USF&W clarifies predator control rules

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife decision clarifying predator control on Alaska’s national wildlife refuges is drawing criticism from state officials who say this erodes the state’s authority to manage fish and wildlife resources.

USF&W officials, in announcing their decision on Aug. 3, said predator control on national wildlife refuges in Alaska must be based on sound science and in response to a conservation concern, or must be necessary to meet refuge purposes, federal laws or USF&W policy.

The regulation becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reviewing the new regulations, and will work with Gov. Bill Walker and the Department of Law to consider a response, said Bruce Dale, director of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation.

Dale said the state strongly opposes the new regulations, and that USF&W just does not approve of state efforts to increase the number of ungulates available for food in Alaska.

“Moose, caribou, deer are important sources of natural food and food security for many Alaskans and cornerstones of the subsistence way of life,” he said.

Alaska’s congressional delegation also condemns the new regulation.

The rule defines the process to be used for considering predator control, prohibits certain methods and means for non-subsistence harvest of predators, and updates procedures for closing an area or restricting an activity on refuges in Alaska.

USF&W Director Dan Ashe said Alaska’s national wildlife refuges are incredible landscapes with wildlife populations that support subsistence traditions and recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing. These refuges are managed by USF&W “to conserve species and preserve biodiversity and environmental health for the continuing benefit of present and future generations of all Americans, while balancing the need to provide sport and subsistence hunting opportunities,” Ashe said. “Consistent with existing law and agency policy, sustainable harvest of fish and wildlife refuges in Alaska.”

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act calls for all refuges in Alaska to provide an opportunity for continued subsistence use by rural Alaskans in a manner consistent with conservation of natural diversity.

The final rule will not change federal subsistence regulations or restrict taking of fish or wildlife under them, the agency said. The rule will help facilitate the ability of the service to maintain sustainable populations of bears, wolves and coyotes throughout national wildlife refuges across Alaska and will ensure a consistent and transparent approach to management of predators, according to USF&W.

Additional information, including a copy of the final rule, is online at
https://www.fws.gov/alaska/nwr/ak_nwr_pr.htm

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Margaret Bauman is a veteran Alaska journalist focused on covering fisheries and environmental issues. Bauman has been writing for The Cordova Times since 2010. You can reach her at mbauman@thecordovatimes.com.