Trump admin sets crosshairs on Park Service predator rule

A wolf in Denali National Park and Preserve in June 2010.

A wolf in Denali National Park and Preserve in June 2010. (Public domain photo by Ken Conger/National Park Service)

The Trump administration is trying to erase another part of President Obama’s environmental legacy in Alaska: It wants to roll back a National Park Service ban on several controversial methods of killing bears and wolves.

The methods include luring bears with bait, taking wolves during the denning season and shining a spotlight into dens to shoot black bears. The methods are legal under state law, but the Park Service has objected to them for years.

Jim Adams, Alaska director of the National Parks Conservation Association, said Park Service lands aren’t a suitable place for predator control.

“The state of Alaska has 100 million acres of its own. It manages hunting regulations on BLM land, on Fish and Wildlife Service land,” Adams said. “I think it’s appropriate to leave some place where we try to maintain natural population levels, of both predators and prey.”

The long-running dispute boils down to a conflict between the National Park Service and the state on the purpose of wildlife management.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages for “sustained yield” for human hunters. It has opted for lethal methods of predator control, to support moose and caribou harvests.

The Park Service, on the other hand, has a policy against killing predators to improve hunting opportunities. The Trump administration’s proposal acknowledges that policy, but says the 2015 rule went too far by assuming the state’s intent in expanding the methods of predator hunting was to suppress predator populations, rather than to meet public demand for harvesting wolves and bears.

Rod Arno is director of the Alaska Outdoor Council, which supports state control of predator management. He’s happy to see the start of the process to undo the Obama administration rule.

“But it still doesn’t preclude in the future the same type of rule-making by the Park Service,” Arno said.

Arno said Congress may have to pass an amendment to clarify the state’s authority to manage fish and game throughout Alaska.

The proposed rule change is to be published Tuesday in the Federal Register. The Interior Department will accept comments for 60 days.

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