On Friday, the National Park Service (NPS) published new hunting regulations that would ban several controversial hunting practices from National Preserves in Alaska. The new regulations overrides current state wildlife laws and Alaskan officials have stated that they were concerned over the intrusion by the NPS in what they say should be a state concern. In a press release, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game called the new regulations “restrictive” and detrimental to practices that have a “longstanding importance” to state hunters.
“We believe these regulations will have a noticeable effect on the lives of Alaskans, particularly those Alaskans living a subsistence lifestyle,” said Bruce Dale, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation. “The final rule implements yet another level of regulation that will reduce Alaskans’ ability to provide food for their families and to retain their culture and heritage.”
The new regulations forbid the taking of wolves and coyotes during their denning season, the taking of black bears with artificial light at den sites, taking bears drawn to bait, using dogs in bear hunts, and shooting caribou in water. These controversial practices are a subject of debate for many hunters, but for years have been considered legal by state wildlife managers. According to Dale, if the NPS starts creating regulations seperate from that of the state, it will make it much more difficult for Alaskan hunters to keep track of what laws they should follow.
“[The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980] makes it clear among other regulations that the state is a primary wildlife manager,” Dale told KTUU. “This is a departure from it and it’s going to be a problem for Alaskans because it creates a third tier of regulations now for certain types of users on these federal lands.”
Moreover, some see the new regulations as evidence that popular opinion from other states is now influencing laws in Alaska. NPS officials received more than 70,000 public comments leading up to the decision, and the majority of them were from outside Alaska. Some even see the new regulations as a direct snub to the state wildlife agency. In defense of the regulation change, NPS officials say the new rules are just permanent versions of bans that have already been temporarily applied.
“Our hope is that there’d be some recognition that we have a mandate from Congress and they have a different mandate from the state Legislature, and sometimes there’s a difference in how we manage,” John Quinley, NPS associate regional director, told Alaska Dispatch News. “But at the end of the day, we’re interested in a lot of the same things. The vast majority of state (wildlife) regulations are unaffected by this.”
State wildlife officials say they are reviewing the new regulations and are now considering their options. The new rules will affect about 20 million acres of preserve land.
Image courtesy National Park Service