Federal Court Upholds Hunting on Private Land Inside Grand Teton National Park

by Josh Lanier

A federal judge ruled recently that hunting is legal on private property inside the Grand Teton National Park. The ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court’s decision from 2018.

The ruling is just the latest in a saga that began in 2014. It began after a hunter killed a wolf on private land inside the popular National Park. Park Rangers considered pressing charges but instead began an investigation over who actually had jurisdiction over such land, the Associated Press reported.

The parks service eventually dropped the case against the hunter and ruled that hunting would be legal on private property. That decision also opened up what could be hunted. Previously, the state only allowed elk hunting. Now though, hunters could go after bison, black bear, waterfowl and other game, the AP said.

Conservation and wildlife groups sued over that decision, kicking off a six-year legal battle.

Tim Preso, a lawyer for Earthjustice, which represented conservation groups in lawsuit, said he would continue to fight to protect wildlife in Grand Teton National Park.

“We are disappointed in this ruling and continue to believe that wildlife should be protected, not hunted or trapped, within the boundaries of Grand Teton, one of our nation’s flagship national parks,” Preso said in a statement.

The National Parks Conservation Association and Greater Yellowstone Coalition were the two other plaintiffs in the case.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said he was “most gratified” with ruling, the AP reported.

“This is a critical underpinning for wildlife management in this part of Wyoming, and gives due recognition to joint management and the strong relationship we have with Grand Teton National Park, which has always been important to Wyoming,” Gordon said in a statement.

Grand Teton Sheep Dwindling, Hunters Asked to Help

Last fall, Grand Teton National Park asked hunters to help preserve its dwindling bighorn sheep population by killing “as many goats as possible.” The Daily Beast is reporting the national park service allowed a select number of people to take part in a cull of the invasive mountain goat species that are endangering the sheep.

The park’s rapidly expanding mountain goat population has been a problem for a while. Moreover, the goats are taking over the natural habitats of the bighorn sheep and pose a serious health risk to them. As a result, only about 100 bighorn sheep are left in the Grand Teton National Park.

The few bighorn sheep left in the park is the smallest and most isolated herd in Wyoming, park officials said. It’s of high conservation value as they have existed there for thousands of years, officials told National Geographic.