We have a huge cheer for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) final rule prohibiting Alaska from applying its “predator control” program to National Wildlife Refuge System lands in the state.
As reported in the Washington Examiner, “the exiting Obama administration gave animal rights groups a major victory Wednesday, ending predator hunts over 76 million acres of Alaska wildlife refuges and handing hunters, the National Rifle Association and the state’s own Board of Game a huge defeat.”
“Aside from being morally reprehensible, the late wolf biologist Dr. Gordon Haber said, wolf (and bear) control programs in Alaska were biologically indefensible—bad science, he said. So, it’s gratifying to learn that Alaska’s war on wolves and bears won’t be tolerated on federal lands known as our National Wildlife Refuges,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “Sadly, Alaska permits aerial hunters to use shotguns from low-flying Super Cubs to kill hundreds of wolves each winter across aerial killing areas in Alaska, and the state increased bear killing as well through liberal hunting regulations. Our National Wildlife Refuges should rightfully be off-limits to predator control schemes designed to boost numbers of moose and caribou for the convenience of human hunters.”
Unfortunately, the new rule does not stop hunting in the 16 federally protected wildlife refuges in Alaska, only the practice of “intensive predator management.” But FWS’s new rule ensures that National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska are managed in accordance with fundamental federal laws to conserve species at their natural level of diversity, not to artificially increase game populations for hunters. It allows FWS to fulfill its responsibility to maintain the biological integrity of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Prior to this ruling, Alaska’s controversial program authorized the slaughtering of native carnivores through aerial gunning, baiting, trapping and killing mother bears and cubs and wolves and pups in their dens to inflate deer, moose and caribou populations. These extreme practices are legal under Alaska state law, but directly conflict with FWS’s conservation mission on national wildlife refuges.
Friends of Animals will be keeping an eye on the Alaska Congressional delegation, which is trying to block the rule by attaching riders to legislation moving through Congress. H.R. 2406, the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act,” already passed the House with provisions that bar finalization of FWS’s rule and withdraw the National Park Service’s authority to implement similar protections for iconic carnivores on Alaska national preserves. S. 659, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee version of the “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2016,” also includes provisions that would stop the rule from moving forward. In addition, versions of the rider have been added to Interior appropriations bills in both chambers.