Hunting, trapping changes proposed in national preserves

Rule would allow bear baiting, trapping wolves during denning season

Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson

Federally proposed changes in sport hunting and trapping in Alaska’s national preserves that would allow bear baiting and trapping and trapping wolves during denning season are drawing strong support and opposition.

The Trump Administration proposal announced with a notice May 22 in the Federal Register would remove hunting restrictions put in place during the Obama administration in 2015 that prohibited certain sport hunting practices otherwise permitted in Alaska.

Alaska’s congressional delegation said in a joint statement that they fully support the change, which would apply to federal preserves in Alaska only, and not national parks.

“Congress explicitly provided Alaska with the authority to manage its fish and wildlife in three separate laws – the Alaska Statehood Act, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. ‘This is clearly our right and our responsibility, and Alaskans take that very seriously.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, cited the proposal as a victory for states’ rights “and the future of Alaska’s proven, science-based wildlife management strategies.”

Rep. Don Young applauded the proposal as “this decision to correct an illegal Obama-era power grab.” As an avid hunter and former trapper himself, Young said, “I know the importance of returning the authority back to the state instead of unelected bureaucrats.”

Conservation entities, including the National Parks Conservation Association, countered that if implemented this change would allow a number of egregious hunting practices, including use of bait to hunt brown bears, use of artificial light to enter dens to kill black bears, and trapping wolves during denning season.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke “is effectively endorsing turning park lands into game farms,” said Jim Adams, Alaska regional director of NPCA. “Tactics aimed at reducing bear and wolf populations have no place on our national preserves.”

The NPCA criticized the Park Service plan for disregarding limits on “unsportsmanlike hunting methods” and for a 60-day comment period without plans for public meetings or other community engagement.

“If the administration has its way, it will be perfectly legal for sport hunters to lure bears with greased donut bait piles to kill them,” said Theresa Pierno, president and chief executive officer of NPCA. “Or to crawl into bear dens to kill hibernating females and their cubs. This activity is cruel and has no place on Alaska’s national park lands.”

Details on the plan proposed by the National Park Service and how to comment on the proposed rule are online at

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/05/22/2018-10735/alaska-hunting-and-trapping-in-national-preserves

Comments are being accepted through midnight on July 23.