Press Release May 21, 2018

Shameful: Interior Wages War on Alaska’s Bears and Wolves

“It is shameful for Interior Secretary Zinke to endorse a war on bears and wolves in Alaska’s national preserves." -- Theresa Pierno

WASHINGTON – The Department of Interior, under the leadership of Secretary Ryan Zinke, is proposing a shocking reversal of commonsense wildlife management regulations in Alaska, implemented in 2015 after an extensive, multi-year public engagement process.

If implemented, Alaska’s Department of Interior-managed lands, including national parks and preserves, would once again allow these egregious hunting practices, among many others:

  • Use of bait (donuts, grease-soaked bread, etc.) to hunt brown bears;
  • Use of artificial light to enter dens to kill black bears, including females and their cubs; and
  • Trapping wolves during denning season.

The Park Service plan proposed today would disregard the limits on these unsportsmanlike hunting methods. The plan was released with a 60-day comment period but without plans for public meetings or other community engagement.

Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association

“It is shameful for Interior Secretary Zinke to endorse a war on bears and wolves in Alaska’s national preserves. These are the very places where people travel from around the world, in hopes of seeing these iconic animals in their natural habitat.

“If the Administration has its way, it will be perfectly legal for sport hunters to lure bears with greased donut bait piles to kill them. Or to crawl into bear dens to kill hibernating females and their cubs. This activity is cruel and has no place on America’s national park lands.

“This new proposal ignores the years of careful consideration, taxpayer dollars and thousands of people who already spoke up in support of bears and wolves on national park land in Alaska. More than 70,000 Americans previously said ‘no’ to baiting bears with grease-soaked donuts in Denali. They said ‘no’ to sport hunters crawling into bears’ dens and using flashlights to wake and kill mother bears and their cubs on lands managed by the National Park Service. And, after 26 public meetings and an extensive public process, the Park Service too said “no” on their behalf.

“Secretary Zinke recently made headlines by his vow to make a ‘grand pivot’ to conservation. Forcing the hand of the Park Service to return to a war on wildlife on lands it manages in Alaska is about as far from a positive pivot point as one can get. As a nearly 100-year old organization with ‘conservation’ in our name, we would be happy to work with the department to ensure our national parks are safe havens for the bears, wolves and wildlife that call places like Katmai and Denali home.”

Additional Background:

The 2015 regulations grew out of a conflict between the National Park Service and state of Alaska policies. In Alaska, predator control hunting strategies aim at reducing bear and wolf populations to allow moose and caribou populations to increase — for greater sport hunting opportunities. Such approaches are at odds with bedrock wildlife management regulations for lands managed by the National Park Service. After more than a decade of trying to work with the State of Alaska’s Board of Game to no avail, the Park Service finalized commonsense regulations in 2015 to specifically protect bears, wolves and other wildlife on national preserves from state predator control regulations.

Last July, however, the Department of Interior issued a memo directing the National Park Service to reconsider the 2015 regulations.. The memo called on the Park Service to examine “prohibitions that directly contradict State of Alaska authorizations and wildlife management decisions…for sport hunting and commercial trapping on National Park Service lands.”

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About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.