Sportsmen’s Alliance Opposes USFWS Power Grab in Alaska

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On April 7, the Sportsmen’s Alliance submitted comments opposing proposed rule changes concerning U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service management of game, in particular predator management and hunting, on National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands in Alaska. The proposed rule would effectively give USFWS primary control of nearly 77 million acres of public land and would grant the agency a massive expansion of power to indefinitely close the areas to hunting.

“We’re talking about an area larger than 45 of our 50 states,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of Sportsmen’s Alliance. “There’s no justification for these new regulations and restrictions. This is just another example of this administration’s desire to circumvent congress and manage by executive whim – this is nothing more than a blatant power grab by the feds.” 

Heusinkveld added that local control is a far sounder practice: state fish and wildlife officials know their states’ particular needs, terrain and climate far better than bureaucrats in Washington. “A one-size-fits-all approach is simply bad policy,” he said.

The proposed changes fly in the face of congressional intent, as well as the precedential and statutory right of states to manage native wildlife on federal lands within their borders. More than any other state, Alaska has firmly spelled out in state and federal law that hunting plays a strong and important role in the state’s heritage and that the state should control season dates, methods of take and bag limits, excepting migratory species and those protected by threatened and endangered status in within the state.

These principles, followed for decades, are enshrined in the Alaska state constitution, in state law and regulation, and in several federal statutes – yet the administration is proposing regulations that turn these sound principles on their head.

Proposed rule changes would ban baiting of brown bears (but not black bears), wolf and coyote hunting during denning season and the trapping of bears on refuge lands, USFWS also proposes to double the length of emergency closures from 30 to 60 days, remove requirements for public hearings on such closures and to eliminate entirely the maximum length of a temporary closure.

“While stripping public input from the emergency-closure process is no doubt appealing to FWS, it’s clearly a transparent attempt to remove any objections to federal decision making concerning game management and access within Alaska,” said Heusinkveld. “Closures would be transformed from purposeful and defined maneuvers to a starkly different understanding of temporary. There is no statutory limit preventing closures from extending decades, in effect giving FWS control of game management on refuges in Alaska through veto power under far-too-liberalized criteria.”

The Sportsmen’s Alliance believes it is the right and duty of the state of Alaska to manage fish and game populations on public lands, and not the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – the intent and authority of which is spelled out in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the National Wildlife Administration Act and the Alaska Statehood Act.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance:The Sportsmen’s Alliance is a 501 (c) 4 organization that protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 organization that supports the same mission through public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: Online,FacebookTwitter and Instagram.