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Sharpshooters Win Battle to Cull Rocky Mountain National Park's Elk

Court Decides that Wolves are "Impractical"

Denver, Colo.  – The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled against WildEarth Guardians’ challenge to the National Park Service for its refusal to restore wolves to Rocky Mountain National Park so as to better manage burgeoning elk populations, and its decision to use sharpshooters to kill elk instead.

“Despite the fact that wolves provide enormous ecological benefits to both elk and ecosystems that human sharpshooters simply cannot, the court ruled in favor of the sharpshooters,” said Wendy Keefover, Director of Carnivore Protection for WildEarth Guardians. “Wolves would do a far better job of culling the weak, the sick, and consistently moving sedentary elk away from fragile streams. Sharpshooters will never have the same ecological benefits on the landscape.”

“Using tortured reasoning, the Court has set a terrible new precedent for managing our national parks,” said Mike Harris, Professor of Law at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and attorney for WildEarth Guardians.  “Not only did the Court sanction the Park Service’s refusal to consider the most natural of all solutions to the elk problem—wolves—it opened the door to the most unnatural use of the parks by allowing hunters into the Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time in its nearly 100-year existence.”

The Park Service recognized the need to manage overpopulated elk in Rocky Mountain National Park in a December 2007 management plan, but the agency only briefly considered a wolf reintroduction as the preferred option to control elk herds. Guardians had argued that the agency’s decision-making process not only violated federal planning mandates, its decision to use sharpshooters also violated the agency’s organic act that established the Park Service as an agency that is supposed to prioritize conservation.

“Wolves keep getting a bad rap from agencies, Congress, and the courts, and we are so disappointed that they cannot return to their ancestral home – even in a national park where they are beloved by the overwhelming majority of citizens,” said Keefover. “This outcome is going to be a huge disappointment to the over 70 percent of Coloradoans who want wolves back.”

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View the Court’s Order


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