Interior lifts hunting restrictions on Alaska preserves

The Department of the Interior announced last week that it would amend regulations regarding hunting and trapping in Alaska’s national preserves by allowing some harvest methods that were prohibited by rule in 2015.

The final rule, to be published in full later this week, removes restrictions on harvest methods and seasons to “more closely align hunting and trapping regulations with those established by the state of Alaska by providing more consistency with harvest regulations between federal and surrounding nonfederal lands and waters,” said National Park Service Acting Director David Vela in a press release. National preserves, which encompass more than 20 million acres across the state, are managed by the National Park service, but allow hunting, unlike most national parks.

Once the new rule goes into effect, hunters and trappers will be able to use a broader suite of methods and seasons to harvest game on the ten national preserves throughout Alaska. Hunters and trappers will continue to follow licensing, permit, and bag limits set by the state.

Methods now permitted by this rule change include using bait to attract bears (Ursus spp.), hunting black bears with dogs, and taking wolves (Canis lupus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) during the denning season.

These practices were prohibited in Alaskan national preserves in 2015, despite being allowed by the state wildlife agency on other public and private lands in Alaska. The following year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposed similar prohibitions on sixteen National Wildlife Refuges in the state. The USFWS prohibition was overturned by Congress in 2017, making use of the Congressional Review Act, which allow lawmakers to more easily reverse recently-passed regulations.

This week’s rule was first proposed in 2018, in part to implement two secretarial orders. Secretarial Order 3347, signed in 2017, directs the Interior Department to increase access to hunting and fishing opportunities and improve cooperation and communication with state wildlife managers. Secretarial Order 3356, also signed in 2017, directs the National Park Service to modify their regulations related to predator management, hunting seasons and methods of take permitted to better align with the corresponding programs, seasons and methods established by state wildlife management agencies.

Header Image: A new rule would remove restrictions on predator management across Alaska’s national preserves.
Credit: Cheryl Strahl