The Humane Society of the United States applauds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for finalizing a rule prohibiting cruel hunting methods on more than 76 million acres of National Wildlife Refuge lands in Alaska. Effective 30 days from publication, state officials and trophy hunters on National Wildlife Refuge lands will be prohibited from killing hibernating black bear mothers and cubs, shooting wolf or coyote mothers and their pups at den sites, scouting, landing and shooting grizzly bears and trapping bears with cruel steel-jawed leghold traps or snares.

“So many Alaskans are thrilled to know that there will be enhanced protection on national wildlife refuges,” said Michael Haukedalen, Alaska state director for the HSUS. “Alaska’s economy depends on the lure of grizzly bears, wolves and other megafauna and this rule will go a long way toward keeping the living capital in place.”

The National Park Service enacted a similar rule last fall to protect wildlife on more than 20 million acres of National Preserves lands within the state of Alaska. Scientists, wildlife advocates and citizens across the nation offered overwhelming support for the enactment of this new rule.

“These final regulations are a major step toward assuring the American people that our National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska will continue to be administered according to the provisions of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act: To protect natural diversity, ecological processes, biological integrity,” said Francis Mauer, retired wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Alaska-based professor and conservation biologist Richard Steiner added, “Alaska's national wildlife refuges are global treasures. For years, the state of Alaska's backward wildlife management system has seriously degraded wildlife populations on these national interest lands. This new rule goes a long way toward reversing years of mismanagement by the state and in finally protecting these precious national interest lands for all Americans. Many Alaskans are delighted with these long-overdue federal protections.”

Alaska’s inhumane and unsporting predator control practices have been roundly condemned by state and federal wildlife scientists. Alaska residents also indicated in a March 2016 poll their strong support for putting a stop to those killing methods on the state’s national wildlife refuges.

“Inhumane hunting methods have caused the over killing of native Alaskan predators this rule takes a balanced approach allowing for traditional, permit-based hunting,” said Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA). “Congress vested the FWS with the responsibility to manage our wildlife refuges. They intend to protect the necessary diversity of wildlife in our refuges while respecting traditional hunting methods.”

“These inhumane and unsporting practices are appalling and shouldn't be happening in Alaska or anywhere else in the United States. It's past time for action,” said U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). “Today's decision by Fish and Wildlife Service is an important step toward ending these practices once and for all.”

Alaska’s native wildlife provides a tremendous economic draw to the state. Wildlife watchers who visit Alaska’s national parks and preserves, such as Denali, contribute more than $2 billion each year toward these activities and in its 2016 economic report, the National Park Service reported that visitors poured an estimated $1.2 billion into local economies when visiting its lands in Alaska. This rule would ensure that this money continues to contribute to Alaska’s economy in these ways.

However, some members of Congress are attempting to block these rules. Alaska lawmakers have attached amendments to a number of bills to undo the rule-making actions by the FWS and NPS rules, grounding their argument on false arguments about the relationship between state wildlife management authority and the authority of the federal government under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. ANILCA does not deprive the federal government of its authority to protect wildlife on national wildlife refuges and national parks and preserves when it comes to non-subsistence hunting.

Members of the House and Senate should reject these overreaching riders and should instead support the actions of professional federal wildlife managers to establish some baseline protections for grizzly bears, wolves and other predators on federal lands in Alaska.

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