Should hunting be allowed in national parks?

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Illustration by Wade Mickley

House Republicans recently introduced the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, which would allow hunting in national parks. Do bullets and big crowds belong together in our most treasured wildlands?

YES

Hunting in America’s national parks should be determined by two principles: scientific data and the premise that our national parks belong to everyone.

Hunting is a wildlife management tool based upon a scientific need to perpetuate a healthy population of diverse wildlife; those tactics involve hunting and trapping. Hunting is about perpetuating wildlife, not destroying it.

Hands-off wildlife management seems like a fad in comparison to wildlife management, which has served America well for over a century. The theory that our ecosystems would naturally balance themselves if left to their own devices creates situations like that found in Rocky Mountain National Park, where elk are overrunning the public lands. We must not forget that hunters are part of the public that are owners of the national parks, too.

Implementation of controlled hunts is humane and can be done inexpensively with little disruption. Hunting and trapping, when done on an as-needed basis, can easily achieve the needs of population control for healthy species. This hunting or trapping can be accomplished in a short period of time with little interruption for park visitors. It seems a shame to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to serve a need that can be done by qualified hunters at little or no cost with benefits for all.

Tom Remington is a freelance writer and published author covering hunting and trapping. 

NO

I grew up in a family of hunters and spent many memorable weekends of my young manhood hunting in the woods.  I still appreciate what hunters do for conservation efforts and respect their right to hunt on public lands across the country. I just don’t think hunting inside our national parks is a good idea.

Hunting inside the parks runs counter to the National Park Service’s Organic Act, which says the parks were created to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein.” In simple terms, the national parks were created to protect the lands, and everything on them, including the animals.

The parks have been a place where animal populations could re-grow naturally following a decline in numbers. They serve as a refuge, giving herds of elk, bears, and other wildlife a chance to rebound. When a species’ population grows too large for the habitat, the animals tend to naturally migrate onto surrounding public lands, where hunters are given the opportunity to harvest them safely.

But the parks haven’t just been a refuge for animals. They have also been popular destinations for travelers who want to experience America in all its spectacular and serene glory. That changes when hunting is allowed on these lands, as visitors would have to be constantly alert to the dangers of hiking or camping in areas that are shared with hunters. Hunting accidents occur between hunters all the time. Add a large group of park visitors who aren’t hunters, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Hunters already have access to millions of acres of public land, including most national forests. Opening the parks to hunting is unnecessary, unsafe, and introduces whole new layers of bureaucracy. Leave the parks alone so that they can function as they were intended: to preserve the land and wildlife for future generations to enjoy.

Kraig Becker served as media director for the Primal Quest expedition adventure race and is a member of the National Geographic Expeditions Advisory Board. 

What do you think?

Join the national park hunting debate at blueridgeoutdoors.com

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