Park Service defends refusal to use wolves

Associated Press Modified: September 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm •  Published: September 20, 2012

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The National Park Service acted properly when it ruled out using wolves to control the elk population in Rocky Mountain National Park, government lawyers argued Thursday before a federal appeals court.

The government also defended the use of trained volunteers to help Park Service employees shoot and kill excess elk, saying it didn't violate a hunting ban in national parks.

In a hearing before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a law student representing the wildlife advocacy group WildEarth Guardians argued the Park Service did not give enough consideration to the wolf option and rejected it without giving the public a chance to comment.

The group also said letting volunteers shoot elk instead of limiting the shooting to Park Service employees was tantamount to hunting.

WildEarth Guardians sued the Park Service in 2008, asking a Denver federal judge to overturn the park's elk-thinning policy. The judge upheld the policy last year, and WildEarth Guardians appealed to the 10th Circuit.

The appeals court normally meets in Denver but heard this case at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder as part of an outreach program. The judges did not say when they would rule.

Rocky Mountain National Park sometimes has so many elk that they overgraze the vegetation, leaving other animals without enough food and habitat. Few natural predators are left there, and hunting is prohibited, so little remains to keep the elk population in check.

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