Monday, February 20, 2017

U.S. House Votes to Lift Ban on ‘Predator Control’ Hunting Practices in Alaska

In a party-line vote overriding the objections of the Sierra Club, the Humane Society, and Alaska wildlife protection groups, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on 16 February 2017 nullifying Obama-era Department of Interior regulations that prohibit the use of such tactics as baiting, spotlighting, and aerial spotting to hunt predatory animals on national preserve lands in Alaska. If passed by the Senate and signed by President Trump, H.J. Res. 69 will hand jurisdiction over the hunting of bears, wolves, and coyotes on Alaska’s 20 million acres of federally-protected national preserves back to the state, which, since 1994, has had “predator control” laws on the books aimed at maximizing wild game populations for recreational hunting. After years of disputing the legality of some of these practices, the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implemented new rules in 2015 and 2016 permanently banning them in national preserves. The rules, which do not apply to subsistence hunting nor to lands not under the protection of the federal government, prohibit the following:
  • Taking black or brown bear cubs or sows with cubs (exception allowed for resident hunters to take black bear cubs or sows with cubs under customary and traditional use activities at a den site October 15 – April 30 in specific game management units in accordance with State law);
  • Taking brown bears over bait;
  • Taking of bears using traps or snares;
  • Taking wolves and coyotes during the denning season (May 1 – August 9); and
  • Taking bears from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel has occurred. The take of wolves or wolverines from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel has occurred is already prohibited under current refuge regulations.
Despite support from scientific, environmental, and animal welfare advocacy groups, the regulations have been unpopular with many Alaskans. In January 2017, Alaska officials filed a lawsuit contending that the regulations amount to federal overreach and will have an adverse impact on the ecosystem and citizens of the state. In February 2017, with the support of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Safari Club International, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced H.J. Res. 69 to redress what he termed a “wrongful seizure of authority” by the federal government...more

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