Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council (RMTLC) condemns Wyoming’s Decision to Proceed with Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Trophy Hunt

Sergio Maldonado (former Tribal Liaison to Wyoming’s governor, Matt Mead), Chief Councilor Brandon Sazue of the Global Indigenous Council (also representing the Great Sioux Nation and Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association), Herb Welch (Spokesman, Northern Arapaho Elders Society), Councillor Brian Jackson (Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy representing Chief Stan Grier, President of the Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs).

Published May 25, 2018

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – The Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council (RMTLC) condemns the decision made today by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to proceed with a grizzly bear trophy hunt in Greater Yellowstone, which is planned to open in a matter of weeks, on September 1. The RMTLC has officially opposed the delisting and trophy hunting of the grizzly bear since 2014. Now, as this body and our member tribes have warned throughout, if Endangered Species Act protections were removed from the grizzly, the trophy hunting of this sacred being on our sacred, ancestral, and treaty lands would be inevitable. There is no justification for this course of action. Science does not support it, regional economics does not support it, and recent studies demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of the public do not support it.

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone. Photo by Jake Davis.

Tribal nations have provided a viable alternative to trophy hunting in The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration, which is now the most-signed tribal treaty in history with 200-nation signatories (www.globalindigenouscouncil.com). Central to the treaty are the grizzly reintroduction articles. Instead of trophy hunting the grizzly, tribal nation treaty signatories advocate relocating grizzlies from the GYE to sovereign tribal lands in the grizzly’s historic range where biologically suitable habitat exists among tribes that seek to explore and participate in such a program. The same quota of grizzlies that would be hunted per season by the states, could easily be trapped and relocated to lands under sovereign tribal authority and jurisdiction, removing any possible rationalization for reinstituting trophy hunts. This plan provides for cultural and environmental revitalization for participating tribal nations. Wyoming officials acknowledged the existence of this alternative in July 2016 but rejected any discussion with tribes. Just two months ago, the RMTLC raised this matter with Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), and we still await a response (https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/13fe3b_d27f4eb3ac8c42ca94ac6bd0139c4a2a.pdf).

In 2017, visitors to Yellowstone National Park provided $499-million to gateway communities. A recent study found that 99% of tourists traveling to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks want to see a grizzly, and some 81% specifically went to see a bear. Frequently seen roadside grizzlies in Grand Teton are estimated to generate $8-million to the local economy, while those in Yellowstone provide a conservative estimate of $10-million. Wyoming’s trophy hunt allows for their removal for a $600 tag. Since 2015, human-caused grizzly bear mortalities in Greater Yellowstone have hovered around 60 deaths per year, double what they were in 2014 prior to the most recent drive to delist and trophy hunt. With Wyoming’s trophy hunting allocation added, the prevailing trend indicates that this year over 13% of the existing grizzly population will be killed, including the 14 females Wyoming is offering as trophies. The grizzly bear, still categorized as a threatened species, has the second-slowest reproductive rate of any mammal.

Park County, Wyoming, which will be at the heart of Wyoming’s grizzly trophy hunt, is now fighting the unified tribal effort to change the names of Mount Doane and Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park. Few in the tribal community find this to be coincidental. Wyoming clearly prefers to retain the name of a war criminal and a proponent of genocide against the tribes in region, and it should be remembered that for decades Park County facilitated the public exhibition of the body of a tribal ancestor in the Whitney Gallery of Western Arts in Cody, a highly-offensive practice that was outlawed with the passage of NAGPRA. Several RMTLC member tribes are already engaged in litigation arising from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s failures to honor and adhere to mandated processes in relation to tribal nations during the delisting procedure. It can be expected that additional claims will be made in different venues following this decision by Wyoming. We now look toward our representatives in the House and Senate, particularly Senator Steve Daines and Senator John Tester to step forward. Senator Tester first offered support for The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration in March 2017.

The Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council (RMTLC) serves tribal nations located in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alberta, specifically the Blackfeet Nation, the Chippewa-Cree, the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, the Crow Tribe, the Eastern Shoshone, the Fort Belknap Indian Community, the Fort Peck Tribal Executive Board, the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Northern Arapaho Tribe, the Northern Cheyenne, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Idaho, and the Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy.

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