Alaska sues federal agencies over hunting prohibitions
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The state of Alaska on Friday sued two federal agencies to overturn a ban on certain hunting techniques on national refuges and preserves, including the killing of black bear sows and their cubs in dens with the aid of artificial light.
Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, said in an announcement that Alaskans, especially rural residents, rely on hunting and fishing to put food on the table.
“These regulations impact our basic means of survival,” he said. “Alaskans must be able to provide for their families, and the rules that have been put forward by the federal government do not support that.”
John Quinley, a spokesman for the National Park Service in Alaska, said by email he had seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it.
The National Park Service in October 2015 published regulations that restricted certain sport hunting practices in national preserves. The agency prohibited the killing of wolves and coyotes, including pups, during denning season, the killing of any black bear with artificial light at den sites, and the killing of black and brown bears over bait.
The regulations, Quinley said, left rules for subsistence hunting unchanged.
The state and federal government have long been at odds over “predator control” on federal conservation lands where management goals can differ.
A seven-member state Game Board appointed by the governor sets bag limits and seasons for game animals. The board has taken an aggressive stand to expand human consumption of moose and caribou by killing wolves and bears.
Along with increased bag limits and longer hunting seasons for predators, “intensive management” programs have involved systematically killing bears and wolves, including shooting them from aircraft. Critics and proponents disagree on the program’s effectiveness.
Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth said in the announcement that the lawsuit is about restrictive federal regulations.
“These federal regulations are not about predator control or protecting the State’s wildlife numbers,” she said. “These regulations are about the federal government trying to control Alaskans’ way of life and how Alaskans conduct their business. This is contrary to state and federal law.”
The lawsuit claims federal regulators illegally pre-empted the state’s authority to manage wildlife. The lawsuit seeks to overturn the regulations.
“To preserve the ability to hunt for future generations, state officials need the flexibility to manage wildlife populations,” said state Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten. “These regulations remove that flexibility.”