by Phil Phillips - Monday, January 23, 2017
In August, I wrote about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) going against state rights in Alaska, taking predator control away from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on all 77 million acres of National Wildlife Refuge land in the state. On Jan. 13, the State of Alaska filed a lawsuit against outgoing Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Park Service leaders to fight the move, and on Jan. 19, SCI followed suit—literally.
The lawsuits are no surprise as the response to USFWS Director Dan Ashe’s Aug. 5 move to establish new regulations was immediate. First, the Obama Administration’s overreach conflicted with Alaska’s constitutional mandate to manage its fish and wildlife resources under the principles of “sustained yield.” Second, stripping away Alaska’s authority to manage its predators meant that wolves, bears and other predators could deplete the prey populations on which Alaska’s most rural residents rely.
In a news release announcing the lawsuit, the State explains that its 47-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Alaska objects to the USFWS pushing aside states’ authority and enabling federal agencies to further restrict fish and game harvests in the future. The USFWS rules, in part, prohibit killing wolves, coyotes and black bears during the denning season and killing brown bears over bait. The USFWS regulations follow the predator-take restrictions put in place by the National Park Service (NPS) for national preserves in November 2015.
According to the USFWS, “We prohibit predator control on refuges in Alaska, unless it is determined necessary to meet refuge purposes; is consistent with federal laws and policy; and is based on sound science in response to a conservation concern. Demands for more wildlife for human harvest cannot be the sole or primary basis for predator control.”
So what message does that last line send to Alaskans who depend on Alaska prey species for sustenance if they can’t manage their predators? Not to mention that In addition, predators, like prey, must be managed to keep the ecosystem in balance.
“These federal regulations are not about predator control or protecting the state’s wildlife numbers,” said Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth as reported by the Kenai Peninsula’s Peninsula Clarion on Jan. 18. “These regulations are about the federal government trying to control Alaskans’ way of life and how Alaskans conduct their business. This is contrary to state and federal law.”
Why Your Vote Counts
The USFWS power grab in August marked yet another reason NRA says that exercising your right to vote is so critical. Our collective votes for pro-hunting candidates are what ensure the Alaska Fish and Game (ADFG) and American hunters in general maintain conservation partners in Congress. Both Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young of the NRA Board immediately spoke out against then-Director Dan Ashe’s move, calling him out for politicizing the issue and praising Wayne Pacelle, head of the anti-hunting extremist group HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) for pushing for the USFWS decision. Whatever happened to America’s long-standing practice of hunters and state and federal wildlife agencies working as a team in the name of common-sense scientific-based management and the future of our renewable wildlife resources?
Fortunately, with Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 behind us, there should be some changes at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Maybe Alaska and other states will not have to spend revenue defending themselves against the federal government when it comes to wildlife issues.
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