State and Federal Laws Overlooked As Hunt Continues
Washington, D.C. -- The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), and Mr. Walt Farmer, a Jackson, WY area resident have asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) to immediately suspend the bison hunt on the National Elk Refuge (NER) which began on September 15th. In their eleven-page letter to the agencies, a number of federal and state laws and related procedural requirements that have been overlooked or ignored in their great haste to allow hunters to kill bison on the refuge are identified. Two bison were killed during the first weekend of the three-month long hunt.
"It's bad enough that the agencies have elected to turn a refuge where bison have been fed and protected for over 15 years into a killing ground," states D.J. Schubert, AWI's wildlife biologist. "It is worse when the agencies have failed to comply with existing law, ignored their own directives, and manipulated procedures to expedite hunter access to the killing grounds."
Among the issues raised in the letter are a doubling of the number of bison to be killed on the refuge compared to the numbers disclosed in the management plan, a failure by the WGFD to establish a bison herd objective prior to implementing the hunt, and the misuse of an emergency rule when no emergency existed. Other legal, procedural, and policy issues are addressed including concerns about whether the hunt is "ethical" or can meet "fair-chase" standards.
The hunt is the product of a 10-year long planning effort after a previous hunt was halted by litigation. The final management plan, approved in April, allows the killing of more than half of the Jackson bison herd and increases the number of elk to be hunted but provides no concrete plan to phase out the supplemental feeding of elk and bison on the refuge. The FWS has been providing supplemental feed for elk and bison on the refuge for nearly 100 and 30 years, respectively. This feeding program has allowed the bison population to grow to its present size. Moreover, the scientific evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates, as the FWS concedes, that the feeding program is the underlying cause of many of the alleged threats to the refuge and Grand Teton National Park; particularly wildlife disease concerns.
"The federal agencies have elected to favor politics over science and common sense in approving the management plan," explains Schubert. "Their need to placate the WGFD and decision to capitulate to the state's demands will only serve to prolong the problems and increase the threats posed by supplemental feeding."
AWI is one of this nation's oldest animal protection organizations dedicated to reducing the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. BFC is based in West Yellowstone, Montana and is the only group working in the field everyday to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone's wild free-roaming buffalo.
D.J. Schubert, AWI, (202) 337-2332