Protect Wolves and Bears on National Refuges
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently proposed a new rule sharply restricting certain controversial wolf and other predator control measures on 77 million acres of federal wildlife refuges in Alaska – measures promoted by Alaska state wildlife managers like:
- Killing wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the animals’ denning season.
- Taking black bears with artificial light at den sites.
- Taking brown or black bears attracted to bait.
- Targeting bears with snares, traps, etc.
- Using dogs in black bear hunts. State law currently prohibits using dogs to hunt big game, with an exception for black bears. The park service will no longer honor this exception on national preserves.
- Shooting swimming caribou, a practice primarily used in the Noatak National Preserve in Northwest Alaska.
Federal public hearings are now underway across Alaska to gather public input prior to adopting the final rule. The draft rule, published in the Federal Register, aligns with a similar National Park Service rule that was finalized in October and would formally establish a goal of “biodiversity as the guiding principle of federal management of wildlife refuges.”
That stands in contrast to the goal of the Alaska Board of Game, which is to ensure maximum sustained populations for hunting. Increasingly over the last decade, the Game Board and the federal agencies have clashed over managing predators, largely over the idea that the state manages for “abundance” of moose and caribou. Under state law, the Board of Game focuses on sustaining populations of moose, caribou and deer for hunting and consumption.
The Wolf Conservation Center commends the USFWS for following the law, for managing the refuges as Congress intended, and for excluding extreme measures that are in direct conflict with preserving biological integrity, natural diversity and environmental health. To do anything less would violate public trust in the agency responsible for managing the national wildlife refuges — “special places that belong to all of us.”
The USFWS is accepting until March 8th. Comments can be submitted online through the Federal Register [using docket number FWS-R7-NWRS-2014-0005]