WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
ADVISORY BOARD ON WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT, APPOINTED BY SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR UDALL
A. S. Leopold (Chairman), S. A. Cain, C. M. Cottam, I. N. Gabrielson, T. L. Kimball
March 4, 1963
In the Congressional Act of 1916 which created the National Park Service, preservation of native animal life was clearly specified as one of the purposes of the parks. A frequently quoted passage of the Act states ". . . which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
In implementing this Act, the newly formed Park Service developed a philosophy of wildlife protection, which in that era was indeed the most obvious and immediate need in wildlife conservation. Thus the parks were established as refuges, the animal populations were protected from wildfire. For a time predators were controlled to protect the "good" animals from the "bad" ones, but this endeavor mercifully ceased in the 1930's. On the whole, there was little major change in the Park Service practice of wildlife management during the first 40 years of its existence.
During the same era, the concept of wildlife management evolved rapidly among other agencies and groups concerned with the production of wildlife for recreational hunting. It is now an accepted truism that maintenance of suitable habitat is the key to sustaining animal populations, and that protection, though it is important, is not of itself a substitute for habitat. More over, habitat is not a fixed or stable entity that can be set aside and preserved behind a fence, like a cliff dwelling or a petrified tree. Biotic communities change through natural stages of succession. They can be changed deliberately through manipulation of plant and animal populations. In recent years the National Park Service has broadened its concept of wildlife conservation to provide for purposeful management of plant and animal communities as an essential step in preserving wildlife resources ". . . unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." In a few parks active manipulation of habitat is being tested, as for example in the Everglades where controlled burning is now used experimentally to maintain the open glades and piney woods with their interesting animal and plant life. Excess populations of grazing ungulates are being controlled in a number of parks to preserve the forage plants on which the animals depend. The question already has been posedhow far should the National Park Service go in utilizing the tools of management to maintain wildlife populations?
The present report proposes to discuss wildlife management in the national parks in terms of three questions which shift emphasis progressively from the general to the specific:
1) What should be the goals of wildlife management in the national parks?
2) What general policies of management are best adapted to achieve the pre-determined goals?
3) What are some of the methods suitable for on-the-ground implementation of policies?
It is acknowledged that this Advisory Board was requested by the Secretary of the Interior to consider particularly one of the methods of management, namely, the procedure of removing excess ungulates from some of the parks: We feel that this specific question can only be viewed objectively in the light of goals and operational policies, and our report is framed accordingly. In speaking of national parks we refer to the whole system of parks and monuments; national recreation areas are discussed briefly near the end of the report.
As a prelude to presenting our thoughts on the goals, policies, and methods of managing wildlife in the parks of the United States we wish to quote in full a brief report on "Management of National Parks and Equivalent Areas" which was formulated by a committee of the First World Conference on National Parks that convened in Seattle in July, 1962. The committee consisted of 15 members of the Conference, representing eight nations; the chairman was Francois Bourliere of France. In our judgment this report suggests a firm basis for park management. The statement of the committee follows:
"1. Management is defined as any activity directed toward achieving or maintaining a given condition in plant and or animal populations and/or habitats in accordance with the conservation plan for the area. A prior definition of the purposes and objectives of each park is assumed. "Management may involve active manipulation of the plant and animal communities, or protection from modification or external influences.
"2. Few of the world's parks are large enough to be in fact self-regulatory ecological units; rather, most are ecological islands subject to direct or indirect modification by activities and conditions in the surrounding areas. These influences may involve such factors as immigration and/or emigration of animal and plant life, changes in the fire regime, and alterations in the surface or subsurface water.
"3. There is no need for active modification to maintain large examples of the relatively stable 'climax' communities which under protection perpetuate themselves indefinitely. Examples of such communities include large tracts of undisturbed rain-forests, tropical mountain paramos, and arctic tundra.
"4. However, most biotic communities are in a constant state of change due to natural or man-caused processes of ecological succession. In these successional communities it is necessary to manage the habitat to achieve or stabilize it at a desired stage. For example, fire is an essential management tool to maintain East African open savanna or American prairie.
"5. Where animal populations get out of balance with their habitat and threaten the continued existence of a desired environment, population control becomes essential. This principal applies, for example, in situations where ungulate populations have exceeded the carrying capacity of their habitat through loss of predators, immigration from surrounding areas, or compression of normal migratory patterns. Specific examples include excess populations of elephants in some African parks and of ungulates in some mountain parks.
"6. The need for management, the feasibility of management methods, and evaluation of results must be based upon current and continuing scientific research. Both the research and management itself should be under taken only by qualified personnel. Research, management, planning, and execution must take into account, and if necessary regulate, the human uses for which the park is intended.
"7. Management based on scientific research is, therefore, not only desirable but often essential to maintain some biotic communities in accordance with the conservation plan of a national park or equivalent area."
Item 1 in the report just quoted specifies that "a prior definition of the purposes and objectives of each park is assumed." In other words, the goal must first be defined.
As a primary goal, we would recommend that the biotic associations within each park be maintained, or where necessary recreated, as nearly as possible in the condition that prevailed when the area was first visited by the white man. A national park should represent a vignette of primitive America.
The implications of this seemingly simple aspiration are stupendous. Many of our national parksin fact most of themwent through periods of indiscriminate logging, burning, livestock grazing, hunting and predator control. Then they entered the park system and shifted abruptly to a regime of equally unnatural protection from lightning fires, from insect outbreaks, absence of natural controls of ungulates, and in some areas elimination of normal fluctuations in water levels. Exotic vertibrates, insects, plants, and plant diseases have inadvertently been introduced. And of course lastly there is the factor of human useof roads and trampling and camp grounds and pack stock. The resultant biotic associations in many of our parks are artifacts, pure and simple. They represent a complex ecologic history but they do not necessarily represent primitive America.
Restoring the primitive scene is not done easily nor can it be done completely. Some species are extinct. Given time, an eastern hardwood forest can be regrown to maturity but the chestnut will be missing and so will the roar of pigeon wings. The colorful drapanid finches are not to be heard again in the lowland forests of Hawaii, nor will the jack-hammer of the ivory-bill ring in southern swamps. The wolf and grizzly bear can not readily be reintroduced into ranching communities, and the factor of human use of the parks is subject only to regulation, not elimination. Exotic plants, animals, and diseases are here to stay. All these limitations we fully realize. Yet, if the goal cannot be fully achieved it can be approached. A reasonable illusion of primitive America could be recreated, using the utmost in skill, judgment, and ecologic sensitivity. This in our opinion should be the objective of every national park and monument.
To illustrate the goal more specifically, let us cite some cases. A visitor entering Grand Teton National Park from the south drives across Antelope Flats. But there are no antelope. No one seems to be asking the questionwhy aren't there? If the mountain men who gathered here in rendezvous fed their squaws an antelope, a 20th century tourist at least should be able to see a band of these animals. Finding out what aspect of the range needs rectifying, and doing so, would appear to be a primary function of park management.
When the forty-niners poured over the Sierra Nevada into California, those that kept diaries spoke almost to a man of the wide-spaced columns of mature trees that grew on the lower western slope in gigantic magnificence. The ground was a grass parkland, in springtime carpeted with wildflowers. Deer and bears were abundant. Today much of the west slopes is a dog-hair thicket of young pines, white fir, incense cedar, and mature brusha direct function of overprotection from natural ground fires. Within the four national parksLassen, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyonthe thickets are even more impenetrable than elsewhere. Not only is this accumulation of fuel dangerous to the giant sequoias and other mature trees but the animal life is meager, wildflowers are sparse, and to some at least the vegetative tangle is depressing, not uplifting. Is it possible that the primitive open forest could be restored, at least on a local scale? And if so, how? We cannot offer an answer. But we are posing a question to which there should be an answer of immense concern to the National Park Service.
The scarcity of bighorn sheep in the Sierra Nevada represents another type of management problem. Though they have been effectively protected for nearly half a century, there are fewer than 400 bighorns in the Sierra. Two-thirds of them are found in summer along the crest which lies within the eastern border of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Obviously, there is some shortcoming of habitat that precludes further increase in the population. The high country is still recovering slowly from the devastation of early domestic sheep grazing so graphically described by John Muir. But the present limitation may not be in the high summer range at all but rather along the eastern slope of the Sierra where the bighorns winter on lands in the jurisdiction of the Forest Service. These areas are grazed in summer by domestic livestock and large numbers of mule deer, and it is possible that such competitive use is adversely affecting the bighorns. It would seem to us that the National Park Service might well take the lead in studying this problem and in formulating cooperative management plans with other agencies even though the management problem lies outside the park boundary. The goal, after all, is to restore the Sierra bighorn. If restoration is achieved in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon region, there might follow a program of reintroduction and restoration of bighorns in Yosemite and Lassen National Parks, and Lava Beds National Monument, within which areas this magnificent native animal is presently extinct.
We hope that these examples clarify what we mean by the goal of park management.
The major policy change which we would recommend to the National Park Service is that it recognize the enormous complexity of ecologic communities and the diversity of management procedures required to preserve them. The traditional, simple formula of protection may be exactly what is needed to maintain such climax associations as arctic-alpine heath, the rain forests of Olympic peninsula, or the Joshua trees and saguaros of southwestern deserts. On the other hand, grasslands, savannas, aspen, and other successional shrub and tree associations may call for very different treatment. Reluctance to undertake biotic management can never lead to a realistic presentation of primitive America, much of which supported successional communities that were maintained by fires, floods, hurricanes, and other natural forces.
A second statement of policy that we would reiterateand this one conforms with present Park Service standardsis that management be limited to native plants and animals. Exotics have intruded into nearly all of the parks but they need not be encouraged, even those that have interest of ecologic values of their own. Restoration of antelope in Jackson Hole, for example, should be done by managing native forage plants, not by planting crested wheat grass or plots of irrigated alfalfa. Gambel quail in a desert wash should be observed in the shade of a mesquite, not a tamarisk. A visitor who climbs a volcano in Hawaii ought to see mamane trees and silver-swords, not goats.
Carrying this point further, observable artificiality in any form must be minimized and obscured in every possible way. Wildlife should not be displayed in fenced enclosures; this is the function of a zoo, not a national park. In the same category is artificial feeding of wildlife. Fed bears become bums, and dangerous. Fed elk deplete natural ranges. Forage relationships in wild animals should be natural. Management may at times call for the use of the tractor, chain-saw, rifle, or flame-thrower but the signs and sounds of such activity should be hidden from visitors insofar as possible. In this regard, perhaps the most dangerous tool of all is the roadgrader. Although the American public demands automotive access to the parks, road systems must be rigidly prescribed as to extent and design. Roadless wilderness areas should be permanently zoned. The goal, we repeat, is to maintain or create the mood of wild America. We are speaking here of restoring wildlife to enhance this mood, but the whole effect can be lost if the parks are overdeveloped for motorized travel. If too many tourists crowd the roadways, then we should ration the tourists rather than expand the roadways.
Additionally in this connection, it seems incongruous that there should exist in the national parks mass recreation facilities such as golf courses, ski lifts, motorboat marinas, and other extraneous developments which completely contradict the management goal. We urge the National Park Service to reverse its policy of permitting these non-conforming uses, and to liquidate them as expeditiously as possible (painful as this will be to concessionaires). Above all other policies, the maintenance of naturalness should prevail.
Another major policy matter concerns the research which must form the basis of all management programs. The agency best fitted to study park management problems is the National Park Service itself. Much help and guidance can be obtained from ecologic research conducted by other agencies, but the objectives of park management are so different from those of state fish and game departments, the Forest Service, etc., as to demand highly skilled studies of a very specialized nature. Management without knowledge would be a dangerous policy indeed. Most of the research now conducted by the National Park Service is oriented largely to interpretive functions rather than to management. We urge the expansion of the research activity in the Service to prepare for future management and restoration programs. As models of the type of investigation that should be greatly accelerated we cite some of the recent studies of elk in Yellowstone and of bighorn sheep in Death Valley. Additionally, however, there are needed equally critical appraisals of ecologic relationships in various plant associations and of many lesser organisms such as azaleas, lupines, chipmunks, towhees, and other non-economic species.
In consonance with the above policy statements, it follows logically that every phase of management itself be under the full jurisdiction of biologically trained personnel of the Park Service. This applies not only to habitat manipulation but to all facets of regulating animal populations. Reducing the numbers of elk in Yellowstone or of goats on Haleakala Crater is part of an overall scheme to preserve or restore a natural biotic scene. The purpose is single-minded. We cannot endorse the view that responsibility for removing excess game animals be shared with state fish and game departments whose primary interest would be to capitalize on the recreational value of the public hunting that could thus be supplied. Such a proposal imputes a multiple use concept of park management which was never intended, which is not legally permitted, nor for which can we find any impelling justification today.
Purely from the standpoint of how best to achieve the goal of park management, as here defined, unilateral administration directed to a single objective is obviously superior to divided responsibility in which secondary goals, such as recreational hunting, are introduced. Additionally, uncontrolled public hunting might well operate in opposition to the goal, by removing roadside animals and frightening the survivors, to the end that public viewing of wildlife would be materially impaired. In one national park, namely Grand Teton, public hunting was specified by Congress as the method to be used in controlling elk. Extended trial suggests this to be an awkward administrative tool at best.
Since this whole matter is of particular current interest it will be elaborated in a subsequent section on methods.
It is obviously impossible to mention in this brief report all the possible techniques that might be used by the National Park Service in manipulating plant and animal populations. We can, however, single out a few examples. In so doing, it should be kept in mind that the total area of any one park, or of the parks collectively, that may be managed intensively is a very modest part indeed. This is so for two reasons. First, critical areas which may determine animal abundance are often a small fraction of total range. One deer study on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, for example, showed that important winter range, which could be manipulated to support the deer, constituted less than two per cent of the year-long herd range. Roadside areas that might be managed to display a more varied and natural flora and fauna can be rather narrow strips. Intensive management, in short, need not be extensive to be effective. Secondly, manipulation of vegetation is often exorbitantly expensive. Especially will this be true when the objective is to manage "invisibly"that is, to conceal the signs of management. Controlled burning is the only method that may have extensive application.
The first step in park management is historical research, to ascertain as accurately as possible what plants and animals and biotic associations existed originally in each locality. Much of this has been done already.
A second step should be ecologic research on plant-animal relationships leading to formulation of a management hypothesis.
Next should come small scale experimentation to test the hypothesis in practice. Experimental plots can be situated out of sight of roads and visitor centers.
Lastly, application of tested management methods can be undertaken on critical areas.
By this process of study and pre-testing, mistakes can be minimized. Likewise, public groups vitally interested in park management can be shown the results of research and testing before general application, thereby eliminating possible misunderstanding and friction.
Some management methods now in use by the National Park Service seem to us potentially dangerous. For example, we wish to raise a serious question about the mass application of insecticides in the control of forest insects. Such application may (or may not) be justified in commercial timber stands, but in a national park the ecologic impact can have unanticipated effects on the biotic community that might defeat the overall management objective. It would seem wise to curtail this activity, at least until research and small scale testing have been conducted.
Of the various methods of manipulating vegetation, the controlled use of fire is the most "natural" and much the cheapest and easiest to apply. Unfortunately, however, forest and chaparral areas that have been completely protected from fire for long periods may require careful advance treatment before even the first experimental blaze is set. Trees and mature brush may have to be cut, piled, and burned before a creeping ground fire can be risked. Once fuel is reduced, periodic burning can be conducted safely and at low expense. On the other hand, some situations may call for a hot burn. On Isle Royale, moose range is created by periodic holocausts that open the forest canopy. Maintenance of the moose population is surely one goal of management on Isle Royale.
Other situations may call for the use of the bulldozer, the disc harrow, or the spring-tooth harrow to initiate desirable changes in plant succession. Buffalo wallows on the American prairie were the propagation sites of a host of native flowers and forbs that fed the antelope and the prairie chicken. In the absence of the great herds, wallows can be simulated.
Artificial reintroduction of rare native plants is often feasible. Overgrazing in years past led to local extermination of many delicate perennials such as some of the orchids. Where these are not reappearing naturally they can be transplanted or cultured in a nursery. A native plant, however small and inconspicuous, is as much a part of the biota as a redwood tree or a forage species for elk.
In essence, we are calling for a set of ecologic skills unknown in this country today. Americans have shown a great capacity for degrading and fragmenting native biotas. So far we have not exercised much imagination or ingenuity in rebuilding damaged biotas. It will not be done by passive protection alone.
Good park management requires that ungulate populations be reduced to the level that the range will carry in good health and without impairment to the soil, the vegetation, or to habitats of other animals. This problem is world-wide in scope, and includes non-park as well as park lands. Balance may be achieved in several ways.
(a) Natural predationInsofar as possible, control through natural predation should be encouraged. Predators are now protected in the parks of the United States, although unfortunately they were not in the early years and the wolf, grizzly bear, and mountain lion became extinct in many of the national parks. Even today populations of large predators, where they still occur in the parks, are kept below optimal level by programs of predator control applied outside the park boundaries. Although the National Park Service has attempted to negotiate with control agencies of Federal and local governments for the maintenance of buffer zones around the parks where predators are not subject to systematic control, these negotiations have been only partially successful. The effort to protect large predators in and around the parks should be greatly intensified. At the same time, it must be recognized that predation alone can seldom be relied upon to control ungulate numbers, particularly the larger species such as bison, moose, elk, and deer; additional artificial controls frequently are called for.
(b) Trapping and transplantingTraditionally in the past the National Park Service has attempted to dispose of excess ungulates by trapping and transplanting. Since 1892, for example, Yellowstone National Park alone has supplied 10,478 elk for restocking purposes. Many of the elk ranges in the western United States have been restocked from this source. Thousands of deer and lesser numbers of antelope, bighorns, mountain goats, and bison also have been moved from the parks. This program is fully justified so long as breeding stocks are needed. However, most big game ranges of the United States are essentially filled to carrying capacity, and the cost of a continuing program of trapping and transplanting cannot be sustained solely on the basis of controlling populations within the parks. Trapping and handling of a big game animal usually costs from $50 to $150 and in some situations much more. Since annual surpluses will be produced indefinitely into the future, it is patently impossible to look upon trapping as a practical plan of disposal.
(c) Shooting excess animals that migrate outside the parksMany park herds are migratory and can be controlled by public hunting outside the park boundaries. Especially is this true in mountain parks which usually consist largely of summer game range with relatively little winter range. Effective application of this form of control frequently calls for special regulations, since migration usually occurs after normal hunting dates. Most of the western states have cooperated with the National Park Service in scheduling late hunts for the specific purpose of reducing park game herds, and in fact most excess game produced in the parks is so utilized. This is by far the best and the most widely applied method of controlling park populations of ungulates. The only danger is that migratory habits may be eliminated from a herd by differential removal, which would favor survival of non-migratory individuals. With care to preserve, not eliminate, migratory traditions, this plan of control will continue to be the major form of herd regulation in national parks.
(d) Control by shooting within the parksWhere other methods of control are inapplicable or impractical, excess park ungulates must be removed by killing. As stated above in the discussion of park policy, it is the unanimous recommendation of this Board that such shooting be conducted by competent personnel, under the sole jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and for the sole purpose of animal removal, not recreational hunting. If the magnitude of a given removal program requires the services of additional shooters beyond regular Park Service personnel, the selection, employment, training, deputization, and supervision of such additional personnel should be entirely the responsibility of the National Park Service. Only in this manner can the primary goal of wildlife management in the parks be realized. A limited number of expert riflemen, properly equipped and working under centralized direction, can selectively cull a herd with a minimum of disturbance to the surviving animals or to the environment. General public hunting by comparison is often non-selective and grossly disturbing.
Moreover, the numbers of game animals that must be removed annually from the parks by shooting is so small in relation to normally hunted populations outside the parks as to constitute a minor contribution to the public bag, even if it were so utilized. All of these points can be illustrated in the example of the north Yellowstone elk population which has been a focal point of argument about possible public hunting in national parks.
(e) The case of YellowstoneElk summer in all parts of Yellowstone Park and migrate out in nearly all directions, where they are subject to hunting on adjoining public and private lands. One herd, the so-called Northern Elk Herd, moves only to the vicinity of the park border where it may winter largely inside or outside the park, depending on the severity of the winter. This herd was estimated to number 35,000 animals in 1914 which was far in excess of the carrying capacity of the range. Following a massive die-off in 1919-20 the herd has steadily decreased. Over a period of 27 years, the National Park Service removed 8,825 animals by shooting and 5,765 by live-trapping; concurrently, hunters took 40,745 elk from this herd outside the park. Yet the range continues to deteriorate. In the winter of 1961-62 there were approximately 10,000 elk in the herd and carrying capacity of the winter range was estimated at 5,000. So the National Park Service at last undertook a definitive reduction program, killing 4,283 elk by shooting, which along with 850 animals removed in other ways (hunting outside the park, trapping, winter kill) brought the herd down to 5,725 as censused from helicopter. The carcasses of the elk were carefully processed and distributed to Indian communities throughout Montana and Wyoming; so they were well used. The point at issue is whether this same reduction could or should have been accomplished by public hunting.
In autumn during normal hunting season the elk are widely scattered through rough inaccessible mountains in the park. Comparable areas, well stocked with elk, are heavily hunted in adjoining national forests. Applying the kill statistics from the forests to the park, a kill of 200-400 elk might be achieved if most of the available pack stock in the area were used to transport hunters within the park. Autumn hunting could not have accomplished the necessary reduction.
In mid-winter when deep snow and bitter cold forced the elk into lower country along the north border of the park, the National Park Service undertook its reduction program. With snow vehicles, trucks, and helicoters they accomplished the unpleasant job in temperatures that went as low as -40° F. Public hunting was out of the question. Thus, in the case most bitterly argued in the press and in legislative halls, reduction of the herd by recreational hunting would have been a practical impossibility, even if it had been in full conformance with park management objectives.
From now on, the annual removal from this herd may be in the neighbor hood of 1,000 to 1,800 head. By January 31, 1963, removals had totalled 1,300 (300 shot outside the park by hunters, 600 trapped and shipped, and 406 killed by park rangers). Continued special hunts in Montana and other forms of removal will yield the desired reduction by spring. The required yearly maintenance kill is not a large operation when one considers that approximately 100,000 head of big game are taken annually by hunters in Wyoming and Montana.
(f) Game control in other parksIn 1961-62, excluding Yellowstone elk, there were approximately 870 native animals transplanted and 827 killed on 18 national parks and monuments. Additionally, about 2,500 feral goats, pigs and burros were removed from three areas. Animal control in the park system as a whole is still a small operation. It should be emphasized, however, that removal programs have not in the past been adequate to control ungulates in many of the parks. Future removals will have to be larger and in many cases repeated annually. Better management of wildlife habitat will naturally produce larger annual surpluses. But the scope of this phase of park operation will never be such as to constitute a large facet of management. On the whole, reductions will be small in relation to game harvests outside the parks. For example, from 50 to 200 deer a year are removed from a problem area in Sequoia National Park; the deer kill in California is 75,000 and should be much larger. In Rocky Mountain National Park 59 elk were removed in 1961-62 and the trim should perhaps be 100 per year in the future; Colorado kills over 10,000 elk per year on open hunting ranges. In part, this relates to the small area of the national park system which constitutes only 3.9 per cent of the public domain; hunting ranges under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management make up approximately 70 per cent.
In summary, control of animal populations in the national parks would appear to us to be an integral part of park management, best handled by the National Park Service itself. In this manner excess ungulates have been controlled in the national parks of Canada since 1943, and the same principle is being applied in the parks of many African countries. Selection of personnel to do the shooting likewise is a function of the Park Service. In most small operations this would logically mean skilled rangers. In larger removal programs, there might be included additional personnel, selected from the general public, hired and deputized by the Service or otherwise engaged, but with a view to accomplishing a task, under strict supervision and solely for the protection of park values. Examples of some potentially large removal programs where expanded crews may be needed are mule deer populations on plateaus fringing Dinosaur National Monument and Zion National Park (west side), and white-tailed deer in Acadia National Park.
By precedent and logic, the management of wildlife resources on the national recreation areas can be viewed in a very different light than in the park system proper. National recreation areas are by definition multiple use in character as regards allowable types of recreation. Wildlife management can be incorporated into the operational plans of these areas with public hunting as one objective. Obviously, hunting must be regulated in time and place to minimize conflict with other uses, but it would be a mistake for the National Park Service to be unduly restrictive of legitimate hunting in these areas. Most of the existing national recreation areas are Federal holdings surrounding large water impoundments; there is little potentiality for hunting. Three national seashore recreational areas on the East Coast (Hatteras, Cape Cod, and Padre Island) offer limited waterfowl shooting. But some of the new areas being acquired or proposed for acquisition will offer substantial hunting opportunity for a variety of game species. This opportunity should be developed with skill, imagination, and (we would hopefully suggest) with enthusiasm.
On these areas as elsewhere, the key to wildlife abundance is a favorable habitat. The skills and techniques of habitat manipulation applicable to parks are equally applicable on the recreation areas. The regulation of hunting, on such areas as are deemed appropriate to open for such use, should be in accord with prevailing state regulations.
A number of new national parks are under consideration. One of the critical issues in the establishment of new parks will be the manner in which the wildlife resources are to be handled. It is our recommendation that the basic objectives and operating procedures of new parks be identical with those of established parks. It would seem awkward indeed to operate a national park system under two sets of ground rules. On the other hand, portions of several proposed parks are so firmly established as traditional hunting grounds that impending closure of hunting may preclude public acceptance of park status. In such cases it may be necessary to designate core areas as national parks in every sense of the word, establishing protective buffer zones in the form of national recreation areas where hunting is permitted. Perhaps only through compromises of this sort will the park system be rounded out.
The goal of managing the national parks and monuments should be to preserve, or where necessary to recreate, the ecologic scene as viewed by the first European visitors. As part of this scene, native species of wild animals should be present in maximum variety and reasonable abundance. Protection alone, which has been the core of Park Service wildlife policy, is not adequate to achieve this goal. Habitat manipulation is helpful and often essential to restore or maintain animal numbers. Likewise, populations of the animals themselves must sometimes be regulated to prevent habitat damage; this is especially true of ungulates.
Active management aimed at restoration of natural communities of plants and animals demands skills and knowledge not now in existence. A greatly expanded research program, oriented to management needs, must be developed within the National Park Service itself. Both research and the application of management methods should be in the hands of skilled park personnel.
Insofar as possible, animal populations should be regulated by predation and other natural means. However, predation cannot be relied upon to control the populations of larger ungulates. which sometimes must be reduced artificially.
Most ungulate populations within the parks migrate seasonally outside the park boundaries where excess numbers can be removed by public hunting. In such circumstances the National Park Service should work closely with state fish and game departments and other interested agencies in conducting the research required for management and in devising cooperative management programs.
Excess game that does not leave a park must be removed. Trapping and transplanting has not proven to be a practical method of control, though it is an appropriate source of breeding stock as needed elsewhere. Direct removal by killing is the most economical and effective way of regulating ungulates within a park. Game removal by shooting should be conducted under the complete jurisdiction of qualified park personnel and solely for the purpose of reducing animals to preserve park values. Recreational hunting is an inappropriate and non-conforming use of the national parks and monuments.
Most game reduction programs can best be accomplished by regular park employees. But as removal programs increase in size and scope, as well may happen under better wildlife management, the National Park Service may find it advantageous to employ or otherwise engage additional shooters from the general public. No objection to this procedure is foreseen so long as the selection, training, and supervision of shooting crews is under rigid control of the Service and the culling operation is made to conform to primary park goals.
Recreational hunting is a valid and potentially important use of national recreation areas, which are also under jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Full development of hunting opportunities on these areas should be provided by the Service.
Last Updated: 05-Jun-2007