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Feds say predator control not allowed on national wildlife refuges in Alaska

Published: Aug. 3, 2016 at 1:22 PM AKDT
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule on Wednesday that says predator control is not allowed on national wildlife refuges in Alaska, more than 73 million acres of land.

There are some exceptions though.

Predator control – which often means the killing of wolves in order to boost moose populations – may still be allowed on national wildlife refuges in Alaska if the Fish and Wildlife Service considers the effort based on sound science and in response to a conservation concern.

“Alaska’s national wildlife refuges are incredible landscapes with wildlife populations that support subsistence, traditional and recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing,” said director Dan Ashe.

The state of Alaska regulates general hunting and trapping of wildlife, including on national wildlife refuges.

“Whenever possible, we prefer to defer to the state of Alaska on regulation of general hunting and trapping of wildlife on national wildlife refuges unless by doing so we are out of compliance with federal law and policy,” Ashe said. “This regulation ensures we comply with our mandates and obligations.”

The National Park Service enacted a similar rule last fall to protect wildlife on more than 20 million acres of national preserves in Alaska.

Andrea Medeiros, a spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife Service, said the rule was published as a proposed regulation and open for public comment between Jan. 8 and April 7. It goes into effect 30 days from its publication in the Federal Register.

Medeiros said the rule is a response to stepped up predator control by the Alaska Board of Game.

Bruce Dale, director of the state division of wildlife conservation, said Alaska is doing less predator control now than it has in the past.

"We have just as many programs but fewer predators are being taken," because the efforts has been effective, Dale said.

Dale was critical of the Fish and Wildlife Service's new rule.

"It's just further erosion of the state's management authority of fish and game. And it's Fish and Wildlife siding with outside interests," he said.

The Humane Society of the United States said it was pleased with the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision.

“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 Humane Society. “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.”