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Contact: John Quinley, (907) 644-3512
The National Park Service is proposing a permanent federal prohibition on three historically illegal predator hunting practices in Alaska’s national preserves.
The proposals would prohibit sport hunters from hunting wolf and coyote pups and adults in early summer when they den and their pelts have little commercial value; prohibit the taking of brown bears over bait; prohibit the use of artificial light to take black bear cubs and sows with cubs at dens; and other changes.
The proposals will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, September 4, and will be open for public comment through December 3, 2014. The Service will hold public hearings in communities in or close to the affected national preserves. The extended comment period recognizes that publication of the proposal comes during the traditional fall hunting season.
“These proposals, if finalized, codify long-standing prohibitions for wildlife harvest seasons and methods that were traditionally illegal under state law, but in recent years have been authorized by the State of Alaska in an effort to drive down predator populations and boost game species,” said NPS Alaska Regional Director Bert Frost.
This manipulation of natural population dynamics conflicts with National Park Service law and policy. National park areas are managed to maintain natural ecosystems and processes, including wildlife populations and their behaviors. While sport hunting is allowed by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in national preserves in Alaska, NPS policies prohibit reducing native predators for the purpose of increasing numbers of harvested species.
“This rule does nothing to restrict or limit federal subsistence hunting on NPS managed lands. It would make permanent the small number of temporary restrictions we have put in place annually for the past four years, and largely maintain the status quo,” Frost said.
The proposed regulations would replace temporary restrictions in the following national preserves: Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias, Glacier Bay, Yukon-Charley Rivers, Gates of the Arctic, Noatak, Bering Land Bridge, Lake Clark, Katmai and Aniakchak.
The National Park Service has repeatedly requested the State of Alaska and the Alaska Board of Game to exempt national preserves from state regulations that liberalized methods, seasons and bag limits for predator hunting. The requests have been denied. State officials have also objected to the use of repeated temporary federal closures, and advised the NPS to seek permanent regulations.
Sport hunting occurs on about 38 percent, or more than 20 million acres, of the land managed by the National Park Service in Alaska. In these national preserves, sport hunting generally occurs under state regulations. The vast majority of state sport hunting regulations would remain unchanged by the proposed regulations. National Park System areas, including preserves, already prohibit predator control actions, such as aerial shooting of wolves, which the State of Alaska conducts as part of its statewide wildlife management program.
The proposed regulations would also update procedures for implementing closures or restrictions in park areas, including taking fish and wildlife for sport purposes, to more effectively engage the public, as well as update NPS regulations to reflect federal assumption of the management of subsistence hunting and fishing under Title VIII of ANILCA from the State of Alaska in the 1990s. Additionally, the regulations propose the allowance of the use of native species or their parts to be used as bait, commonly salmon eggs, for fishing in accordance with non-conflicting state law. This would supersede, for park areas in Alaska, the national prohibition on using certain types of bait at 36 CFR 2.3(d)(2).
The National Park Service will soon begin the required consultation with the State of Alaska, tribes and Alaska Native corporations regarding the proposed rule. Public hearings will be held during October in communities near the affected national preserves, as well as Anchorage, Palmer, and Soldotna. The dates and locations will be advertised in advance of the meetings. In addition, the NPS will hold a Facebook Chat in October to provide additional information and an opportunity for dialogue with the public. Official comments on the proposed rule, however, will not be accepted through social media.
Links to the proposed regulations and an environmental assessment will be available from the National Park Service’s Alaska Regional Office web site, on September 4. Instructions on how to comment on the proposed regulation and the environmental assessment are also at that location. A printed copy of the proposal is available by mail by writing to: NPS Regulations, 240 W. 5th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501
The National Park Service manages about 54 million acres in Alaska and annually hosts about 2.5 million visitors.