The state of Alaska’s toolkit for increasing moose and caribou numbers includes killing wolf pups in dens, shooting wolf packs from helicopters, and adopting liberal hunting regulations that allow sportsmen to shoot grizzlies over bait.
But when state officials wanted to extend “predator control” to federal wildlife refuges, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said no. And after years of saying no, the agency late last year adopted a rule to make the denial permanent.
Alaska’s elected officials called that an outrage and an infringement on state rights. The dispute reached the White House.
President Donald Trump on Monday signed a resolution approved by the U.S. House and Senate to revoke a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule banning most predator control on Alaska refuges. Alaska’s lone U.S. representative, Republican Don Young, says Alaska was promised it could manage game animals. Refuge overseers have ignored the law, he said.
“Some of you will say, ‘Oh, we have to protect the wolf puppies,’” Young told colleagues on the floor of the House. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the law.”
Congress explicitly gave Alaska authority to manage wildlife in the Alaska Statehood Act and two more laws, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said after voting to revoke the rule.
Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges cover about 120,000 square miles (310,800 sq. kilometers), an area slightly smaller than the state of New Mexico. Residents of rural villages living a subsistence lifestyle rely on refuges as hunting grounds. So do urban sportsmen.
Critics contend Alaska officials use unsportsmanlike techniques that would have horrified Teddy Roosevelt, creator of the first federal refuge, to boost moose and caribou numbers. Sportsmanship, however, is not a consideration, according to state authorities, when it comes to surgically removing certain numbers of predators to benefit prey populations.