Environmental groups back feds over hunting ban

KENAI, Alaska (AP) — More than a dozen environmental groups are seeking to join lawsuits filed by the state of Alaska over a federal ban on certain hunting techniques in national refuges and preserves.

The two lawsuits filed in January claim the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service illegally pre-empted the state’s authority to manage wildlife by banning state-approved hunting practices. The federal regulations prohibit the killing of black bears in their dens with the aid of artificial light and shooting brown bears over bait stations.

A motion filed by environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska earlier this month on behalf of 15 Alaska organizations asks the court to admit the groups as a party in defense of the federal agencies, The Peninsula Clarion reported.
The environmental groups — which include Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Alaska chapter of the Sierra Club — are opponents of the state’s predator control efforts.

“You just have a conflicting wildlife management philosophy between refuge lands, which are managed for wildlife biological diversity, and the state’s management philosophy, at least in predator control areas, of deliberately suppressing predator populations to try to increase prey populations,” said Pat Lavin with the Alaska office of Defenders of Wildlife. “What the court should uphold is the FWS duty to manage refuge lands consistent with those refuge purposes.”

The state and federal government have long been at odds over predator control on federal conservation lands where management goals can differ.

“We can’t say that if we kill all the bears, it will cost us this much, but we can say that there’s a lot at stake and that wildlife, bears, predators are very important part of Alaska,” said Jim Adams, Alaska regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association.

The federal rules are also facing a challenge in Congress, as the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution nullifying the Fish and Wildlife regulations on national refuges on Thursday. The measure was authored by Alaska Rep. Don Young, who called the rules “a power grab.”

“I’m thankful to all those that played a role in moving this important resolution of disapproval, including the countless state and local stakeholders that worked with me to fight a very serious and alarming overreach by the previous administration,” Young said in a statement on the resolution’s passage.

The Senate must still vote on the measure before it takes effect.

The resolution would not apply to National Park Service rules, which were passed too long ago to be repealed in the same way.