Wildlife group: Cull elk at national park with wolves, not sharpshooters

An environmental group called on the Department of the Interior to cease fire on a plan to use volunteer sharpshooters to reduce elk herds in Rocky Mountain National Park, instead urging officials to release wolves into the park “as part of the long-term solution to the elk over-browsing problem.”

The WildEarth Guardians “Carnivore Recovery Director” sent a letter Wednesday to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and other officials asking that they consider alternatives to shooting hundreds of “sedentary” elk each year. The sharpshooter plan is part of an effort to restore willow and aspen that have been grazed to extinction because of the lack of predators and consequent swelling of elk herds in the park. The Park Service plan, says WildEarth Guardians, is the “beginning of a multi-decade, multi-million dollar boondoggle that flies in the face of the National Park Service’s mandate to restore natural ecological processes.”

National Parks are supposed to be sanctuaries from firearms,” wrote Rob Edward of WildEarth Guardians on the group’s Web site. “The National Park Service is using members of the public to solve with rifles that which should be the bailiwick of wolves.”

The group asked officials to halt the plan until the department can reconsider a rule put into place by the Bush administration that lifted a ban on firearms in national parks. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in December sued the administration to overturn the rule, which went into effect Jan. 9.