Congress Approves Killing Hibernating Bears and Denned Wolves- Truth! & Misleading!
Summary of eRumor:
The House of Representatives and the Senate have approved legislation that would role back federal protections that prohibit the killing of hibernating bears and denned wolves.
By late March 2017, both chambers of Congress had approved H.J. Res. 69, a measure that would rollback federal protections for bears, wolves and other predators on national preserves in Alaska. Critics of the bill argue that Congress had approved the killing of hibernating bears and denned wolves — but it’s not quite that simple.
GOP Congressman Don Young of Alaska, who introduced H.J. Res. 69, was asked during a committee hearing in February 2017 if H.J. Res. 69 would allow for the killing of wolf pups in their den, Young responded, “It would probably not happen because the state has not done that.” He appeared to suggest that even without federal protections, the state of Alaska has not allowed for the denned killing of wolves and bears on national preserves.
Critics of the bill, including the Human Society, have pushed back against Young’s claims, arguing, “In addition to making a phony states’ rights argument, Young and his allies argued that denning and land-and-shoot hunting don’t occur. If that’s true, why were they concerned about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule? If it was only cosmetic, do they want to take up the finite time the U.S. Congress has to try to make rhetorical points?”
The debate circles back to whether a 1980 agreement gives Alaska or the federal government authority to manage wildlife in the 17 million acres of national preserve lands located inside Alaska. The debate was brought on by a a rule published in the Federal Register by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in August 2016.
The rule, which applied to national preserves in Alaska and not state lands, required that Alaska’s Board of Game Management (BOG) use a “natural diversity” approach to wild life management that prioritizes “the existence of all fish, wildlife, and plant populations within a particular wildlife refuge system unit in the natural mix and in a healthy condition for the long-term benefit of current and future generations.” In doing so, the BOG would be prohibited from using animal population management practices that favor one species of animals over another.
The rule was published in response to what’s known as Alaska’s Intensive Management “IM” statute, which directs the BOG to adopt regulations that promote “abundance or productivity” of favored big game populations like caribou and moose — often by harvesting the natural predators of those big game populations through “intensive management” practices:
The BOG has adopted regulations under the IM statute that require targeted reductions of wolf, black bear, brown bear, or a combination of these in designated “predation control areas” within game management units. These State regulations are implemented through IM plans that authorize activities including aerial shooting of wolves or bears or both by State agency personnel, trapping of wolves by paid contractors, allowance under permit for same-day airborne hunting of wolves and bears by the public, and allowance under permit for the take of any black or brown bear through baiting or snaring by the public.
The FWS rule prohibited such predator control on national refugees in Alaska, “unless it is determined necessary to meet refuge purposes; is consistent with Federal laws and policy; and is based on sound science in response to a conservation concern. Demands for more wildlife for human harvest cannot be the sole or primary basis for predator control.”
Alaska officials pushed back on the federal regulations, filing a lawsuit in federal court that argued the rule had violated the state’s rights in January 2017, according to a press release from Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s office:
In addition to affecting how and when hunters can hunt, these regulations impair the State’s ability to manage wildlife resources in the future. “There is no question that hunting is allowed on Alaska’s national preserves and wildlife refuges,” said Sam Cotton, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “To preserve the ability to hunt for future generations, state officials need the flexibility to manage wildlife populations. These regulations remove that flexibility.”
The complaint filed by the State asserts that the federal regulations unlawfully preempt the State’s authority to manage wildlife resources and adversely affect subsistence and non-subsistence hunting rights protected under federal laws. The complaint seeks to overturn the regulations and ensure that state hunting laws are applied on federal land in Alaska.
Additionally, Young filed H.J. Res. 69 under the Congressional Review Act of 1996, which outlines a process for Congress to repeal recent government regulations with approval from both chambers of Congress and the president’s signature. In introducing the bill, Young explained:
“There’s no question, the Fish and Wildlife Service rule – which lays claim to more than 20 percent of our state – violates ANILCA and the Alaska Statehood Compact,” said Congressman Don Young. “Not only does this action undermine Alaska’s ability to manage fish and wildlife upon refuge lands, it fundamentally destroys a cooperative relationship between Alaska and the federal government. I continue to fight to protect Alaska’s sovereignty and management authority and will use every tool at my discretion to strike this rule.”
If President Trump signs H.J. Res. 69 into law, the FWS rule would be repealed. Does that mean that hunters would be able to kill hibernating bears and denned wolves? Young argues that the state has not allowed that on preserve lands in the past — but the state would be allowed to authorize it in the future if H.J. Res. 69 were to pass. That’s why we’re calling this one “truth” and “misleading.”