In a final rule that is expected to be published Tuesday in the Federal Register, the Trump administration will end a five-year-old ban on the practices, which also include shooting swimming caribou from a boat and targeting animals from airplanes and snowmobiles. It would take effect 30 days after being published.
State officials primarily composed of hunters in Alaska argued that the October 2015 regulations ordered by the Obama administration infringed on traditional native hunting practices and were more restrictive than what is allowed on state land.
National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela said in a statement that the federal government will defer to Alaska’s wildlife management on national preserves. “The amended rule will support the Department’s interest in advancing wildlife conservation goals and objectives, and in ensuring the state of Alaska’s proper management of hunting and trapping in our national preserves, as specified in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act,” Vela said.
But conservationists called the changes inhumane.
“National preserve lands at Denali, Katmai, Gates of the Arctic and others are the very places where people travel from around the world, in hopes of seeing these iconic animals, alive in their natural habitat” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Shooting hibernating mama and baby bears is not the conservation legacy that our national parks are meant to preserve and no way to treat or manage park wildlife.”
Jim Adams, the association’s Alaska director, said the state’s real aim is to reduce the population of wolves and other predators to increase the numbers of caribou, moose and other game animals that sport hunters enjoy harvesting. Adams said the rule was established in 2015 when the National Park Service determined that Alaska’s practices conflicted with the federal mission to protect wildlife. Reducing the predator population throws the natural ecology out of balance, conservationists say.
Opponents said the administration has “declared open season on bears and wolves” amid the coronavirus pandemic.