Alaska Park Bear Baiting Ban Stalls

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Rick Steiner (907) 360-4503
Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028


Alaska Park Bear Baiting Ban Stalls

Litigation Resumes as Biden’s Wildlife Protections Remain in Limbo


Washington, DC — The status of wildlife protection rules across vast stretches of national parks and preserves in Alaska remains up in the air, as a Biden proposal to restore Obama-era prohibitions remains unfinalized, more than year after it was unveiled. As a result of the delay, litigation over the legality of the Trump-era rule will resume, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

At stake is whether more than 22 million acres of National Park Service-administered land in Alaska will remain open to questionable hunting and trapping techniques, such as killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens, luring bears with bait, and shooting swimming caribou from a motorboat. These practices by sport hunters on NPS preserves had been outlawed in 2015 during the Obama administration. In 2018, the Trump administration moved to repeal those rules, an action that was and still is being challenged in court by environmental groups.

That litigation had been stayed based upon Biden Justice Department representations that the administration was moving to undo Trump’s actions and restore the 2015 Obama rules. To that end, in March 2023, the Biden administration proposed such a rule. Today, however, long after the public comment period on the Biden plan had closed, the draft rule has yet to be approved by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the last step in finalization.

As a result of the lengthy delay, in late May the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit refused to extend the stay on the litigation and has ordered that briefing begin on July 29th.

“For three years, the Biden administration has been in court defending the Trump rules even as they promise to repeal them,” said PEER Board Chair Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor. “The Obama rule prohibited some barbaric wildlife killing practices on our National Preserves in Alaska, Trump rescinded it, and it is absolutely inexcusable that the Biden administration is dragging its feet restoring the original Obama rule.”

The reasons for the hang-up in the Biden White House are unstated and it is unclear what will happen or when. If the Biden rule is finalized before a 9th Court decision, it would likely make the litigation moot. If the Biden rule remains stuck, the environmentalists will be litigating against the Biden Park Service until there is a final ruling.

While hunting is allowed in park preserves, it is not allowed within National Parks, such as Denali and Glacier Bay. But excessive hunting in the adjacent preserves often depresses wildlife populations within the parks themselves. For example, as a result of trapping and hunting in Denali National Preserve, the ability of tourists in Denali National Park to see wolf packs in the wild, one of the state’s largest tourist attractions, has plummeted.

“Healthy wildlife populations inside Alaska parks are at risk from what happens outside them,” added Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch. “Deferring to state game rules will allow bear and wolf populations to continue to be decimated within park preserves and buffer areas.”


View court order reinstating litigation briefing schedule 

See the 2003 draft Biden rule

Look at wildlife damage inside parks from excessive trapping outside

Revisit wholesale removal of Alaska predators

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