CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A conservation group filed a petition on Wednesday asking the National Park Service to place an area between Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks off-limits to wolf hunting.
The petition by the National Parks Conservation Association called on the park service to start a formal rulemaking process and ultimately ban wolf-hunting in the 24,000-acre John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway.
The group believes it was an oversight for the federal government to approve inclusion of the area in the larger designated wolf trophy hunting zone in Wyoming, said Sharon Mader, Grand Teton program manager with the association in Jackson.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the boundaries of the trophy hunting zone when it ended federal protections for Wyoming wolves last year.
"Our efforts with this petition are to essentially correct that oversight," Mader said
The association doesn't believe it's appropriate for wolves to be hunted on national park lands.
"The hunting of an animal just fresh off the endangered species list in a national park unit is really just unprecedented," she said.
Renny MacKay, spokesman for Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, said the governor would have no comment until he evaluates the petition. However, it appears likely Wyoming will ultimately oppose the association's push to make the parkway off-limits.
Many Wyoming ranchers and sportsmen believe wolves have taken an unacceptable toll on other wildlife and livestock since the federal government reintroduced them in Yellowstone in the mid-1990s.
Wyoming is currently fighting two federal lawsuits, one in Cheyenne and the other in Washington, D.C., brought by conservation groups challenging the federal government's decision to turn over wolf management to the state.
The groups generally contend that Wyoming's management plan, which designates wolves as unprotected predators that can be shot on sight in most places, is inadequate to protect them.
Immediately after taking over wolf management from the federal government, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department staged a wolf hunt in the trophy zone.
No hunting is allowed in the parks themselves and the game department's regulations last year set a quota of zero wolves for hunters in the parkway.
The state game department has reported that hunters killed 68 wolves in the state from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 last year. Of those, 42 were killed in the trophy hunting zone bordering the parks, while 26 were killed as unprotected predators elsewhere in the state.
The game department has said it needs to reduce the number of wolves killed in the state this year to make sure the population doesn't fall below minimums that could trigger a return to federal control.
Wyoming has committed to maintain at least 10 breeding pairs of wolves and at least 100 animals outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Wildlife managers have said Wyoming had about 300 wolves outside of Yellowstone when state management began Oct. 1.
The parkway currently is open to elk and other sorts of hunting. The federal law that established the area in the early 1970s states that the interior secretary will permit hunting there in accordance with state and federal laws. The federal government must consult with the state to close areas there to hunting.