Trump administration moves to lift restrictions on hunting, trapping in national preserves in Alaska

Under proposed changes hunters could bait brown bears, hunt black bears with dogs and kill wolves

The Associated Press · Posted: May 22, 2018 3:33 PM CT | Last Updated: May 22


A brown bear catches a salmon in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska in July 2013. Under proposed changes to sport hunting and trapping regulations for national preserves, hunters could bait brown bears with bacon and doughtnuts. (The Associated Press)

The Trump administration is moving to reverse Obama-era rules barring hunters on some public lands in Alaska from baiting brown bears with bacon and doughnuts and using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens.

The National Park Service issued a notice Monday of its intent to amend regulations for sport hunting and trapping in national preserves to bring the federal rules in line with Alaska state law.

Under the proposed changes, hunters would also be allowed to hunt black bears with dogs, kill wolves and pups in their dens, and use motor boats to shoot swimming caribou.

Cruel and harmful hunting methods like killing bear cubs and their mothers near dens have no place on our national preserves.- Collette Adkins, lawyer and biologist

These and other hunting methods — condemned as cruel by wildlife protection advocates — were outlawed on federal lands in 2015. Members of the public have 60 days to provide comment on the proposed new rules.

“The conservation of wildlife and habitat for future generations is a goal we share with Alaska,” said Bert Frost, the park service’s regional director. “This proposed rule will reconsider NPS efforts in Alaska for improved alignment of hunting regulations on national preserves with State of Alaska regulations, and to enhance consistency with harvest regulations on surrounding non-federal lands and waters.”

Alaska has 10 national preserves covering nearly 95,830 square kilometers.


A black bear and cub seen in Anchorage, Alaska. The Trump administration plans to reverse a ban on using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens on some public lands in the state. (The Associated Press)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was “pleased to see the National Park Service working to better align federal regulations with State of Alaska hunting and trapping regulations,” Maria Gladziszewski, the state agency’s deputy director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said in an email to the Associated Press.

She said the proposal is “progress in that direction, and we appreciate those efforts. Alaskans benefit when state and federal regulations are consistent.”

Gladziszewski said the state doesn’t conduct predator control in national preserves.

“Predator control could be allowed in preserves only with federal authorization because such actions are subject to NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review,” she said.

Expanding hunting rights on federal lands has been a priority for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman who displays a taxidermied bear in his Washington office along with mounted heads from a bison and an elk.


Expanding hunting rights on federal lands has been a priority for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

The Obama-era restrictions on hunting on federal lands in Alaska were challenged by Safari Club International, a group that promotes big-game hunting. The Associated Press reported in March that Zinke had appointed a board loaded with trophy hunters to advise him on conserving threatened and endangered wildlife, including members of the Safari Club.

President Donald Trump’s sons are also avid trophy hunters who have made past excursions to Africa and Alaska.

Collette Adkins, a lawyer and biologist with the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, expressed outrage at the rollback.

“Cruel and harmful hunting methods like killing bear cubs and their mothers near dens have no place on our national preserves,” she said.

The Humane Society of the United States said it would oppose the new rules.

“These federal lands are havens for wildlife and the National Park Service is mandated to manage these ecosystems in a manner that promotes conservation,” said Anna Frostic, a lawyer for the animal rights group. “This proposed rule, which would allow inhumane killing of our native carnivores in a misguided attempt to increase trophy hunting opportunities, is unlawful and must not be finalized.”

Hunting is down in the US. The Trump administration wants to change that


  • There are 2.2 million fewer hunters in America now than in 2011
  • Zinke was recommended by Donald Trump Jr., an avid hunter
  • Last week Zinke issued a new secretarial order designed to increase access to various public lands for hunters and fishers

Washington (CNN)Toy gun grasped firmly in his hand and a grin plastered wide across his face while he played “Big Buck Hunter Pro,” Ryan Zinke could have been a kid at an arcade. But the Interior secretary and former congressman was actually in the department cafeteria showing off the arcade game installed to commemorate hunting season.

“To highlight #sportsmen contributions 2 conservation I installed Big Buck Hunter in the employee cafeteria. Get excited for #hunting season!” Zinke tweeted from his personal account Tuesday.
But Zinke is not toying around when it comes to his support of hunters and fishers.
Hunting in the United States is down. A US Fish and Wildlife Service survey released last week found that there are 2.2 million fewer hunters in America now than in 2011. And the new administration is poised to change that.
On his first day in office back in March, Zinke issued two orders, one which overturned a recent ban of lead ammunition and fish tackle on Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters. Last week Zinke issued another secretarial order designed to increase access to various public lands for hunters and fishers.
Zinke’s passion for expanding hunting rights on public lands is both personal and political. A Montanan, the secretary has been known to hunt in his spare time. During his short stint in Congress, he was a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. He was spotted attending their annual dinner last Wednesday, a source told CNN, just two days before he issued the most recent secretarial order.
“What really kind of expedited this whole thing, was last week the US Fish and Wildlife put out a survey saying that hundreds of Americans were enjoying the outdoors, but within that survey they found that hunting was down,” Heather Swift, Interior spokesperson said when asked about last week’s secretarial order. “And the big thing that the secretary hears over and over again is that people just don’t have access to land.”
Politically Zinke also owes a lot to hunting, angler and conservation lobbyists who were largely responsible for supporting him for the position of Interior Secretary earlier this year. The issue was especially important to Donald Trump’s son Don Jr., an avid hunter and active member of the Boone and Crocket Club, who helped with the search for Interior secretary.
“Mr. Zinke was the pick of the litter, not the best litter ever, but he was definitely the pick and that’s why we advocated for him and that’s why Jr. advocated for him as well,” said Land Tawney, the president of the Montana-based Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a non-profit sportsmen’s organization.
Zinke and the Interior have recently made a big show of their support of hunting groups. In addition to the “Buck Hunter” game he gifted Interior employees, the department declared Thursday that October would be National Hunting and Fishing Month.
The declaration also generated the support of the National Rifle Association.
“Hunters, anglers, and target shooters are the best conservationists who contribute so much through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts,” said Richard Childress, NRA vice president. “Last year, they contributed $1.2 billion toward conservation and protecting our natural resources. We need more mentors taking young people out and teaching them to hunt and fish, so I’m glad Secretary Zinke is promoting hunting and fishing at the federal level.”
But despite Zinke’s clear efforts to woo hunters and anglers, not all of his decisions have gone over well with the conservationist-minded group. For example, Zinke’s leaked recommendationsto the White House to shrink the boundaries of national monuments and open up some of the land to the fossil fuel industry and loggers — first reported Sunday by the Wall Street Journal — were met with opposition and confusion.
“With what’s leaked it’s super troubling. Any reduction on these monuments is an attack on the Antiquities Act,” said Tawney. “All monuments are at risk now. They can become political footballs in our eyes.”
Conservationists who want to expand their access to hunting on public park lands and at monuments are as weary of opening up national park land to fossil fuel industries as environmentalists are, since both value sustaining the land as is.
“We can have all the access we want to a concrete parking lot, but that access doesn’t mean anything if that fish and wildlife habitat isn’t there,” said Tawney.
Another pro-hunting group says what they are seeing within Interior is a fight between access and conservation.
“On the access front the department has been good. Access to our own public lands is a lot harder today than it ever has been, and that is in part introduced with the decline in hunting numbers we’ve seen,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a non-profit coalition of conservation organizations and outdoor related businesses.
“On the conservation side however, I think it’s a much less rosy picture,” Fosburgh said. “It’s been a lot more about expanding development, opening up to oil and gas. There has been no proactive conservation vision espoused for our public lands.”
Fosburgh said that the hunting community started getting “a little bit critical” of Zinke after he first announced the National Monument Review earlier this year. And he’s skeptical of just how far the secretarial order will go.
“They use hunting and fishing for an excuse for our changes in monuments,” he said. “All of the ones under review already allow hunting and fishing very clearly.”
Fosberg’s criticism is similar to what environmental groups said following the secretarial order last week.
“Don’t be fooled: the Trump Administration is pretending to be granting hunting and fishing rights that are already guaranteed by law and policy,” said a statement from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning thing tank. “The real story is that, with this announcement, the Trump administration is trying to create a distraction from their plans to dramatically reduce the size of America’s national monuments, which would be the largest elimination of protections on wildlife habitat in US history.”
Nevertheless, Fosburgh said most pro-hunting and conservation minded groups are still hoping for the best with the Trump administration.
“We’re very prepared, and we have been from day one. We supported his nomination and we are prepared to work with Secretary Zinke,” he said. “We’re not going to just say it’s a lost cause in September of the first year of the administration.”

Travesty of Justice

Over the weekend, Sea Shepherd’s Captain Paul Watson was arrested in Germany on a warrant issued by Costa Rica for a bogus ten-year-old “violation of ships traffic” that allegedly occurred when Sea Shepherd encountered a shark finning operation run by a Costa Rican ship. Arresting someone like Paul Watson, who has dedicated his entire life to defending the life of our oceans against illegal and destructive acts, calls into question the very notion of justice in today’s world.

In his foreword to my book, Exposing the Big Game, Captain Watson writes:

“There is only one vicious creature stalking the wilderness and that is the hominid primate that has become a divine legend in its own mind. The enemy is us and the real challenge is to subdue the destructive urges within each of us and to channel those urges in the direction of affirming life and not taking it. The primitive man is a killer ape, the evolved man or woman is a shepherd protecting life.

“The cruelty and destruction that humans have inflicted upon each other is surpassed only by the cruelty and destruction humans have inflicted upon the non-human citizens of this world. …

“It’s time to make peace with our fellow citizens, to live in harmony with them and to understand that those who today club seals, harpoon whales, shoot bears, trap beaver, hook a shark, or blast a goose with a shotgun will be viewed in the future in the same light as we now view slavers, warlords, gangsters and politicians.”

Obviously not the words of a dangerous criminal, though perhaps the words of someone who could be considered a danger to a corrupt and vicious system. We need people like Paul Watson to shine the light on the real criminals of the world and expose their crimes against the thousands of voiceless victims of an over-consumptive society.

For updates and information on how you can help:

And to sign the petition to free Captain Watson: