Barbaric Hunting Practices on Alaska Preserves Okayed

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Tuesday, July 2, 2024
Rick Steiner (907) 360-4503
Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028


Barbaric Hunting Practices on Alaska Preserves Okayed

Trump Repeal of Wildlife Protections in “Sport” Hunting Left Largely Intact


Washington, DC A Biden administration pledge to restore an Obama-era ban against predator control in vast Alaskan national park preserves has been mostly shelved, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead, the National Park Service (NPS) is ordering an end to hunting bears with bait but is allowing other questionable practices, such as killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens, to continue for the foreseeable future. 

In 2015, President Obama ordered an end to an array of controversial and inhumane hunting and trapping techniques across more than 22 million acres of NPS-administered lands in Alaska. In 2020, President Trump rescinded that ban, a move later invalidated in federal court. However, at the urging of Biden’s Justice Department, the court stayed the litigation, leaving the Trump rule in place on the grounds that the Biden NPS was working to promulgate a new rule. 

The Biden proposed revision unveiled in 2023 would have substantially restored the Obama rule, but this week the NPS announced a final rule that only prohibits bear baiting and still permits – 

  • the killing of wolves and coyotes, including pups, during the denning season; 
  • the use of dogs to hunt black bears and the use of artificial lights at den sites to kill black bears, including cubs and sows with cubs; and 
  • the killing of swimming caribou, including from a motorboat. 

“Killing cubs and pups in their dens does not fall within any definition of ‘sport hunting,’” stated PEER Board Chair Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor, pointing to a joint letter from more than 70 wildlife experts. “Allowing the eradication of predators flies in of the Park Service’s statutory mandate to preserve intact ecosystems on these lands.” 

In its final rule, NPS concedes “the remaining listed practices are generally not appropriate under the NPS management framework” but that “Concerns with the other practices do not carry the same degree of urgency.” The agency offered this less-than illuminating explanation: 

“The NPS decided not to incorporate the provision from NPS Management Policies regarding predator control into the regulatory text of this final rule. The NPS determined it is not necessary at this time…[but] may reconsider whether this policy statement should be incorporated into regulatory provisions in the future.” 

“While the ban on bear baiting is an improvement, it is hard to endorse an action that is only partially principled,” added Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch. “Left unanswered is precisely why the Biden administration suddenly jettisoned most of what it had promised just one year earlier.” 

In addition, the lawsuit challenging the Trump reversal has resumed this month. Given the very limited scope of the new Biden rule, NPS may soon face the same legal battle it has been avoiding if the litigants decide to continue pursuing their original case. 


See the limited Alaska hunting rule just adopted 

Compare what the Biden administration proposed in 2023 

Read letter from 71 biologists explaining why Obama rule should be restored

See letter from former Alaska Governor Tony Knowle

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