House lawmakers, on Thursday, February 16th, passed a measure to repeal a recently implemented rule that banned abhorrent practices such as shooting/ trapping wolves while at dens with pups, killing hibernating bears and spotting Grizzlies from aircraft for kill upon landing. The rule aligns with a similar National Park Service rule, which was finalized in October, 2015, banning abhorrent practices such as “bear baiting” and the Game Boards liberal predator control “management”.
The legislation, authored by Representative Don Young, would undo the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule, opening the door for the state to resume aggressive predator control tactics including shooting wolves from airplanes, spotting bears from aircraft for kill upon landing, and killing cubs and pups in their dens on more than 76 million acres of national wildlife refuge land in Alaska. A recently introduced companion measure (S.J.Resolution 18), sponsored by Senator Dan Sullivan, also seeks to erode federal management authority over Alaska Wildlife Refuges and should be set aside.
Under the rule, issued August 3rd, 2016, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, predator control is not allowed on Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges “unless it is determined to be necessary to meet refuge purposes, is consistent with federal laws and policy and is based on sound science in response to a conservation concern.” The law also bans specific hunting methods on Alaska refuges, including killing bear cubs or adult females with cubs, baiting brown bears, taking bears using snares and traps, and aerial shooting of bears and wolves.
- The rule “clarifies how existing mandates for the conservation of natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health on refuges in Alaska relate to predator control; prohibits several particularly effective methods and means for take of predators”. The rule formally established a goal of biodiversity as the guiding principle of federal management of wildlife refuges. The rule also made it clear there would be no impact on subsistence hunters.
In a blog post published the day of the final ruling in August, former FWS Director Dan Ashe said that in implementing Alaska’s Intensive Management Law, the Alaska Board of Game had “unleashed a withering attack on bears and wolves that is wholly at odds with America’s long tradition of ethical, sportsmanlike, fair-chase hunting.”
Under Title VIII (Subsistence Management And Use) of the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), Alaska Natives and other rural residents were granted hunting and fishing rights (when fish and game are not under outside threat) on National Preserves. The ANILCA did not, however, allow Alaska to manage its wildlife as it has been ~ which is not unlike a game farm, where to allow unchecked trophy hunting and commercial guiding, and led to the implementation of tighter restrictions by the National Park Service. Alaska is unique among the 50 states for allowing sport and subsistence hunting in the 17 million acres of national preserves added to the National Park System by the ANILCA. While Congress recognized the “important value of subsistence and (sadly) sport hunting”, it allowed both to take place only where consistent with the mandate to protect and conserve wildlife resources. State sport hunting regulations passed by the Alaska Board of Game apply on public lands, but only when those regulations do not conflict with federal mandates or National Park policies.
(In Alaska, the wildlife law known as the Intensive Management statute is in conflict with federal laws governing national park lands and the management of wildlife on those lands. Preemption, the constitutional doctrine which holds that when federal law and state law conflict, federal law must be followed, and state law must yield, requires the State of Alaska to refrain from implementing the Intensive Management statute on national park lands because of the conflict with federal laws.)
The Board, however, noticeably became increasingly aggressive in its efforts to implement predator control on federal public lands through liberalization of sport hunting and trapping regulations. For example in 1994, the Alaska Legislature passed the Intensive Management Statute with which the explicit goal was to maintain, restore, or increase the abundance of big game populations for human consumptive use.
The following 2 maps illustrate the enormous expansion of state designated predator control areas (PCA) from 2001 to 2014. The maps also show that the boundaries of most national preserves had been encroached upon and many had become virtually surrounded by Predator Control Areas in just 14 years. Note the vast increase of “wolf control” areas (in yellow).
The Board has also practiced intensive management by liberalizing sport hunting regulations, including:
Fish and Wildlife Service Wise to Oppose Alaska’s War on Wolves A must read op-ed by Vic Van Ballenberghe who is a wildlife biologist and a former member of the Alaska Board of Game.
Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule questions and answers.
Representative Don Young’s biography and colorful array of Congressional statements
Stop Alaska’s War on Wolves from NPCA