Sportsmen Victorious in Reversing Alaska Rule Changes!

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The National Park Service has announced the adoption of a new rule via press release that repeals federal overreach of wildlife management on its National Preserve lands in Alaska, an action the Sportsmen’s Alliance has been fighting both in court and through a petition to the Department of Interior since 2017.

“This is a huge victory and restores Alaska’s wildlife management authority, including seasons, bag limits, methods and means,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “The new rule sets an excellent precedent for protecting state management of hunting on other federal lands throughout the United States, and could prevent future federal government overreach.”

In 2015, rule changes were adopted by the Obama Administration on 20 million acres of National Park Service (NPS) lands that expanded the definition of predator control so that state hunting management decisions fell within the expanded definition and under federal jurisdiction on NPS property. This overreaching federal action banned reasonable and restrained means of managing wolf, black bear and grizzly bear populations. Under the 2015 rule, if NPS determined that any state action authorizing hunting of these apex predator populations might result in more harvest of prey species such as caribou, moose, and other ungulates, the NPS land manager could override and cancel the state-authorized hunt.   The changes handcuffed state wildlife biologists and wildlife managers, and usurped Alaska’s right to manage game species in accordance with state goals and traditions.

“National Preserves in Alaska are required by statute to allow sport hunting. Much like National Forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, and National Wildlife Refuge lands in the rest of the United States, the norm is hunting in compliance with state regulations concerning seasons, bag limits, and methods and means of harvest,” said Bruce Tague, vice president of government affairs for Sportsmen’s Alliance. “The Obama Administration’s rule federalized wildlife-management decisions rightfully belonging to the state, and was nothing more than an overreach by the federal government to remove the traditional role of wildlife management from the state of Alaska.”

As soon as the 2015 rule was published, the Sportsmen’s Alliance, the Alaska Professional Hunters Association (APHA) and two rural Alaskans filed suit in federal court to overturn the final rule.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance also joined with APHA and petitioned the Trump Administration to adopt a rule that repealed the Obama administration’s overreach. The Trump Administration began the process to repeal the rule and the Sportsmen’s Alliance and APHA put their litigation on hold. When the Humane Society of the United States went to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in a last-minute effort to stop the process, the Sportsmen’s Alliance and APHA responded by making their own presentation to OMB in October, 2019 on why the 2015 rule should be repealed.

NPS has now completed adoption of a final rule repealing all the preemption of Alaska state hunting regulations adopted by the Obama administration’s 2015 Rule. This restores state wildlife management of NPS lands, and brings those lands into harmony with National Wildlife Refuge lands that suffered under similar adverse rule changes during 2016-17 – changes that were fortunately reversed by favorable Congressional action in 2017.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance 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 responsible for 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: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.