Life-and-death vote for wildlife

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Protect Alaska's wildlifeProtect Alaska’s wildlife

Today, Congress will vote on an appalling amendment from Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young that seeks to open millions of acres of National Park Service (NPS) lands to the ruthless killing of grizzly bears and wolves. These practices should not occur anywhere, least of all on lands managed by the NPS.

Congress nixed a rule that forbid these terrible practices on National Wildlife Refuges earlier in the year. Now they’re aiming at our National Park Service lands. The Young amendment #43 would subject Alaskan wildlife on NPS lands to hunting methods that most Americans find appalling—such as killing wolves and their pups while in their dens, baiting bears with rotting food in order to shoot them point-blank, and luring hibernating black bears out of their dens with artificial light in order to shoot them.

Your voice is needed to help defeat the Young amendment #43. Please make a brief, polite phone call to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler at (202) 225-3536 now.You can simply say, “Please protect wildlife in the FY18 spending package (H.R. 3354) and vote ‘no’ on the Young amendment #43.”

After you call, please send a follow-up message.

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Alaska hunting guide charged with herding grizzly bears to clients

ANCHORAGE — An Alaska master hunting guide has been charged with using assistants on snowmobiles to herd grizzly bears toward clients, making it easier for hunters to shoot the animals.

Brian Simpson, 55, of Fairbanks, also is charged with guiding on a national preserve without a permit.

Simpson is charged with two counts of aiding in the commission of a state game violation and three counts of guiding on federal land without authorization. All five counts are misdemeanors.

Two assistant guides working for Simpson are charged with using motorized vehicles to drive or herd game.

The charges stem from spring hunting trips last year in western Alaska, according to the Office of Special Prosecutions.

In a complaint filed this month, prosecutors said two hunting clients in April 2016 arrived in Shishmaref and traveled to Serpentine Hot Springs within Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

On April 26, according to the complaint, the hunting party spotted a bear and Simpson ordered an assistant to “turn it around.” The assistant used a snowmobile to chase the bear in deep snow, trailing from 30 yards behind, until it was tired. The assistant guide then chased the bear toward the hunter. One of the hunters shot the bear from 150 yards away.

A similar scenario played out two days later, according to the complaint.

After a hunting party guided by Simpson spotted a bear, a second assistant guide chased the animal with a snowmobile, cut it off from escaping and herded it toward the hunting party. A hunting client shot the second bear.

The assistant guide told an investigating trooper that chasing bears with snowmobiles was common practice in hunts guided by Simpson.

An arraignment for Simpson is scheduled for Sept. 15 in Nome.

Stop the EPA’s approval of the Pebble Mine

https://act.credoaction.com/sign/stop_pebble_mine?sp_ref=314276685.4.181441.e.578588.2&referring_akid=.887660.7f2N3o&source=mailto_sp

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The petition to the Environmental Protection Agency reads:

“The proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska would unleash billions of tons of toxic waste and cause an irreversible environmental catastrophe. Keep the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination in place and protect the environment, jobs, the region’s economy and this fragile ecosystem.”

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    Stop the EPA's approval of the Pebble Mine

    The world’s largest salmon fishery is again under threat of massive amounts of toxic mining waste — and this time our own government is behind it.

    In a reversal of Obama administration efforts, climate change denier Scott Pruitt and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have given a Canadian company the green light to begin construction on the Pebble Mine in Alaska, which would be one of largest open-pit gold and copper mines in the world.

    Industrial polluters, Republicans in Congress and now the Trump administration are pushing for this unmitigated disaster that could destroy the pristine Bristol Bay watershed along with its jobs, economy and wildlife. We must demand that the EPA stop this reckless corporate assault on our environment.

    Tell the EPA: Stop the Pebble Mine now.

    Salmon from Bristol Bay are the lifeblood of this Alaska region, providing half of the world’s sockeye and generating roughly 14,000 jobs and a half billion a year in annual revenue. Native Alaskans have relied on Bristol Bay salmon for subsistence and livelihoods for centuries.1

    But all of that is now at risk because greedy corporate profiteers and our own EPA could cause an irreversible environmental catastrophe. In a backroom deal struck with Northern Dynasty, the owner of the Pebble Mine project, Scott Pruitt agreed to settle previous lawsuits regarding the mine, abandoned Obama-era regulatory plans and encouraged the company to apply for new permits to begin operations.2

    The public has overwhelmingly rejected the Pebble Mine project. More than 65 percent of all Alaskans, 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents — including Native people — and more than 85 percent of commercial fisherman strongly oppose the Pebble mine.3,4,5 Over 1.5 million people — including 100,000 CREDO members — have let the EPA know that the Pebble Mine is absolutely unacceptable.

    We won a huge victory a few years ago to stop the Pebble Mine, but now Trump is on the verge of reversing it. We must take action now to protect the Bristol Bay and its watershed from toxic mining pollution for good.

    Tell the EPA: Stop the Pebble Mine now.

    Thanks for all you do.

    References

    Congress repeals a regulation limiting hunting in Alaska’s wildlife refuges

    https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-05-15/congress-repeals-regulation-limiting-hunting-alaskas-wildlife-refuges

    Bears in Alaska, including the Kodiak brown bear, could be affected by the repeal of a rule that limited hunting in Alaskan wildlife refuges.

    Republicans in Congress, led by Alaska Rep. Don Young, have repealed Obama-era restrictions on hunting predators in national wildlife refuges in Alaska.

    Restrictions still remain in national parks, but now Alaska’s state rules govern predator hunting in the refuges. These rules are designed to help hunters by reducing the number of predators that take the area’s game, such as deer, moose and caribou.

    The Obama rule reversed by Congress gave the Fish and Wildlife Service ultimate control over hunting regulations on refuges and near refuges. The rule is one of many the new GOP Congress has reversed using the Congressional Review Act.

    Tensions are high on both sides of this issue and the Center for Biological Diversity is challenging the legality of the repeal, saying the law requires that regulation of refuges benefit nature, not hunters.

    “For many, it’s an argument over states’ rights, over who gets to be in charge,” says Erica Martinson, an Alaska Dispatch News reporter in Washington, DC. “On another, it’s about something they call ‘predator control.’”

    The Board of Game in Alaska wants to allow, at certain times, the hunting of wolves and bears in order to maintain the population of moose, deer and caribou, so that people who want to hunt them for meat can do so, Martinson explains. The federal government, on the other hand, isn’t in favor of bolstering populations for hunting reasons.

    Martinson says there has been “a lot of hyperbole on both sides” of this issue. “Overall, there hasn’t been much predator control activity on refuges, [though] it’s often near those areas. And the shooting of wolves from helicopters is pretty rare … All in all, 1,100 wolves are killed every year in Alaska, and about 12 percent of those come from predator control. So, [only] a small amount are affected by this, especially since this only impacts refuges and not state lands.”

    Many Alaskans are in favor of the federal regulations and plenty of others are opposed to it, Martinson says. “Most often, these federal Fish and Wildlife regulations were set by federal workers in Alaska. It’s a decadeslong history of disagreement over this in the state.”

    The Congressional Review Act allows a new Congress to overturn with a simple majority any rule that was made in the last six months of a previous administration, but it has only 60 legislative days to do so. Until the Trump administration, the CRA had only been used once since it was created in 1996. The current Congress has already used it 13 times. This makes the outcome of the Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit hard to predict.

    The center is arguing that the rule in question was created over many, many years and isn’t just the product of the last days of the Obama administration. A nearly identical rule for National Parks in Alaska was issued by the Park Service but has not been overturned, since it was issued over a year ago, Martinson points out, so the refuge rule was “certainly not something that was done at the last minute.”

    In addition, the center is arguing that the CRA is a blunt instrument because anytime it is used to overturn something, nothing substantially similar can ever be passed again. “It means there’s no chance for the Fish and Wildlife Service to tweak this rule or do something similar,” Martinson says. “It means that they’ve lost all ability to write any kind of regulation about this [issue].”

    Some of the Alaska refuges that may be affected by the rule’s repeal include the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and others in Yukon and Kodiak. There are 16 refuges in Alaska, which take up about 77 million acres.

    Martinson points out that, even with the rule change, the Alaska Board of Game still maintains significant rules for hunting all over Alaska.

    “This doesn’t wipe out the existence of hunting rules entirely. People aren’t allowed to just hunt whatever, with these actions,” she explains. “It just sort of alters the lay of the land for how they decide each year’s hunting allotments — who can hunt where and what.”

    This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI’s Living on Earth with Steve Curwood.

    Obama blocked this controversial Alaskan gold mine. Trump just gave it new life.

    May 12 at 7:37 AM

    The Environmental Protection Agency has reached a legal settlement with a Canadian company hoping to build a massive gold, copper and molybdenum mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, clearing the way for the firm to apply for federal permits.

    The settlement reached late Thursday between the EPA and the Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., could revive a controversial project that was effectively scuttled under the Obama administration. And it underscores how President Trump’s commitment to support mining extends far beyond coal, to gold, copper and other minerals.

    While the move does not grant immediate approval to the Pebble Mine project,which will have to undergo a federal environmental review and also clear state hurdles before any construction takes place, it reverses the agency’s 2014 determination that a large-scale mine in the area be barred because it would imperil the region’s valuable sockeye salmon fishery.

    In a statement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said that the agreement “will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation.”

    “We are committed to due process and the rule of law, and regulations that are ‘regular’,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.  “We understand how much the community cares about this issue, with passionate advocates on all sides … We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds.”

     

    A coalition of fishing operators, native Alaskans, environmentalists and local businesses have fought the mine proposal for more than a decade, ever since Northern Dynasty Minerals began exploring for minerals in 2004. While this area in southwestern Alaska contains a reservoir of gold worth an estimated $120 billion, its pockmarked lakes and tributaries feed into the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home to a fishery that generates $500 million a year.

    In 2014 the EPA invoked a rarely used clause of the Clean Water Act, 404(c), to issue a proposed determination that the company could not apply to the Army Corps of Engineers for any permits because a massive mine could have “significant” and potentially “catastrophic” impacts on the region.

    Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said in an interview that opponents of the mine “are outraged that this is happening.”

    “If there’s damage to the watershed and the fisheries, then it would be devastating to our identity as indigenous people,” Hurley said, adding that tribes and other local residents “invited” the EPA to intervene on the issue. “For the company to paint it as federal intervention is completely misleading. The people of Bristol Bay basically cried out to EPA to help us.”

    The company has sued EPA on three different fronts, arguing that the agency violated the Clean Water Act, colluded with outside groups to reach its determination and violated the Freedom of Information Act. The suit concerning the outside groups, filed under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, was the one settled Thursday in federal court in Alaska.

    Under the terms of the agreement, EPA will begin the process of withdrawing its proposed determination, which will be subject to public notice and comment. It will not take the next step in the process until 48 months from the settlement or until the Army Corps of Engineers issues its final environmental impact statement, whichever comes first.

    Northern Dynasty Minerals, which has never filed federal permit applications for Pebble Mine, would have to do so within 30 months.

    “From the outset of this unfortunate saga, we’ve asked for nothing more than fairness and due process under the law — the right to propose a development plan for Pebble and have it assessed against the robust environmental regulations and rigorous permitting requirements enforced in Alaska and the United States,” the company’s chief executive, Ron Thiessen, said in a statement early Friday. “Today’s settlement gives us precisely that, the same treatment every developer and investor in a stable, first world country should expect.”

    The firm’s stock price has already been bolstered by Trump’s election victory. After falling to as low as 25 cents a share at one point last year, the price soared after the November election, jumping 25 percent overnight and reaching as high as $3.18 earlier this year. The company has touted the likely benefits of having a new, friendlier administration in office. A series of investor presentations by Thiessen included a PowerPoint slide titled “Trump Election Victory — A Return to Normal.”

    While many congressional Republicans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and House Science  Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) oppose what they’ve described as EPA’s “preemptive” veto of the project, public opinion in Alaska on the mining proposal remains split.

    Last fall a ballot measure passed with more than 65 percent that would require the state legislature to pass a measure approving any large-scale mine in the Bristol Bay region, and they would have to determine that such an operation would not imperil the area’s sockeye salmon fishery.

    Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, has said that constructing Pebble Mine “presents formidable challenges” given the valuable fishery and the rural village life that depends on it.

    “Based on the information available to me now, I do not support the Pebble Mine,” reads a statement from his 2014 campaign site.

    Taryn Kiekow Heimer, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview that “the opposition in Alaska has grown stronger” since EPA blocked the mine’s construction.

    But in Washington, the political climate has shifted.

    Administration officials are reopening the question of whether to construct Pebble Mine, and may even reconsider the Interior and Agriculture Departments’ move in December denying another company’s request to renew a lease on the southwest border of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

    In one of the last big mining decisions of the Obama era, the two departments rejected Twin Metals Minnesota’s lease renewal bid, and set in motion a formal review to examine whether all mining activities in 234,000 acres abutting the wilderness should be barred for the next 20 years. Twin Metals Minnesota is a subsidiary of Antofagasta Mining PLC.

    Minnesota Reps. Rick Nolan (D) and Tom Emmer (R) met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on April 26 to discuss whether to reverse that decision, according to individuals who asked for anonymity to discuss a private conversation. Bob McFarlin, Twin Metals Minnesota’s government affairs adviser, said in an email that the firm has met with lawmakers and top federal officials “in both the previous and current administrations to express our concerns” about the decision to deny the company’s lease application.

    “I am optimistic that we will be able to work with the new administration to allow this initiative to move forward,” Nolan said in a statement Thursday. “Having met with all the involved agencies and parties, I know renewing these leases is the sensible and correct thing to do.”

    And Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, said in a statement that his industry stands to “benefit most from the administration’s willingness to lift the regulatory burden that has impaired our ability to compete in the energy market.”

    That will ease restrictions on “access and development of much needed domestic minerals and metals,” Quinn added, which “are needed  for everything from infrastructure and manufacturing to cutting edge technologies.”

    Emperor Goose Hunting Open for First Time in 30 Years

    https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/alaska/articles/2017-04-19/emperor-goose-hunting-open-for-first-time-in-30-years?src=usn_fb

    Shooting emperor geese in Alaska is legal for the first time in 30 years, but officials are hoping hunters take it easy.

    | April 19, 2017, at 12:53 p.m.

    BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — Shooting emperor geese in Alaska is legal for the first time in 30 years, but officials are hoping hunters take it easy.

    Federal managers have opened a subsistence hunt for the birds and are visiting coastal villages to lay down ground rules before the geese migrate, KYUK-AM reported (http://bit.ly/2pg3aVE ).

    The rules call for targeting one bird at a time instead of spraying the flock, only taking juvenile birds that are not yet breeding, limiting the number of birds taken and only taking one or two eggs from a nest.

    About 80 percent of the world’s emperor goose population breeds along the west coast of Yukon Delta in southern Alaska. The migration is expected to begin in mid to late May.

    Officials hope the large number of geese doesn’t get to hunters’ heads, though.

    “With the season opening for emperor geese for the first time in 30 years, there is a concern of overharvest of emperor geese, because they’re ignorant to a lot of hunting activities, because they haven’t been harvested, so they haven’t learned how to avoid hunters,” said Bryan Daniels, a waterfowl biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    The six-week hunt is now open and runs until the beginning of June.

    The 1980s was the last time hunters could go out for emperor geese, which was before the bird’s population dropped dangerously low.

    Now, the population is just above the threshold to sustain a hunt.

    ___

    Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org

    Parasite Reminds Hunters Bear Meat Must Be Thoroughly Cooked

    http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=682

    By Riley Woodford

     caption follows

    A brown colored black bear. Bears and other carnivores and scavengers in Alaska commonly carry the trichinella roundworm parasite, which can be transmitted to people who eat undercooked meat. Richard Housineaux photo.

    Aparty of successful out-of-state hunters left Alaska earlier this year with bear meat – and a load of parasites.

    The incident is a good reminder that the trichinellosis roundworm is widespread in bears and meat needs to be thoroughly cooked, said Dr. Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist and veterinarian with the Alaska Department of Health. She said the group of friends became sick after they returned home.

    “They all came up to hunt, from four different states, and after they got home they started emailing back and forth, ‘Are you sick? I’m sick.’ They figured it out,” Castrodale said. “One person from Washington had some meat and had the Washington Health Department test it, and it was positive.”

    She said the hunters cooked hunks of meat over their campfire. “Like any meat, you want to get it up over a certain temperature and thoroughly cook the whole thing,” she said. “Over a fire it’s hard to say if it’s evenly cooked.”

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wild game meat like bear should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees and rest at that temperature for three minutes. Curing, salting, drying, smoking, or microwaving does not consistently kill the worms, and homemade jerky and sausage were the cause of many cases of trichinellosis reported to CDC in recent years.

    That’s true in Alaska. Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen, the veterinarian for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said curing methods that don’t kill the parasites, such as drying or smoking, and inadequate cooking, like slow cooking in a crock pot, cause most of the cases she knows of in Alaska.

    caption follows

    Drying is not an appropriate method for curing bear meat, as it doesn’t kill the parasites.

    “People should always assume bear meat is infected,” she said. “It must be cooked, 100 percent of the time. You can’t see the larvae, they’re microscopic.”

    Trichinellosis, also called trichinosis, is the disease caused by a nematode, a tiny worm with an adult and larval form. Trichinella is the genus, and spiralis is the species most adapted to domestic pigs. T. nativa is the species found in Alaska’s bears. It’s a much tougher bug. Freezing will kill spiralis, freezing doesn’t kill the northern variety, nativa.

    Beckmen cited a study where infected polar bear meat was frozen at minus 18 degrees centigrade for six years and the parasites were still viable; and another where fox meat frozen for four years was still laden with living larvae, ready to infect a new host. “It’s arctic adapted to freezing,” she said. “For Trichinella to spread, it has to be consumed by another carnivore. It can survive for a very long time in a carcass that is frozen. It wants to be consumed by another potential host later. It’s biding its time.”

    Trichinella nativa is found in carnivores such as wolves, foxes, lynx and coyotes, and walrus and seals as well. So how do carnivores live with this parasite?

    caption follows

    While the trichinella species most commonly found in pork can be killed by freezing and by heating the meat to 140 degrees, the Alaska trichinella parasite found in bears is more hardy. Meat must be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, and then hold or “rest” at that temperature for at least three minutes.

    “It’s a parasite that evolved along with the hosts, carnivores and scavengers, so bears and lynx are adapted to living with it,” Beckmen said. “It affects us more severely because we’re not typically exposed to it. Some animals may develop muscle edema and pain, and I’m sure some animals suffer more problems than others depending on the number of larvae they consume.”

    Parasites in general don’t cause severe symptoms in the species they’re evolved for, she said. Parasites and their hosts evolve together, and it rarely benefits the parasite to kill its host. “Wildlife having parasites is a normal state, and doesn’t usually cause problems unless the animal is sick from some other reason or stressed.”

    But that’s not the case when the parasite jumps to a different species. In part because the parasite can’t complete its usual life cycle, it gets confused and ends up in the wrong part of the body, like the eyes instead of the gut.

    “It’s not meant to be in us, we react severely,” Beckmen said. “Like the roundworm of dogs, which causes blindness and brain inflation in children. In people it may migrate throughout the body, it goes to the brain or the eyes, in a dog, it goes to intestine and lives there on the contents.”

    Trichinellosis rarely kills people, but it can cause severe pain, swelling and inflammation. Castrodale said initial symptoms result from the adult parasites in the intestinal tract and include diarrhea. She added that the initial symptoms can be mild and may not even really register. Over the course of the next few weeks the larvae migrate to muscles and establish themselves, which results in fever, muscle pain, weakness, and sometimes swelling around the skin of the eyes. “That’s when people realize something is up, they’re sick,” she said.

    photo

    The CDC reports that trichinellosis is rare, and about 20 cases a year are reported. Rare, but Castrodale said this isn’t the first time a situation like this has occurred. “People will call from out of state and describe their symptoms and we’ll ask, ‘Did you eat bear meat?’ If you have those muscle pains and walk into clinic in Lower 48 they won’t necessarily think to ask about it.”

    Prompt treatment with deworming drugs will kill the adults, but once larvae are established in muscle tissue, usually three or four weeks after infection, they’re much less vulnerable to the drug. The CDC reports that the host immune response leads to expulsion of the adult worms after several weeks; the larvae, once in muscle, can persist for months or years, although symptoms typically wane after several months.

    “Treatment might include a steroid to calm the immune response and address the inflammation,” Castrodale said. “Eventually people get over it, it runs its course. You still have them, but they stop migrating, they’re walled off and encysted.”

    caption follows

    Caribou meat can carry a parasitic disease, toxoplasmosis, and should be cooked.

    How prevalent is this parasite in Alaska’s wild carnivores?

    Beckmen looked at tissue samples from bears and wolves killed in the state predator control program. She’s also sampled bears killed in Defense of Life and Property (DLP) and sampled coyotes, lynx and walrus. She said the tongue and diaphragm will have most larvae. Lynx, coyotes, foxes and wolves have a very high rate of infection, but since people don’t generally eat those animals that’s not well known.

    “The prevalence rate in black bears is higher the further north you go, and polar bears are 100 percent infected,” she said.

    She added that another parasitic disease, toxoplasmosis, is also prevalent in wild game in northern Alaska and she cautions people against eating raw meat from caribou or marine mammals.

    Pregnant women should especially abstain, as toxoplasmosis can be damaging or fatal to a developing fetus. Small children are also at risk.

    “It’s better to cook the meat,” she said.

    More on wildlife diseases that hunters might encounter

    A handy one-page color PDF on trichinosis and other common wildlife parasites

    By Riley Woodford

    Despite Trump overturning refuge hunting rules, conflict remains

    http://www.alaskajournal.com/2017-04-10/despite-trump-overturning-refuge-hunting-rules-conflict-remains#.WOvPEIjyvIU

    Although Congress put an end to a set of federal restrictions on wildlife management on national wildlife refuges in Alaska, the underlying conflict is far from over.

    President Donald Trump signed a House Joint Resolution on Tuesday overturning a set of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations enacted in 2016. The rule restricted certain hunting methods on national wildlife refuges in Alaska, with additional specific rules for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Under the rule, predator control activities were banned unless based on sound science and in response to a conservation concern or met refuge need. On the Kenai, additional public use restrictions went into place, including some plane and motorboat access, camping restrictions and requiring a permit for baiting black bears and prohibiting using a dog to hunt big game except black bears, among other rules.

    The state filed a lawsuit in January against the Department of the Interior over the Fish and Wildlife rules and another set of hunting restrictions set by the National Park Service in Alaska’s national preserves. The Safari Club International, a hunting organization, filed a similar lawsuit of its own about a week later. A few days after that, the Alaska Professional Hunting Association filed its own lawsuit over the same regulations.

    “Passage of this resolution reaffirms our state sovereignty, and the state’s authority to manage fish and wildlife statewide, including on federal public lands,” said Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth in a news release issued Tuesday. “Alaskans depend on wildlife for food. Reversal of these regulations will allow residents to continue their hunting and gathering traditions.”

    Despite the overturn, there’s still a sharp philosophical management disagreement between federal wildlife managers and state wildlife managers, and unless one side’s mandate changes, the disagreement will remain. Fish and Wildlife manages the national wildlife refuges for natural biological diversity, without promoting prey species over predators. Fish and Game, on the other hand, is mandated to manage for maximum sustained yield, which would provide enough harvestable animals to provide for hunters. The National Park Service protects the lands it manages and all the wildlife on them, prohibiting hunting entirely on national preserves.

    Stacey said the group contests that by bypassing the state’s game management authority, the refuge and national park rules effectively amend the state’s constitution.

    “(The state constitution) is where you get the maximum sustained yield management rules,” he said. “Within (Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act), it says nothing is supposed to modify or amend the state’s constitution. We argue that whrere the federal government steps in and imposes a foreign management philosophy, that actually effectively amends the state’s constitution.”

    The three agencies cooperate on management issues, but there have been times over the years when the Board of Game or Fish and Game crossed a line and trigged a reaction from the feds. A recent example was when the Board of Game authorized the taking of brown bears over bait on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, said Board of Game chairman Ted Spraker.

    “We allowed the taking of brown bears over bait in 2013, and the refuge immediately said, ‘Not on the refuge,’” he said. “That hasn’t changed.”

    There are management tools built in, such as an overall quota for brown bears taken in the area before the season closes, he said. The refuge allows baiting for black bears in an area of Game Management Unit 15A but put brown bears off limits, which seemed inconsistent, he said.

    The National Park Service regulations are still in place, so the lawsuits will go on with those challenges, and the regulations on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge are still in place, so the Safari Club’s lawsuit will still challenge those.

    “It has more to do with not ceding authority to the federal systems compared to whether the department and the Board of Game will change things that we’re currently doing,” Spraker said. “I don’t see any major changes coming because of this, I think there will be a little more cooperation on some of the issues, but I don’t see the refuges embracing any sort of predator management because of this.”

    The overturning of the rule must be frustrating for the agency, though, said Michelle Sinnott, an attorney with environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska, which represents a group of conservation organizations that petitioned to intervene in the three lawsuits and have been granted intervener status in the Safari Club and Alaska Professional Hunters Association lawsuits.

    “It’s maddening to a sense and I’m sure it’s very frustrating for federal agencies, because the Congressional Review Act takes a sledgehammer to agencies’ years of work and communications with the public and public noticing comment and meetings with people in the region,” she said.

    ANILCA has a role to play too. The act, passed in 1980, affected about 157 million acres of federal land in Alaska and changed management for others, including converting the Kenai National Moose Range into the current Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Its baseline principles include the provision of managing for natural diversity, and so even with the 2016 rules changed, with ANILCA still in place, the conflict still stands between federal management of wildlife on federal land and state sovereignty.

    “That question is still alive and well and we’ll be part of it now,” Sinnott said. “It’s great that our intervention was granted, because now there’s a whole host of Alaskan voices that will be heard in these cases.”

    Once the debate moved to the national level, the groups supporting Fish and Wildlife’s rule received support from members of Congress who saw problems with the rules themselves and with the state asserting its right to manage wildlife on federal lands, said Pat Lavin with the Alaska office of conservation group Defenders of Wildlife.

    “To have any state kind of challenge that and claim that the state has the right to do whatever it wants … I think plenty of members of Congress saw that right away and that was all the noise,” he said. “Unfortunately, we lost the vote anyway. There’s plenty of folks in Congress who understand that and aren’t crazy about it but were willing to undo this regulation.”

    Lavin agreed that ANILCA would help reinforce current management practices. Refuges around the country don’t always follow the strict state regulations, he said.

    “It is true, and not only in Alaska but around the whole country, that as a general proposition in managing refuge lands, the Fish and Wildlife Service defer at least initially to the place they’re in, in a given refuge,” he said. “That’s kind of the default position, but on top of that, the refuge does things all the time that are specific to the refuge and may or may not be consistent with state regulations.”

    Spraker said he was optimistic that with the new federal administration, a new Department of the Interior director and a new Alaska regional supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service, state and federal managers could collaborate on management more.

    “I don’t think this is going to make a major change in how we do business, but I do think it’s going to increase the level of collaboration between the state and federal agencies,” he said. “And with new leadership, I think that will lend itself toward cooperation with the state.”

    Animal rights in the Trump Era: protecting Alaskan wildlife

    With so much news coming from Washington DC these days, it’s hard to keep up with everything. One story that caught my eye and disgusts me to no end is a bill Trump recently signed into law.

    What happens now? Predators, mostly bears and wolves, living on federal lands in Alaska will be slaughtered.

    The law this bill repealed is an Obama-era regulation that prevented the hunting of bears and wolves on Alaskan federal lands unless it was deemed necessary to preserve the land’s refuge status. With the passage of this new law, bears and wolves can be shot from planes. They can be baited and shot. Cubs and pups can be killed in their dens, and mothers and their kids can be targeted and killed any time, any place.

    As the former director of US Fish & Wildlife Services wrote in August of 2016, laws like this one are “purportedly aimed at increasing populations of caribou and moose but defies modern science of predator-prey relationships.” He was in favor of the Obama-era regulations that sought to protect predators on federal refuge lands. He stated that we should “ensure that predator and prey alike can thrive on our refuges.”

    Why are bills like this, that so unfairly target predators–– going so far as to allow cubs and pups to be shot in their dens–– so popular among Republicans? The answer is the NRA, which backed this resolution. On the opposing side of the battle was the Humane Society, which urged Congress not to adopt the resolution.

    One line in the NRA’s article about the law struck me as not only odd, but as an outright lie. They state that the ads the Humane Society aired in regards to the law are “falsely claiming that its repeal would allow for inhumane forms of taking bears and wolves.”

    Is shooting hibernating bears in their dens not inhumane? Is chasing down bears from planes not inhumane? Is pulling the trigger on wolf puppies point-blank not inhumane?

    The answer is obvious.

    Now not only are the unethical and brutal murders of countless Alaskan bears and wolves legal, but the passage of this law suggests that we as a nation are okay with such inhumane actions. It also messes with the already fragile ecosystem, and will lead to the deaths of animals on refuge lands.

    It is wrong, and I am deeply ashamed that it is now the law.

    http://blog.timesunion.com/animalrights/animal-rights-in-the-trump-era-protecting-alaskan-wildlife/6512/

    Trump revokes Alaska refuge rule, allows wolves to be killed

    http://www.capitalpress.com/AP_Nation_World/20170404/trump-revokes-alaska-refuge-rule-allows-wolves-to-be-killed

    Predators can kill more than 80 percent of the moose and caribou that die during an average year, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

    By DAN JOLING

    Associated Press

    Published on April 4, 2017

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The state of Alaska’s toolkit for increasing moose and caribou numbers includes killing wolf pups in dens, shooting wolf packs from helicopters and adopting liberal hunting regulations that allow sportsmen to shoot grizzlies over bait.

    But when state officials wanted to extend “predator control” to federal wildlife refuges, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said no. And after years of saying no, the agency late last year adopted a rule to make the denial permanent.

    Alaska’s elected officials called that an outrage and an infringement on state rights. The dispute reached the White House.

    President Donald Trump on Monday signed a resolution approved by the U.S. House and Senate to revoke a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule banning most predator control on Alaska refuges. Alaska’s lone U.S. representative, Republican Don Young, says Alaska was promised it could manage game animals. Refuge overseers have ignored the law, he said.

    “Some of you will say, ‘Oh, we have to protect the wolf puppies,’” Young told colleagues on the floor of the House. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the law.”

    Congress explicitly gave Alaska authority to manage wildlife in the Alaska Statehood Act and two more laws, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said after voting to revoke the rule.

    Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges cover about 120,000 square miles, an area slightly smaller than the state of New Mexico. Residents of rural villages living a subsistence lifestyle rely on refuges as hunting grounds. So do urban sportsmen.

    Critics contend Alaska officials use unsportsmanlike techniques that would have horrified Teddy Roosevelt, creator of the first federal refuge, to boost moose and caribou numbers. Sportsmanship, however, is not a consideration, according to state authorities, when it comes to surgically removing certain numbers of predators to benefit prey populations.

    Predators can kill more than 80 percent of the moose and caribou that die during an average year, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

    Alaska’s mandate for killing predators comes from a law passed by the state Legislature recognizing that certain moose, caribou, and deer populations are especially important human food sources. When those populations drop too low, the Alaska Board of Game, which regulates hunting and trapping, can authorize “intensive management.”

    The focus once was almost totally wolves. Since 1993, the state has killed hundreds along with lesser numbers of black and grizzly bears that prey on caribou or moose calves.

    Federal wildlife refuges operate under a different mandate. For example, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, where the state in 2010 sought to kill wolves from helicopters to protect caribou on Unimak Island, was created by Congress with the mission of conserving animal populations and habitats “in their natural biodiversity.”

    Geoff Haskett, former Alaska regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the agency adopted the rule for Alaska refuges after repeatedly fending off state attempts to extend predator control in direct conflict with refuge purposes. Some attempts up in court. For two years, he said, the state authorized an overharvest by hunters of grizzly bears on the Kenai Peninsula. The agency closed the Kenai Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge in response.

    “Brown bear biologists from both the state side and the federal side had real concerns about the amount of unlimited harvest and the amount of females that would be taken by what was proposed by the state,” Haskett said.

    Haskett left the agency and is now acting director of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Even though President Trump signed the congressional resolution, Haskett believes it will not give the state of Alaska carte blanche to begin predator control on federal refuges.

    “It doesn’t change the laws and authorities and existing regulations that the service already has,” Haskett said. “It’s really back to square one.”

    Ken Marsh, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, agreed. Without a blanket rule, federal refuge managers likely will consider predator control requests on a case-by-case basis, he said, under provisions of federal environmental law.