NPS Proposes Permanent Ban on Predator Hunting Practices in Alaska’s Preserves

The National Park Service wants to permanently prohibit some predator sport hunting practices in all ten of Alaska's national preserves. (Credit National Park Service)
The National Park Service wants to permanently prohibit some predator sport hunting practices in all ten of Alaska’s national preserves.
(Credit National Park Service)

The National Park Service published a proposal in the national register last week that would permanently prohibit some sport hunting practices in Alaska’s ten national preserves.  The Park Service has sparred with the state for years over hunting in National Preserves.

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The National Park Service wants to permanently prohibit three predator hunting practices in all 10 of Alaska’s national preserves. John Quinley is the spokesperson for the National Park Service in Alaska. He says those practices were historically illegal in the state until recently.

“For instance, harvesting brown bears over back bear bait stations has historical been illegal,” says Quinley. “That changed a while back under state regulations and when it did, we put in place temporary restrictions so that practice would not occur in national preserves. We are moving to make that a permanent change rather than going back every year and proposing a temporary change.”

The Park Service’s proposal would also permanently prohibit sport hunting for wolves and coyotes in early summer. The use of artificial light to take black bear sows and cubs at dens would also become illegal in Alaska’s National Preserves. For at least the last four years, those practices have been temporarily restricted by the Park Service.

“As the Board of Game over the last eight to 10 years has increasingly liberalized predator uniting rules on National preserves, we have become increasingly vocal,” Quinley says.

Quinley says state laws aren’t in keeping with the Park Service’s federal mandate to maintain natural ecosystems and wildlife populations therein.

“Our opposition to their wildlife management methods is only on national preserves.  How the state of Alaska manages other lands is up to the state of Alaska.”

But Board of Game Commissioner Ted Spraker says he thinks the Park Service just doesn’t understand how the state manages wildlife.

“Well, the purpose of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is very clear,” Spraker explains. “They’re mandated to maintain healthy populations and if they’re harvested, to harvest at some level that sustains the population.  One of the things that’s always been said that’s true is ‘if they’re hunted they’re healthy.’”

In a press release, the Park Service argues that the state is “reducing native predators for the purpose of increasing numbers of harvested species.” Spraker says that’s just not the case.

“The reason the board implemented these hunting opportunities, is just that,” Spraker says. “These populations are healthy.  Predator numbers are healthy at least in all the cases we’ve been presented, if not abundant.  And what we did is just increased hunting opportunity.  That is for the bating of brown bears and the longer seasons for wolves and coyotes.”

This past spring, the Department of Natural Resources Executive Director of the Citizens Advisory Commission on Federal Lands sent a letter to the Park Service as part of a required public process to again temporarily restrict wildlife hunting in national preserves.

We do not support the adoption of these temporary restrictions,” wrote Stan Leaphart. “Nor will we support permanent regulation preempting State general hunting regulations.”

The letter goes on to say the state expected the National Park Service to “begin the process of preparing permeant regulations.”

“We knew it was coming.”

Ted Spraker says the Board of Game will likely submit comments on the most recent proposal published in the Federal Register.  The public comment period opens in October.  But Spraker also calls the process a ‘waste of time.’

“Absolutely,” he says. “When they’re saying they’ve been doing this for four years in a row and . a waste of the public time, it’s a waste of taxpayers dollars for these guys to do it.  I hate to see people give them a free pass.  People should go and testify, but don’t expect that they’re going to turn around and allow baiting or allow flashlights or allow the taking of wolves in May.”

John Quinley says the Park Service expects pushback from the state.

“We do expect a spirited conversation with the state of Alaska,” Quinley says,  “and we will be having formal consultation with the state of Alaska on eh proposals as well.”

The proposal also updates subsistence regulations and prohibits obstruction of lawful hunting or trapping on park service lands. Public hearings on the proposal will take place in various communities in Alaska in October.