Thursday, August 4, 2016

Obama bans Palin-pushed wolf hunting from helicopters

By John Siciliano 8/3/16 
The Obama administration is banning sport hunting of bears and wolves on federal lands in Alaska's outback in an effort to stop what it calls the unethical practices of the state's game board, practices that former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has touted.

The Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday approved the regulations that ban hunting in Alaska's national wildlife refuges without express permission from Washington and without proving it would serve a vital role in the conservation of the species.

"In the name of hunters and hunting, [the Alaska Board of Game] have approved shooting of brown and grizzly bears over bait; shooting mother bears with cubs, and even the cubs themselves; targeting bears and wolves from planes; and killing wolves and wolf pups in their dens," said Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe in a blog post.

The practices he is referring to are those that Palin, a former Alaska governor, has touted in support of maintaining the caribou and moose herds that rural Alaskans depend on as a food source. She was criticized by conservation groups and Democrats for supporting the hunting and shooting of wolves from helicopters.

"This is not sportsmanship," Ashe said. "It is purportedly aimed at increasing populations of caribou and moose but defies modern science of predator-prey relationships. And finally, it is inconsistent with the laws guiding management of our National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska."

He added that the practices are "wholly at odds with America's long tradition of ethical, sportsmanlike, fair-chase hunting, in something they call 'intensive predator management.'"

The regulations come in response to what Ashe called a persistent movement in the nation to give states ultimate authority over federal lands, alluding to a clause in the Republican Party's national platform that was approved in Cleveland last month.

"Special interest groups are quietly working at the federal and state level to lay the groundwork for federally managed lands to be handed over wholesale to state or even private ownership," he said. "Others have sought to erode federal management authority piecemeal, dealing death by a thousand cuts.
"Unfortunately, without the protections of federal law and the public engagement it ensures, this heritage is incredibly vulnerable," he said.

The new rules "clarify that predator control is not allowed on national wildlife refuges in the state unless based on sound science and in response to a conservation concern or is necessary to meet refuge purposes, federal laws or [Fish and Wildlife Service] policy," the agency said. "In addition, the rule defines the process that will be used for considering predator control, prohibits certain methods and means for non-subsistence harvest of predators, and updates the procedures for closing an area or restricting an activity on refuges in Alaska."

The wildlife agency proposed the ban in January for a 90-day public comment that ended in April. Wednesday's action makes the rule final.

Ashe said the rule supports subsistence hunting by indigenous tribes and residents of rural Alaska. "The service manages these refuges to conserve species and preserve biodiversity and environmental health for the continuing benefit of present and future generations of all Americans, while balancing the need to provide sport and subsistence hunting opportunities," he said. "Consistent with existing law and agency policy, sustainable harvest of fish and wildlife, including predators, remains a priority public use on national wildlife refuges in Alaska."

source