Proposed Rule Challenges State’s Wildlife Management Authority; Governor Requests Comment Period Extension
January 13, 2016
The State of Alaska is strongly opposing these draft regulations that the state says would usurp the state’s authority to manage fish and wildlife in Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges.
Released recently for preliminary public review, the state says the proposed rule would require that fish and wildlife be managed for natural fluctuations, which would impact the state’s ability to manage wildlife populations for subsistence and other consumptive uses under the sustained yield concept.
As proposed, the state says the regulation would also contradict the state’s role under agreements made in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to manage fish and wildlife on all lands in Alaska.
“Ultimately, the new regulations would have significant impacts on Alaskans,” said Bruce Dale, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, “particularly those living a subsistence way of life.”
Further concerns have been raised that, once established in Alaska, similar regulations could be implemented in national wildlife refuges in other states.
“The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, of which all 50 state fish and wildlife agencies are members, is concerned that the USFWS, by administrative fiat or the result of litigation, will apply this draft regulation to all national wildlife refuges,” wrote AFWA Government Affairs Director Jen Mock Schaeffer in correspondence with the department.
Because of the proposed rule’s wide-ranging implications on the people of Alaska, Gov. Bill Walker intends to request that the USFWS extend the public comment period from 60 to 121 days.
National wildlife refuge landholdings in Alaska are significant, comprising 76,774,229 acres statewide.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposed rule would also prohibit certain methods and means for non-subsistence harvest of predators, as well as update procedures for closing an area or restricting an activity on refuges in Alaska.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, consistent with existing law and agency policy, sport and subsistence hunting remain priority public uses on national wildlife refuges in Alaska.
Under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, all refuges in Alaska are mandated to provide the opportunity for continued subsistence use by rural Alaska residents in a manner consistent with the conservation of natural diversity. The proposed rule will not change federal subsistence regulations or restrict taking of fish or wildlife under them according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The Service will also continue to strongly support sustainable harvest of fish and wildlife, including predators.
“Alaska’s national wildlife refuges contain some of the most spectacular wildlife and natural habitats in the nation, and we have a responsibility to future generations to ensure that this unique biodiversity thrives,” said the Service’s Alaska Regional Director Geoff Haskett. “This proposed rule carefully balances that responsibility with the importance of providing for the subsistence needs of rural Alaskans and sustainable hunting opportunities to residents and visitors alike.”
Prior to publishing this proposed rule, feedback was sought from the Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Councils, tribal governments and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Corporations, and the State of Alaska. In response, the scope and complexity of the proposal has been narrowed and significant changes have been made.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) that evaluates the proposed rule and considers the potential environmental effects on Alaska refuge resources. Feedback from interested stakeholders and the public at large on the EA is encouraged.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold nine open houses and public hearings on the proposed rule starting January 26, 2016 in Kotzebue, Alaska. (Click here and scroll for a full list of open houses & public hearings)
The proposed rule and draft EA was published in the Federal Register on January 8, 2016. Written comments and information concerning this proposal and draft EA can be submitted by one of the following methods:
Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before March 7, 2016. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not able to accept email or faxes.
On the Web:
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
Source of News: