Douglas C. Pizac, Associated Press
This May 30, 1997, file photo, shows the varied terrain of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Boulder, Utah.

In his recent article, “The facts about multiple land use in Utah” (Nov. 26), Don Peay argues that national parks and monuments are, on balance, bad for wildlife and unfair to hunters. Thus, he welcomed President Trump to Utah to announce the shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Let’s take a look at Peay’s alleged facts.

Peay begins with the words “We are grateful that . . .” Only near the end do we learn that “we” refers to “the 125,000 plus Utah sportsmen” whom Peay presumes to speak for. In fact, several Utah sportsmen organizations have taken a stand in support of the monuments. In any case, the lands at issue are federal public lands that belong to all Americans equally, not just to a few thousand Utah hunters. Peay complains that national parks and monuments limit hunting, which he thinks is detrimental to wildlife. While it is true that hunting is in some instances prohibited or restricted in national parks and monuments, this is not always the case. Hunting is not allowed in Yellowstone National Park, for example, but is allowed in Bears Ears National Monument. It all depends on what managers judge best in the particular case, subject to existing law.

Peay provides no evidence for his pronouncement that restrictions on hunting are detrimental to wildlife. Would Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks have more abundant wildlife and greater diversity of species if hunting were allowed in them? Hardly. Indeed, these parks, like other national parks and monuments, actually serve as refugia for native species, especially carnivores, which can then replenish populations of animals that are killed by guns, traps and cars outside them. Their importance for wildlife conservation is inestimable and has been confirmed by many scientific studies.

Peay states that hunters are responsible for the abundance and variety of wildlife in Utah with the implication being that they have a special entitlement to determine how wildlife is managed, even within national parks and monuments. While earlier generations of hunters first drove many species close to extinction (the buffalo, for example), subsequent generations of hunters have become more conservation-minded, starting under the leadership of President Theodore Roosevelt (who was a big fan of national parks by the way), and resulting in some great habitat projects hunters help pay for today. We agree with Peay on this point. But today, hundreds of different organizations, not just hunters, work and pay to conserve wildlife and habitat in many ways.

It is interesting to note how Peay harps on the monetary value of wild animals as if money is the measure of all value. This narrow perspective not only excludes ecological reality, but also deprecates the opinion of hundreds of thousands of Utahns who cherish the intrinsic value of wildlife and healthy lands as part of our shared natural heritage.

Perhaps Peay’s strangest claim is that national parks and monuments are contrary to the principle of “multiple use,” when in fact they are examples of it. Clearly it makes more sense — especially from a conservation point of view — to treat different lands differently depending on the variety and quality of their values. What is an appropriate use in one place might be inappropriate in another. We think Peay should come clean and reveal the real but unspoken reason why he and others want to shrink the monuments. And while he’s at it, maybe he can explain how coal mining and other operations, plus a proliferation of motor vehicles, roads, noise, dust and artificial lighting, will benefit wildlife.

Dr. Kirk Robinson is the executive director of Western Wildlife Conservancy. Allison Jones is a conservation biologist with the Wild Utah Project.