Alaskan Refuge Moose Hunting Cabin Draws Scrutiny
Phony Claim of Scientific Research Masks Violations to Benefit Manager’s Cronies
Washington, DC — A cabin was built in a remote corner of an Alaskan wildlife refuge as a base to support private moose hunting by friends of the refuge manager, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The cabin cost taxpayers approximately $50,000 with a 22-mile trail whose construction entailed felling an unknown number of trees.
The complaint asks the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Interior to investigate the legality of cabin construction in the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge on the shores of Stuver Lake. Refuge Manager Shawn Bayless authorized construction of the cabin for the stated purpose of scientific research, but, in reality, its intended use is housing private guests during moose hunting trips.
The refuge already had four other cabins located on lakes. The Refuge Manager claimed that this fifth cabin was needed to further research about lynx on the refuge. However, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from PEER, the refuge was unable to produce any documents supporting any linkage to lynx or explaining why this particular location, out of the refuge’s total of 682,604 acres, had any connection to lynx. Further, the refuge’s own rules for scientific research stipulate that “Construction of cabins or other permanent structures is prohibited.”
While the cabin was used by private individuals as a base for moose hunting, the refuge described it as an “administrative field camp” which, by its rules, may only be used by the public for “emergency use.”
“We have all heard of the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ but now we have the ‘Cabin in Nowhere,’” remarked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the refuge disputes the representation that a trail was routed to the cabin, claiming that it is “an unimproved, marked route” but does not dispute that trees were cut down to clear a route exceeding twenty miles.
Besides ignoring the public notice and consultation requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, the cabin appears to flout refuge-specific laws designed to minimize human intrusion. Even if justified as an “administrative field camp” its use is limited to “refuge staff or other authorized personnel for administration of the refuge” – but no such use is identified.
“Using tax dollars to build a playground for good old boy buddies of the refuge manager should not be tolerated,” added Ruch. “Nor should we ignore an illegal construction project on wilderness-eligible lands of a national wildlife refuge.”
Besides the legality of the cabin and trail, PEER is also asking the inspector general to determine whether the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials in the Alaska Regional office were derelict in their oversight responsibilities.