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Tuesday, 11 April 2017 06:04

Trump Opens Door for Hunting of Bear Cubs on Wildlife Refuges in Alaska

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beardenAn example of a bear den for cubs. (Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife)

An Associated Press (AP) articleverifies that the federal government will no longer be able to prohibit the hunting of previously protected "predator" animals, such as wolves and grizzly bears, on federal reserves in Alaska. This effectively gives hunters permission to kill newborn animals asleep in their dens. The AP reports:

The state of Alaska's toolkit for increasing moose and caribou numbers includes killing wolf pups in dens, shooting wolf packs from helicopters, and adopting liberal hunting regulations that allow sportsmen to shoot grizzlies over bait.

But when state officials wanted to extend "predator control" to federal wildlife refuges, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said no. And after years of saying no, the agency late last year adopted a rule to make the denial permanent.

Alaska's elected officials called that an outrage and an infringement on state rights. The dispute reached the White House.

President Donald Trump on Monday [April 3] signed a resolution approved by the U.S. House and Senate to revoke a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule banning most predator control on Alaska refuges.

According to the Alaska Daily News, Alaska still has some predator hunting controls, but the state will no longer be under a federal mandate to promulgate them. It leaves the state in charge of predatory animal control on federal reserves. Politicians advocating for fewer animal protections have long argued that hunting regulations should be left up to the states. The Alaska Daily News reports:

U.S. Rep. Don Young in February introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the Alaska rule, calling it "entirely inappropriate" and a violation of federal law that usurped the state's authority to manage fish and game in Alaska.

State and federal agencies fall under dueling mandates when it comes to predator control.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is required to manage refuges "to ensure that … biological integrity, biological diversity, and environmental health are maintained."

Under a 1994 Alaska state law prioritizing high levels of moose, caribou and sheep for hunters, the state's "intensive management" predator-control policy kicks in when prey numbers drop low enough.

It is no surprise that the National Rifle Association (NRA) also played a lobbying role in Congress to pass a hunter-friendly reversal of the federal rule established under the Obama administration. The NRA's Institute for Legislative Action praised the bill signed by Trump in a news release:

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) today applauded the passage of H.J. Res. 69, a joint resolution to revoke a last minute Obama administration regulation issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The regulation seized authority from the state of Alaska to manage fish and wildlife on federal wildlife refuges and set a dangerous precedent by fundamentally altering the federal-state relationship in the management of federal lands....

The Obama administration rule was a federal power grab by unelected bureaucrats in Washington D.C., which set a dangerous precedent for all 50 states by creating a system that put the federal government in charge of managing state wildlife.

The Center for Biological Diversity decried the idea that the federal government should not have the right to protect animals living on wildlife refuges. In a news release, The Center denounced the end of the ban:

President Trump late Monday [April 3] signed legislation to strip away protections implemented by the Obama administration for wolves, bears and other predators on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. The bill, approved by Congress and signed by Trump, allows wolves and their pups to be killed in their dens and bears to be gunned down at bait stations.

“Because of Trump and Republicans in Congress, wolves and bears in Alaska will now be subject to cruel, unsportsmanlike killings, in violation of the very purpose of the wildlife refuge system,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These rules were repealed for one reason: to give the state of Alaska freedom to kill predators on wildlife refuges.”  

Many of Alaska's predator control practices are repugnant to animal rights' advocates. According to the Alaska Daily News:

The state relies on various methods to enact predator control. For wolves, those methods can include private pilots shooting them from planes and Fish and Game staff shooting them from helicopters.

That particular method, of course, evokes the image of Sarah Palin being filmed hunting wolves from a helicopter.

The repeal of the federal protections was accomplished via the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to nullify recent agency rules, when reversal legislation is signed by the incumbent president. It has been used actively by the current Congress to reverse progressive rules established under the Obama administration.