Date: October 23, 2015
Contact: John Quinley, 907-644-3512
Following a robust public process, the National Park Service today published regulations which restrict certain sport hunting practices in national preserves in Alaska.
National preserves encompass about 20 million acres in Alaska, and are managed by the National Park Service. Sport hunting in preserves was authorized by Congress when they were established in 1980.
Sport hunting in national preserves continues to be primarily regulated by the State of Alaska. The state-authorized practices being prohibited conflict with National Park Service law and policy. Units of the National Park System are managed for naturally-functioning ecosystems and processes. While sport hunting is allowed in national preserves in Alaska, NPS policies prohibit manipulating native predator populations, typically bears and wolves, to increase numbers of harvested species, such as caribou and moose.
Under the new federal regulations, which were proposed in 2014, most state-managed hunting practices and seasons are retained in the preserves. These regulations do not restrict or limit subsistence hunting under federal subsistence rules on NPS-managed lands.
The new regulations make permanent several similar temporary restrictions which had been implemented annually for several years. The NPS received about 70,000 comments, and three petitions with a total of approximately 75,000 signatures, and collected input at 26 public meetings held across Alaska.
The new regulations provide six significant changes for sport hunters in national preserves:
- The NPS will continue to adopt future and current non-conflicting State hunting practices, including the State's list of prohibited practices.
- Prohibit taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the denning season.
- Prohibit the taking of any black bear with artificial light at den sites including cubs and sows with cubs.
- Prohibit taking brown and black bears over bait.
- State law also prohibits using dogs to hunt big game. There is an exception for using dogs to hunt black bears. The NPS will not adopt this exception on preserves.
- State law prohibits taking big game that is swimming. The exception allows a hunter to shoot a swimming caribou from a boat under power or otherwise, and it also allows the hunter to shoot a caribou that has emerged from the water onto the shoreline while the hunter is still in the boat underpower. The NPS will not adopt those exceptions on NPS preserves. The practice primarily takes place on the Noatak National Preserve.
The regulations also update and simplify closure procedures for Alaska NPS units and make those procedures more consistent with NPS procedures across the country. The primary change is the elimination of the category of “temporary” closures which expired after 12 months. Closures and restrictions will be compiled annually in writing and made available to the public or, except for emergencies, published as a rulemaking in the Federal Register. The distinction will be done through a criteria-based approach similar to other NPS Lower 48 units (and mirrored by Alaska State Parks). In-person public meetings and public notice will be required prior to adopting hunting or fishing closures.
The closure regulations become effective on November 23, 2015, however these new hunting regulations will not take effect until January 1, 2016. The complete text of the regulations and supporting materials are available at https://www.nps.gov/akso/management/regulations.cfm.