Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule

The Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule helps protect bears, wolves and other iconic carnivores on federal public lands to conserve natural ecosystems that benefit all Americans.

OVERVIEW

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule to protect America’s wildlife heritage by preventing application of Alaska’s aggressive “predator control” policy on federal refuges. The state’s scientifically indefensible predator control program aims to artificially increase populations of deer, caribou and other game species by culling native carnivores through extreme methods that include killing mother bears and cubs, killing wolves and pups in their dens, and trapping, baiting, and using airplanes to scout and shoot bears.

The Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule upholds FWS’s legal mandate to maintain the biological integrity, diversity and environmental health of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The rule ensures that refuge ecosystems are managed in accordance with bedrock federal laws to conserve species and habitats in their natural diversity, while still allowing for traditional and sport hunting.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the only network of federal lands and waters dedicated to wildlife conservation. Administered by FWS, America’s 566 national wildlife refuges protect an astounding array of wildlife while providing millions of Americans access to wildlife-dependent outdoor recreational activities. Opportunities for wildlife watching, hunting, fishing, photography, environmental education and interpretation are a hallmark of the Refuge System.

The State of Alaska is especially important to the Refuge System. Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges conserve more than 76 million acres of habitat, including some of the Refuge System’s most incredible “crown jewels,” like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

While sport and subsistence hunting are an integral part of Alaska’s outdoor heritage, it is imperative that all hunting on public lands abides by federal law and policy to ensure that all wildlife species thrive for the benefit of all Americans. The Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule codifies how refuges in Alaska have been managed for years, with continued support for traditional and subsistence hunting practices.

IMPACTS

Rescinding this rule will prevent FWS from effectively managing for sustainable populations of wolves, bears and other native carnivores on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. The state’s extreme predator control practices, like killing bears over bait and killing wolves and pups in their dens, directly contradict the mission of the Refuge System, threatening to upset the natural ecological balance on millions of acres of public land congressionally reserved for wildlife conservation.

Additionally, the State of Alaska’s intensive predator control policy prioritizes hunting on national wildlife refuges over the other five priority public uses of the Refuge System: wildlife watching, photography, fishing, environmental education and interpretation. FWS is legally required to provide for all priority public uses on these public lands. According to the most recently available data, 9.2 million hunters and anglers visited national wildlife refuges in 2015, while 30.8 million people visited refuges to view wildlife.

It is important to note this rule does not apply to Alaska subsistence hunting and only applies to lands contained within the National Wildlife Refuge System. Rural and Native Alaskans that depend on wildlife resources are unaffected by this rule and may continue to hunt and fish on wildlife refuges in accordance with their cultural traditions and customs.

OPPONENTS

Resolutions to strike the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule were introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate by members of the Alaska delegation. U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Ala.) introduced H. J. Res. 69 in the House, and U.S. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Ala.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) introduced S. J. Res. 18 in the Senate. The delegation has repeatedly targeted this rule to seize increased state control over management of America’s wildlife and public lands to serve narrow state interests. These efforts to void the rule threaten to undermine wildlife conservation on public lands that belong to all Americans, subverting the broad public interest in sustainably managing all species on national wildlife refuges for present and future generations.

CONTACTS

Jenny Keatinge, Defenders of Wildlife, jkeatinge@defenders.org, (202) 772-0270

Keisha Sedlacek, Humane Society Legislative Fund, ksedlacek@hslf.org, (202) 955-3661

RESOURCES

Fact Sheet: Protect Native Carnivores on Federal Lands in Alaska
The Humane Society of the United States: February 3, 2017

Fact Sheet: Oppose CRA Attacks on the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule
Defenders of Wildlife: February 2, 2017

Press Release: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Publishes Final Rule for Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife and Closure Regulations
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: August 3, 2016

Letter: Conserve Alaska’s Wildlife on Its Natural Refuges
Open Letter from 31 Biologists and Scientists: March 28, 2016