SCI Needs Your Help – USFWS Proposes Troubling New Rules for Alaska Wildlife Refuges

alaskafirstforhunters

firstforhuntersbearandmountainsOn January 8, 2016, the FWS published proposed changes to the rules that apply to hunting and wildlife management on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska. Among other things, these proposed regulations attempt to make “natural and biological diversity” a chief consideration in the management of refuge wildlife and the authorization of recreational and subsistence hunting opportunities on federal refuge lands in Alaska. The FWS has already relied on this consideration to justify its decision to prohibit the State of Alaska from preventing a wolf population from decimating the caribou living on Unimak Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The proposed rule changes fail to recognize the role the state plays in wildlife management and the provision of hunting opportunities on state and federal lands in Alaska. The modifications also unrealistically characterize the management of wildlife on refuge lands as if it can be carried out in isolation, without having an impact on the health of wildlife and hunting opportunities on adjoining state and private lands.

The proposed rule changes also modify the procedures for closing refuge lands to hunting, including by lengthening the time that an area can be closed and limiting the public’s ability to provide input about decisions to close such areas.

In addition, the new rules appear to have been designed to limit the public’s ability to voice their opposition to these changes. Although the FWS has provided a 60-day comment period, that period closes before Alaska Federal Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) and the Alaska Board of Game (BOG) hold their upcoming, previously scheduled meetings. The RACs and BOG are local and state bodies whose primary purposes are to give a voice to the hunting public and to establish hunting opportunities and regulations. The FWS must give these entities an opportunity after their meetings to provide meaningful comments on these ill-conceived and harmful rule changes. For this reason, SCI will soon be asking the FWS to extend the public comment period.

The FWS plans to hold several open houses/public hearings in Alaska over the next few weeks. If you are in Alaska and/or plan to visit Alaska in January, February or March, please consider attending one of these open houses/public hearings:

 

Date:                          Location:                    Open House:                         Public Hearing:

 

January 26, 2016        Kotzebue, Alaska       1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.            2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

January 27, 2016        Kodiak, Alaska           4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.            5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

February 8, 2016        Bethel, Alaska             4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.            5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

February 10, 2016      Fairbanks, Alaska       5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.            6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

February 11, 2016      Tok, Alaska                5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.            6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

February 16, 2016      Soldotna, Alaska         4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.            5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

February 18, 2016      Anchorage, Alaska      4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.            5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

March 1, 2016            Dillingham, Alaska      4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.            5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

March 3, 2016            Galena, Alaska            1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.            2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

 

Over the next few weeks, SCI will be preparing detailed comments to address the substantive problems with these rules. We will also provide SCI members with talking points to help members draft and submit their own oral or written comments.

To help SCI’s legal team assess the impact of these rules on SCI’s membership, we need your input. If you are an SCI member (whether or not you are an Alaska resident) who has hunted or plans to hunt in a National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, please provide your contact information and a brief description of your past or future hunting experiences in National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska to Anna Seidman, Director of Litigation, at aseidman@safariclub.org.

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