Stephen Leek’s efforts to save the starving elk of Jackson Hole came at a time when survival of the species was very much in doubt. The founding of the National Elk Refuge in 1912 was one result—a huge achievement. But feeding wildlife in herds leads to disease, we now know. And Leek himself was a decidedly complicated man.
In July 1895, a posse of non-Indians, mostly outfitters, attacked a peaceful band of Bannocks south of Jackson Hole. The Indians believed they were legally hunting elk their Idaho reservation, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state law overrode their treaty rights, a huge blow to tribal sovereignty. In 2019, the court finally upended that ruling, in a case involving a Crow Tribe member, also hunting in Wyoming and off his reservation.
Largely forgotten today is the stiff local resistance that arose in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to the creation and later the expansion of a national park there. The story covers 31 years of controversy, and includes a Rockefeller, a movie actor and a group of armed ranchers trailing cattle illegally across a national monument, and some of the most beautiful scenery in North America.