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Group Has Grave Concerns About NPS Final Rule Restoring Hunting and Trapping in Alaska National Preserves

Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN


June 26, 2020
Friday PM

(SitNews) - A group of former National Park Service (NPS) managers, all with extensive experience managing national parks, monuments and preserves in Alaska, sent a letter on June 19th to the Department of the Interior on behalf of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. The letter expresses the group’s grave concerns about the NPS final rule on hunting and trapping on National Preserves in Alaska - which will be effective July 09, 2020. This rule, they say, allows hunting practices that include killing black bear sows with cubs at den sites; killing wolves and coyotes, including pups, during denning season; and harvesting brown bears over bait.

In the letter, the group describes the rule as an “affront” to the very mission of the National Park Service and all NPS employees who have worked to protect the resources and values of national preserves in Alaska.The signers requested that the NPS abandons its implementation of the rule;or at a minimum, suspend the effective date and open a new public comment period so that the agency can provide updated data.

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The letter goes on to describe Alaska as “the last place in the United States, if not the world, where large intact ecosystems have been designated for protection, so that they function naturally with little to no direct influence from man … Alaska is our nation’s last best chance to ever achieve such a lofty goal.” 

Coalition member and former Alaska Regional Director Rob Arnberger says that it is the duty of the NPS to “preserve and protect Alaska’s vast pristine areas for the benefit of all Americans, both current and future generations. We are utterly appalled that NPS has adopted this final rule, which is so contrary to its mission.”

Coalition Chair Phil Francis says the Coalition supports legally authorized sport and subsistence hunting in national preserves in Alaska that are regulated by practices that align with long delineated NPS laws, regulations, and policies. However, “this final rule is an extraordinary and completely unjustified reversal from the previous NPS decision regarding management of sport hunting in Alaska’s national preserves,” says Francis. “It creates a harmful precedent that could have serious consequences affecting NPS authority to manage hunting, when authorized, in park units in many other states.”

The National Park Service (NPS) announced the final rule on May 20th that amends its regulations for hunting and trapping in Alaska national preserves, removing prohibitions adopted in 2015 on harvest practices, which are otherwise permitted by the state of Alaska and federal law. This rule provides for Alaska residents who rely on state law to engage in their traditional hunting practices.
Having reconsidered its prior position in light of a review of the relevant authorities and of the associated impacts, NPS determined its 2015 rule conflicts with federal and state laws which allow for hunting and trapping in national preserves.
The final rule affirms the state of Alaska’s role in wildlife management on Alaska national preserves, consistent with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and Department of the Interior (DOI) policies guiding the federal-state relationship in the management of fish and wildlife.
“The amended rule will support the Department's interest in advancing wildlife conservation goals and objectives, and in ensuring the state of Alaska’s proper management of hunting and trapping in our national preserves, as specified in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act” said NPS Deputy Director David Vela. “It will also more closely align hunting and trapping regulations with those established by the state of Alaska by providing more consistency with harvest regulations between federal and surrounding non-federal lands and waters.”
“[May's] announcement confirms the sovereign authorities the state has with respect to managing wildlife on our national preserve lands. This is a step towards acknowledging Alaska’s rightful control over fish and wildlife resources all across the state,” said Governor Michael J. Dunleavy (R-AK). “Hunting and responsible management of wildlife are an integral part of the Alaskan lifestyle and this will further align hunting regulations on the federal level with those established by the State of Alaska for the benefit of Alaskans.”
“This final rule protects Alaska’s hunting and fishing traditions and upholds longstanding states’ rights,” stated Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). “I thank the Department for bringing the rule into alignment with Alaska’s statutes and regulations and restoring Alaska’s authority to determine the best practices for wildlife management on all Alaska lands.” 
“This finalized rule is needed not only as a matter of principle, but as a matter of states’ rights and the future of Alaska’s proven, science-based wildlife management strategies,” said Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK). “In 2017, Congress sent a powerful message with the passage and enactment of H.J. Res. 69 – which overturned a similarly overreaching rule by the Fish and Wildlife Service – that Alaskans are not going to accept this attack on our unique game management authority, guaranteed and protected in both the Alaska Statehood Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Today is no different, and I thank the Administration and the Department of Interior for once again working with Alaska, instead of against us.”
“I would like to thank Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the Trump Administration for working to overturn this prohibition that has negatively impacted Alaska,” stated Congressman Don Young (R-AK). “With the release of this final rule, we are eliminating a wrongful federal seizure of Alaska’s authority. I’m thankful to those who played a role, including the countless state and local stakeholders that have helped to fight this blatant overreach by the previous administration.”
“The previous rule was implemented without adequate tribal consultation, in disregard to rural Alaska's dependence on wild food resources,” stated Victor Joseph, Chief and Chairman, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC). “The previous limitations enacted in 2015, threatened our way of life and our centuries long sustainable management practices. Tanana Chiefs Conference supports these revisions.” (Note: TCC represents 42 member tribes that comprise 37% of the interior of Alaska.)
The 2015 harvest prohibitions were not required for conservation purposes and removing them will not result in significant impacts to park resources nor the maintenance of healthy wildlife populations in national preserves. The NPS retains the authority to close areas in national preserves to hunting under federal law where there is a conservation concern or for public safety, use and enjoyment. 
According to the National Park Service, this final rule further contributes to the DOI’s ongoing efforts to work cooperatively with state wildlife agencies to ensure hunting regulations for public lands and waters correlate with the regulations on neighboring lands and waters. The efforts also aim to advance shared wildlife conservation goals and objectives that align wildlife management programs, seasons, and methods of take permitted on all the DOI-managed lands and waters with corresponding programs, seasons, and methods established by state wildlife management agencies, to the extent legally practicable. 
Congress created national preserves in Alaska to be open to hunting, fishing and trapping under federal and state law. Except for subsistence activities provided for under federal law, national parks in Alaska are closed to hunting and trapping by law. This rule makes no changes in that regard, and federal subsistence regulations are also not affected by the final regulation.

There are ten national preserves in Alaska.

The final rule will be effective July 09, 2020. The NPS released an environmental assessment (EA) for public review and comment in September 2018. In support of the final rule, the NPS released a revised EA and Finding of No Significant Impact.

Source of News:

National Park Service (NPS)

Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks

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