The National Park Service may proceed with a recreational elk hunting program in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park without obtaining an environmental review, a federal appeals court held Monday.
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge by two wildlife photographers to the elk hunt in the Jackson herd, one of the largest elk concentrations in North America.
The court held the government did not violate to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to conduct a review to assess whether the hunting was necessary for the proper management and protection of the elk.
The NPS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manage the park and the refuge. In 2007, the two agencies adopted a 15-year plan to reduce the population of the herd to limit the risk of disease and conserve habitat. The agencies issued an environmental impact statement at that time, as required by NEPA.
As a result of the plan, between 2007 and 2015, the size of the herd decreased. But the FWS failed to meet the plan’s objective to wean the herd from supplemental feed.
Kent Nelson and Timothy Mayo, the wildlife photographers, sued to challenge the 2015 elk hunting, arguing the Park Service should prepare a new NEPA analysis every year that it continues the 15-year reduction plan.
The trial court rejected the legal challenge and the appeals court agreed.
Judges Harry Edwards, joined by Patricia Millett and Stephen Williams signed the opinion.
Case: Mayo v. Reynolds, No. 16-5282