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National Park Service decision opens door for hunting on private land in Grand Teton Park

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JACKSON, Wyoming — Wildlife on private land within Grand Teton National Park is now under jurisdiction of the state of Wyoming and can be hunted, the National Park Service decided.

For decades, wildlife on the approximately 950 acres mainly on the park's eastern end was subject to federal rules, which meant all hunting with the exception of elk was prohibited. Regulated elk hunting is allowed in Grand Teton to control herd sizes.

A reinterpretation of the park's regulations by the Park Service means wildlife on private land within Grand Teton's boundaries now falls under Wyoming Game and Fish Department rules, which allow hunts for bison, mountain lions, mule deer, waterfowl and other game. Any wolves in the park are protected and cannot be hunted.

The National Park Conservation Association disagreed with the Park Service's reinterpretation of the regulations.

"Being an iconic park and having sensitive species, Grand Teton should really be a leader and on the forefront of this issue in ensuring that they are the ones that make decisions within park boundaries," said Sharon Mader, the association's senior program manager for Grand Teton National Park.

The change was addressed in a Nov. 11 letter from Park Service Associate Regional Director Tammy Whittington to Brian Nesvik, Game and Fish's chief warden.

"For many years we assumed that (park wildlife regulations) applied on private inholdings within Grand Teton and prohibited the taking of wildlife on those inholdings," Whittington wrote.

While the Park Service remains interested in "ensuring that wildlife management on private inholdings does not negatively impact park resources," the agency has concluded that federal wildlife regulations do not apply to private land, he wrote.

The decision has immediate effects for two current hunts: Elk and bison hunting is allowed on those lands this year, Game and Fish spokesman Renny MacKay told the Jackson Hole News & Guide (http://bit.ly/1zBaOa3)

The Game and Fish Commission will determine what hunts will be allowed in future years, he said.

The decision affects about 100 tracts of land of varying sizes.

Game and Fish first sought to clarify the park's jurisdiction over wildlife on private land almost two years ago. Prompted by questions about landowners' rights in the event of wolf depredations, state officials requested the Park Service consult with the U.S. attorney for Wyoming.

The memo sent by Whittington asks that park personnel be notified when wildlife issues arise on both private and federal land.


Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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