Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

RMEF Says "No" to Buffer Zone around Yellowstone Park

An Oregon congressman recently called on the Interior Department to create a buffer zone around Yellowstone National Park to reduce wolf hunting in bordering states. RMEF President and CEO David Allen issued the letter below as a response.

Representative Peter DeFazio
2134 Rayburn Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman DeFazio,

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation disagrees with your recent call for creating a buffer zone of additional land surrounding Yellowstone National Park (YNP) to provide increased protection for gray wolves. Your request is unfounded by any science and contradicts what the entire wolf reintroduction and ESA listing represent.

You referenced these wolves as “Yellowstone wolves” as if they are a unique species due some special amnesty rather than be managed by the ruling state wildlife agencies as is the case for all other wildlife. The reality is there is no special class of wolves from YNP or any other national park.

At issue is how wildlife is managed in this country. Our belief is based on more than 100 years of the most successful wildlife management model in the world that our state agencies are to manage wildlife within their respective borders. That includes management of gray wolves along with other predators.

You point out a decline in the population of “Yellowstone wolves” as a reason to establish a buffer zone. There are sound scientific reasons for declines in wolf numbers in Yellowstone Park. One is the fact that their prey base (primarily elk) has declined significantly. Wolves leave Yellowstone Park in search for food, and the elk population has decreased dramatically in the Northern Yellowstone herd from 19,000-plus in 1995 to nearly 4,000 today—an 80 percent reduction! Another reason, as highlighted in a recent study, is wolves kill one another when an area has a population too high in relation to a sustaining prey base and adequate habitat. 

Yellowstone Park officials themselves concur that the hunting of wolves just outside the park is not a contributing factor to declining wolf numbers in the park. Both Montana and Wyoming have strict management quotas for wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Montana limited its 2013 combined hunting/trapping sub-quota (unit 316) to four wolves near Gardiner. Wyoming biologists indicate its harvest units and quotas near the park to be strategically small by design to provide the proper agreed upon management. Once again, this is an example of how the states are the appropriate authority to manage their wildlife.

Additionally, you ignore the fact that the gray wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rocky Mountains not only met minimum recovery goals nearly 15 years ago, but since surpassed that benchmark by 500 percent! Those original recovery goals were established and agreed to by all parties including those that continue to oppose management of wolves today. Since then, no party has presented any new science that disputes the original recovery goals established prior to the 1995 reintroduction. 

The reintroduction never included a strategy to create a special population of gray wolves designated as “Yellowstone wolves” or for any other specific region of the United States. The reintroduction was classified as “non-essential and experimental” from the beginning.

The continuing drumbeat of individuals and organizations to halt any form of state based management of wolves shows a total disregard for the state based management system, the originally agreed upon recovery goals and the 10th Amendment which delegates such matters to the states. 

Thank you for your consideration.


M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

cc: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer D-OR)
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)
Senator John Walsh (D-MT)
Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT)
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)
Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Senator James Risch (R-ID)
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Roy Elicker (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife director)
Virgin Moore (Idaho Fish and Game director)
Jeff Hagener (Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks director)
Scott Talbott (Wyoming Game and Fish Department director)

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