Should Hunting Be Allowed In America’s National Parks?

Should hunting be allowed inside America’s national parks? That’s the question that the U.S. Senate will soon be dealing with as they debate the merits of HR 4089, better known as the Sportsman’s Heritage Act. The controversial bill was passed by the House of Representatives in April and could be coming to the floor of the Senate as well. If it does manage to become a law, HR 4089 would open most of the National Park System to hunting, trapping and recreational shooting.

Since their inception, the national parks have been designed to protect America’s heritage and natural landscapes, and those protections have always extended to the wildlife that roamed those regions as well. In the past it has taken – quite literally – an act of Congress to allow hunting within a park’s boundaries, but with this new bill hunting, trapping and sport shooting could become commonplace.

In addition to the traditional national parks that we all know and love, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, the park system is made up of a number of other entities as well. These include national monuments, memorials, military and historic parks and more. All of them could potentially fall under the jurisdiction of this new law, allowing hunting in such places as Gettysburg or Valley Forge for example.The Sportsman’s Heritage Act does have specific language written into it that provides for exemptions to the law in parks and monuments specifically. But those exemptions need to be decided on an individual basis, which can be a time consuming and costly affair. Furthermore, the wording of the bill fails to mention the other park units such as memorials, historic parks and the other places mentioned above. In other words, it would encompass each of those places unless they are specifically singled out for exemption.

The National Parks Conservation Association has worked in conjunction with the law firm of Arnold & Porter, LLP to examine the legal ramifications of the bill, and they’ve found that it could be quite costly as well. HR 4089’s approach to opening the park system up for hunting, trapping and sport shooting means that each of the units will have to do their own individual study to determine if they should allow those activities or not. Considering there are 397 units within the system, that could mean a lot of money spent on conducting that research.

The NPCA is also quick to point out that the bill would allow for the use of off-road vehicles wherever they are needed by hunters and trappers to engage in those activities. Most of the parks don’t currently allow the use of 4×4’s off of pavement, but this would open it up for their use in many other places. Considering the damage that they can do to the environment, their use seems to run counter to the idea of actually protecting these wild spaces.

As a traveler, i personally enjoy exploring the national parks because they are beautiful, serene environments. I can’t imagine visiting Rocky Mountain National Park for example, spending hours scrambling to the top of the famous Longs Peak, only to be greeted by gunshots from elk hunters. Or as a parent, can you imagine having to explain to a young park visitor why the vehicle sitting next to yours has a deer strapped across its hood? The parks are places of refuge and in my opinion they should stay that way. There are plenty of other places in the U.S. to hunt and trap, but we should keep those activities out of the parks themselves. If you agree, click here to express your concerns to your local congressman.