New USF&W Service Rule Opposed; Preempts State's Wildlife Management Ability
August 08, 2016
Sullivan says this rule targets the State of Alaska’s proven, science-based wildlife management strategies that have been subject to rigorous public review and participation. Instead, the Fish and Wildlife Service rule preempts the State’s management authority, a principle that was enshrined in the Alaska Statehood Act, and further protected in the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also slammed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for finalizing this new rule.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service has once again decided that it knows what is best for us, and is trampling Alaska’s long-standing right to manage wildlife in refuges,” Murkowski said. “What we know, from experience, is that this will not end well for anything but predator populations. I find it shocking that this administration’s policies are pointing to a future where we can fill our freezers with genetically engineered salmon, but not the moose and other game we have traditionally harvested in a sustainable manner from our refuges.”
Among other fatal flaws listed by Murkowski, the FWS rule fails to recognize that the State of Alaska, not the federal government, has clear primacy over wildlife management under legal authority provided by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the Refuge Improvement Act, and the Alaska Constitution. The implications of the FWS rule are also far-reaching, as Alaska has 76.8 million acres of refuges, and it will likely serve as a model for similar takeovers in the Lower 48.
The State of Alaska is also strongly opposed to new regulations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the state says erodes fish and wildlife management authority on Alaska's national wildlife refuges. Scheduled for publication on Friday, August 5, the new regulations will override the state's sovereign authority to manage fish and resident wildlife in Alaska's 16 national wildlife refuges.
"This is continued erosion of the state's authority to manage fish and wildlife for the benefit of Alaskans," said Bruce Dale, Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation. "We are proud of our science-based, constitutionally mandated programs to sustainably manage habitats, predators, and prey to feed Alaskans".
"Although the Service itself conducts predator control on refuges, it just does not approve of state efforts to increase the number of ungulates available for food in Alaska," said Dale. "Moose, caribou, deer are important sources of natural food and food security for many Alaskans and cornerstones of the subsistence way of life."
The new regulations require that fish and wildlife be managed for natural fluctuations, superseding the state's ability to manage stable wildlife populations for subsistence and other consumptive uses under the sustained yield concept. Dale said the regulations, which affect national wildlife refuge landholdings of nearly 77 million acres statewide, will have significant impacts on Alaskans, especially those who rely on wildlife for food.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the regulations also contradict the State of Alaska's role under agreements made in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to manage fish and wildlife on all lands in Alaska. The regulations also limit public input for discretionary closures of activities on refuges and create a confusing third tier of regulations for resource users.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reviewing the new regulations and will work with the Alaska Department of Law and Gov. Bill Walker to consider its response.
The FWS rule was accompanied by an unusual opinion piece written by Director Dan Ashe, which attempts to make a case for the new rule but does not contain a single statistic to demonstrate that state wildlife management practices are ineffective. The piece is titled “Keep Public Lands Public - And The Wildlife They Protect!” – which Murkowski says is ironic, as the agency initially sought to extend the maximum length of temporary closures from 12 months to three years, and in its final rule extended the maximum length of emergency closures.
“I’m very disappointed to see Director Ashe criticizing the Alaska Board of Game and attempting to politicize this issue,” Murkowski said. “His writing makes clear that this is about ideology and power – not responsible management or good government.”
Senator Murkowski states in her press release, her concern about the federal government’s mismanagement of wildlife is well-founded, as illustrated by its track record with wild horses and burros in western states. While the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has established a target population of 27,000 animals, the current estimate is 67,000. BLM fertility control methods have proven largely ineffective, taxpayers now spend about $50 million per year to care for horses and burros in off-range holding areas, and competition for resources is increasingly leading to starvation, dehydration, and additional emergency gathers by the agency.
Since its proposal on January 8, 2016, U.S. Sen. Sullivan has worked aggressively to derail the rule and Congressman Don Young (R-AK) has twice passed an amendment, similar to the amendment first authored by Senator Sullivan to prohibit this rule, through the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote. That amendment is currently part of the ongoing conference committee negotiations to resolve the differences between the House and Senate-passed energy bills.
Sen. Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and stated in a news release that she will continue to work with Sen. Dan Sullivan on legislation to halt its implementation.
Reporting & Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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