In a move that pits state game managers against bureaucrats in Washington, government regulators are working to ban several predator-hunting practices on federal lands in Alaska they claim are illegal.
The National Park Service says Alaska is allowing several dubious hunting methods to mitigate predators in order to manipulate trophy game populations.
“National park areas are managed to maintain natural ecosystems and processes, including wildlife populations and their behaviors,” the National Park Service said in statement. “While sport hunting is allowed by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in national preserves in Alaska, NPS policies prohibit reducing native predators for the purpose of increasing numbers of harvested species."
According to a 2011 state study, Alaska made about $1.3 billion on hunting, nearly 10 percent of its gross domestic product.
The NPS is trying to ban hunting brown bears over bait, stop wolf and coyote hunting in the early summer months and ban the use of artificial light to take black bear sows and cubs in dens. Each year the NPS has issued a temporary order banning these practices on each of Alaska’s 10 national preserves, and the current move is intended to make those prohibitions permanent.
“Our opposition to their wildlife management methods is only on national preserves,” an NPS spokesman told National Public Radio. “How the state of Alaska manages other lands is up to the state of Alaska.”
National park lands comprise about 70 percent of Alaska’s geography, with National Preserves accounting for about 43 million acres. The preserve system was partly created in 1980 and has been a bone of contention between Washington and Juneau ever since.
“These populations are healthy,” Alaska Board of Game Commissioner Ted Spraker told NPR. “Predator numbers are healthy at least in all the cases we’ve been presented, if not abundant. And what we did is just increased hunting opportunity. That is for the bating of brown bears and the longer seasons for wolves and coyotes.”
The new NPS regulations have been posted to the Federal Register and are open for comment through December 3.