FAIRBANKS (AP) — A U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposal to ban brown bear baiting and other hunting practices from lands the agency manages in Alaska is receiving criticism from lawmakers.
The proposed changes published Friday in the National Register would change hunting and trapping rules for national wildlife refuges in Alaska, covering about 77 million acres. The proposal includes bans on brown bear baiting, killing wolves and coyotes during the denning season and targeting bears with snares or traps, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the proposed rule conflicts with the management authority granted to the state under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which created several federal conservation areas in Alaska.
“The agency claims this is an effort to bring clarity to a controversial issue, but in reality, it is a takeover of Alaska’s fish and wildlife management rights,” Murkowski said in a statement issued Friday.
National refuges typically follow the hunting and fishing guidelines set by the state they are located in, but the Fish and Wildlife Service argued its conservation mission conflicts with Alaska’s predator control policies.
“We would prohibit predator control on refuges in Alaska, unless it is determined necessary to meet refuge purposes,” the proposed Fish and Wildlife Service regulations state. “Demands for more wildlife for human harvest cannot be the sole or primary basis for (predator) control.”
The large amount of federal lands in Alaska has long been an area of dispute between the state and the federal government.
“It continually surprises me how little regard the federal government has for our state and its people,” Sen. Dan Sullivan, Republican, said in a written statement. “We in Alaska understand the land. We drink its water. We hunt and fish and trap on it. We live on it and we, not the federal government, are best able to decide how to manage it.
The Fish and Wildlife Serve plans to hold a series of open houses on the regulations to get feedback from the public, including one in Fairbanks on Feb. 10.
Gov. Bill Walker plans to ask for an extended public comment period — 121 days instead of 60 days, according to a news release.