Soon hunters will be able to go into national preserves throughout Alaska and execute practices many conservation groups not only object to but call reprehensible.
Using doughnuts to lure hibernating bears from their dens and kill them along with their cubs.
Wolves and their pups will fair no better as hunters will now be allowed to enter their dens and slaughter mothers with their babies.
The final rule was published on Tuesday in the Federal Register sealing the fate of countless animals and their children.
This is the end of a five-year-old ban on such baiting and luring practices by the Trump administration that will now also allow hunters to shoot swimming caribou from boats or even targeting animals from airplanes, helicopters, and snowmobiles.
The repeal on this October 2015 ban put in place by the Obama administration is set to take effect in 30 days.
A group of state officials mostly made up of hunters in Alaska argued against the Obama era regulations saying that they infringed on traditional native hunting practices and that they were more restrictive than what is permitted on state lands.
David Vela National Park Service Deputy Director released in a statement that the government would be deferring to Alaska’s wildlife management on national preserves.
“The amended rule will support the Department’s interest in advancing wildlife conservation goals and objectives, and in ensuring the state of Alaska’s proper management of hunting and trapping in our national preserves, as specified in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act,”
Conservationists didn’t agree calling the repeal inhumane.
“National preserve lands at Denali, Katmai, Gates of the Arctic and others are the very places where people travel from around the world, in hopes of seeing these iconic animals, alive in their natural habitat” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association.
“Shooting hibernating mama and baby bears is not the conservation legacy that our national parks are meant to preserve and no way to treat or manage park wildlife.”
Jim Adams, the association’s Alaska director, said the state’s real aim is to reduce the population of wolves and other predators to increase the numbers of caribou, moose and other game animals that sport hunters enjoy harvesting.
Adams said the rule was established in 2015 when the National Park Service determined that Alaska’s practices conflicted with the federal mission to protect wildlife.
Reducing the predator population throws the natural ecology out of balance, conservationists say.
Opponents said the administration has “declared open season on bears and wolves” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The rule changes have been pending since 2018. That year, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a memo to department heads declaring that fish and wildlife management on federal land “should defer to states.”
The National Park Service, a division of the Interior Department, says it “reconsidered its prior position” after determining that the “2015 rule conflicts with federal and state laws which allow for hunting and trapping in national preserves.”
Alaska permits practices such as baiting with doughnuts, grease-soaked bread, and other foods to lure brown bears in some areas with federal land.
The new rules will mean that hunting on federal land will align with hunting and trapping regulations “established by the state of Alaska by providing more consistency with harvest regulations between federal and surrounding non-federal lands and waters,” Vela said.
The move was praised by members of the state’s congressional delegation and Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy (R), who called it “a step toward acknowledging Alaska’s rightful control over fish and wildlife resources all across the state.”
Park Service officials agreed with nearly every position taken by the state.
Without naming them, it cited six national parks where it is legal to hunt with artificial light, seven areas that allow hunting black bears with dogs, and four that permit bear hunting with bait.
Coyotes, which proliferated from west to east after federal and state officials eliminated gray and red wolves that kept them in check, do not generally receive the same protection as wolves.
The final rule does not specify the type of bait that parks in other states allow for hunting bears.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said the decision “protects Alaska’s hunting and fishing traditions and upholds long-standing states’ rights,” and she thanked Interior Secretary David Bernhardt for encouraging and signing the rule.
Alaska hunting and trapping organizations also praised the move.
Outside Alaska, Safari Club International’s chief executive, Laird Hamberlin, said the old rule had been “based on the subjective views of the decision-makers, with complete disregard for biological need and the expertise of Alaska wildlife management experts.”
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