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Energy & Environment

State and Feds Continue to Spar over Wildlife Policies

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National Park Service

Fairbanks, AK - The National Park Service released its compendiums for 2013 this week (Monday).  They outline this year’s designations, closures and restrictions for national parks and preserves.   Some of the changes to Alaska’s compendiums this year come in response to state policies regarding predators like wolves and bears.

The National Park Service received more than 59-thousand comments last year as the agency set to work compiling changes and revisions to this year’s rules and regulations regarding Park Service managed land.  John Quinley is the Park Service Spokesman for the Alaska Region. “There were some actions taken by the state board of game extending the wolf hunting and trapping season and coyote season," says Quinley.  "They also in certain areas allowed the baiting of brown bears.  In both of those cases, we have taken actions to dial the season back leaving the wolves unaffected at the den to raise their pups and to stop bear baiting in national preserves.”

Quinely says state policies are not in keeping with the Park Service’s federal mandate.  Doug Vincent Lang is the Director of Alaska’s Division of Wildlife Conservation with the Department of Fish and Game.  He disagrees.  “Congress gave them organic legislation to manage their parks, but we feel that the organic legislation should be viewed through the lens of the subsequent ANILCA legislation that created some of these additional parks and preserves in Alaska and that the default should be the allowance of hunting and fishing as long as it doesn’t affect the conservation of those species.”

ANILCA, or the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was passed by Congress  in 1980.  It designated over 100 million acres of land in the state, to be managed federally by the Park Service, Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Vincent Lang drafted a lengthy letter in opposition to changes in the Park Service Compendiums this year.  He says he doesn’t think the agency adequately responded to the state’s comments. "They readily acknowledges that the restrictions on hunting opportunities are not based on conservation concerns, that is it’s not affecting sustainabilities of wolves, coyotes or bears," says Vincent Lang, "but it’s based on some subjective value system.  We asked for how they quantitatively or even qualitatively reached that assessment and none of that information was provided to us.”

But John Quinley says the Park Service responded as the state advised. “We have asked on numerous occasions that the Board of Game exempt national preserves from some of the wildlife provisions that we feel liberalize hunting and trapping season and methods and means too far," he says.  "They have essentially told us to use our own process which is the compendium process.”

Quinley says both agencies cooperate well on joint research projects, but that direction from Congress and that coming from Alaska’s legislature differ fundamentally.   Doug Vincent Lang says the state will review the compendiums before taking any action.