of lies that lead the public to believe things about hunters that are not true. The overwhelming majority of elk hunters love the meat. If presented the opportunity, an elk hunter will bag a trophy elk. This writer is implying that elk hunters would go into the park, shoot a trophy bull elk, pack out the antlers and leave the rest to rot.

I think that if the truth were known, parks officials are scared to do anything that might anger a handful of animal rights groups and the local tourism organizations that don’t want the elk thinned because of their fear of lost revenue.

If the park officials don’t want to let hunters take care of the problem, I guess one excuse is just as good as another.

Tom Remington