Proposal would lift federal restrictions on hunting bears, wolves in Alaska

May 22, 2018, 1:41 p.m.
brown bear in Alaska
Photo: That Irish SOB/flickr

A proposed rule change from the National Parks Service and directed by the Department of the Interior would roll back federal regulations that prohibited certain hunting practices in national preserves in Alaska, including baiting brown bears, using spotlights to hunt hibernating black bears and killing wolves and pups in their dens.

These methods are currently allowed under Alaskan law as part of a predator control plan that is at least partially aimed at increasing hunting opportunities. The practices were banned by the federal ruling in 2015.

"The conservation of wildlife and habitat for future generations is a goal we share with Alaska," Bert Frost, the park service's regional director, said in a statement to The Associated Press. "This proposed rule will reconsider NPS efforts in Alaska for improved alignment of hunting regulations on national preserves with State of Alaska regulations, and to enhance consistency with harvest regulations on surrounding non-federal lands and waters."

The 2015 federal regulations also banned shooting swimming caribou from a motor boat and hunting black bears with dogs.

Thor Stacey, director of government affairs for the Alaska Professional Hunter Association, framing it as a correction on government control.

"This was a case of the federal government overstepping and trying to usurp the state's authority to manage its wildlife," Stacey told Reuters.

Conservationists and animal rights advocates denounced the move by the National Parks Service and the Department of the Interior.

"These federal lands are havens for wildlife, and the National Park Service is mandated to manage these ecosystems in a manner that promotes conservation," Anna Frostic, a lawyer for The Humane Society of the United States told the AP. "This proposed rule, which would allow inhumane killing of our native carnivores in a misguided attempt to increase trophy hunting opportunities, is unlawful and must not be finalized."

The rule change was announced May 22 on the Federal Register and is open for public comment until July 23. If the comment period passes with no further changes, the proposal would allow the state Department of Fish and Game to set hunting and trapping rules within national preserves.

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