Alaska Congressional Delegation Applauds Park Service Rule for Hunting and Trapping in Alaska National Preserves
Washington, May 20, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Alaska Congressional Delegation (all R-Alaska) applauded the National Park Service’s (NPS) announced final rule that amends its regulations for hunting and trapping in Alaska national preserves, removing a 2015 Obama administration rule limiting harvest practices, which are otherwise permitted by the state of Alaska and federal law. This rule provides for Alaska residents who rely on state law to engage in their traditional hunting practices.
“This final rule protects Alaska’s hunting and fishing traditions and upholds longstanding states’ rights,” said Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Lisa Murkowski. “I thank the Department for bringing the rule into alignment with Alaska’s statutes and regulations and restoring Alaska’s authority to determine the best practices for wildlife management on all Alaska lands.”
“This finalized rule is needed not only as a matter of principle, but as a matter of states’ rights and the future of Alaska’s proven, science-based wildlife management strategies,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “In 2017, Congress sent a powerful message with the passage and enactment of H.J. Res. 69 – which overturned a similarly overreaching rule by the Fish and Wildlife Service – that Alaskans are not going to accept this attack on our unique game management authority, guaranteed and protected in both the Alaska Statehood Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Today is no different, and I thank the Administration and the Department of Interior for once again working with Alaska, instead of against us.”
“I would like to thank Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the Trump Administration for working to overturn this prohibition that has negatively impacted Alaska,” said Congressman Don Young. “With the release of this final rule, we are eliminating a wrongful federal seizure of Alaska’s authority. I’m thankful to those who played a role, including the countless state and local stakeholders that have helped to fight this blatant overreach by the previous administration.”
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) established each of the national preserves in Alaska as NPS lands that would specifically remain open to hunting and trapping and be managed by the state of Alaska. This is the principal reason why Congress created national preserve areas in Alaska as separate and distinct lands from other areas included within national parks. In this respect, they were intended to differ from national park designated lands managed by the NPS. ANILCA delegates limited closure authority to the Secretary of the Interior for reasons of public safety, administration, floral and faunal protection, or public use and enjoyment.
The Alaska Statehood Act grants the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) full authority to manage fish and wildlife in Alaska, including on federal lands (P.L. 85-508, § 6(e)). Seasons, bag limits, harvest methods, and other regulations related to hunting and trapping are established by ADF&G and the Alaska Board of Game, a body with members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. The Alaska Constitution requires the management of wildlife and natural resources for “maximum use consistent with the public interest,” and “maintained on the sustained yield principle.” (Alaska Const. Art. VIII, §1, 2, and 4). The State’s constitutional mandate for sustained yield is consistent with NPS Management Policies, which state that the NPS “manages [wildlife] harvest to allow for self-sustaining populations of harvested species.”
In Wildlife for the 21st Century: Volume V, the American Wildlife Conservation Partners, a consortium of 45 organizations, recommended this action be taken and that the 2015 prohibitions be reversed.
On April 3, 2017, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule for Alaska National Wildlife Refuges nearly identical in substance to the aspects of the 2015 NPS Rule at issue in this rulemaking, was repealed under the authority of the Congressional Review Act (See Pub. L. No. 115-20, 131 Stat. 86).
The final rule only applies to Alaska national preserves, which are open to hunting, fishing, and trapping under federal and state law. There are ten national preserves in Alaska. National parks in Alaska are closed to all hunting except for subsistence uses by rural Alaska residents by law and this rule does not change that.