I have often criticized the Trump Administration for its environmental policies from blocking climate control measures to rolling back on pollution regulations to developing pristine natural areas. The most recent change in hunting rules in Alaska however are truly disgusting. The Administration is finalizing rules to allow hunters in Alaska’s national preserves to shoot not just bears and wolves but their cubs and pups in their dens. The policy change is horrific for many of us who cherish the environment and particularly the Alaskan parks and preserves.
We discussed this rule change that has been denounced by many of us. The rule is about to be finalized. It would reverse regulations put into place by the the Obama Administration, which barred controversial hunting practices. The regulations sought to protect the predator population and the balance of the ecosytem. We have discussed terrible losses of historic wolf populations and other predators in Alaska. We recently discussed a case where a father and son killed a hibernating bear and her cubs in Alaska.
Under the rule, hunters will be able to go into national parks in Alaska and engage some of the worst hunting practices like luring bears with donuts, shooting swimming caribou from boats, killing animals from airplanes and snowmobiles, and using lights to flush out mother wolves and their pups from dens.
Such practices have devastated the wolf population and other predators, which environmentalists have long charged is the true purpose to increase the number of game animals for hunters. The killing of these predators throws off the ecosystem and does great harm to our national parks. Nevertheless, in 2018, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered fish and wildlife management on federal land “should defer to states” on such hunting practices.
As many of you know, I love Alaska and our national parks (You can search Denali or Alaska to see some of the pictures like this one from past hiking trips). I have seen the devastation of our park populations and ecosystems to hunting and climate change. It is painful to discuss with rangers who have committed their lives to these incredible places. This is money not science talking.
Nevertheless, politicians like Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, praised the return of effective control to state authorities while hunting tourism company cheered the move.
One of the greatest moments of my life as a young congressional page was witnessing the key vote that would ultimately established The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), an act doubling the size of the National Park System with 157,000,000 acres of land, including Denali National Park (one of the crown jewels of our system). It was opposed by the Alaskan delegation even though the move stopped destructive development that has now helped preserve eco-tourism, a major source of income for the state. I stood and watched Mo Udall push through the legislation and became a lifelong fan (I later went to Arizona to work for Udall when he was targeted by the first political action committee for defeat over his environmental efforts).
I am truly appalled by this action by the Trump Administration and the Alaskan delegation. The national parks and preserves continue to be a major draw for tourists to the state. There is ample hunting opportunities in the state. These areas are part of the natural wonders that belong to the nation. It will not just be these predator population who will be devastated by this thoughtless measure but future generations.