State Takes Issue with Federal Hearings on Predator Sport Hunts
Fairbanks, AK - A state commission is taking issue with the number of public hearings scheduled by the National Park Service on proposed regulations that would block some state sport hunts for bears, wolves and coyotes in several national preserves. Citizen’s Advisory Commission on Federal Areas executive Director Stan Leaphart says single site hearings like the one scheduled for tonight at Denali’s Murie Science Center, don’t provide adequate opportunity for public input in effected rural communities.
"You have three resident zone communities on the west side of the park that aren’t really conveniently located in proximity to that meeting area," he says, "so it’s gonna be real difficult for folks in those communities to participate in this, and people are much more likely to go to a public meeting and express their concerns than they are to sit down and write a letter.”
Leaphart says the public hearing access situation is similar for hunters who live outside other effected preserves, including Yukon Charley, Gates of the Arctic, Wrangle St. Elias, Lake Clark and 3 in western Alaska. The park service has proposed continued or new bans on state game board approved hunts, including bear baiting in the preserves. Leaphart voiced his concern about the hearings and the broader issue of the park service overriding state hunting regulations, in a letter to National Park Services Regional Supervisor. N.P.S. spokesman John Quinley says the public has plenty of opportunity to weigh in on the proposals. "These public hearings are the first step in a process that may lead to the implementation of restrictions that may end up in what we call the annual superintendents compendium," says Quinley, "So people have an opportunity to comment both at these meetings, on line, in writing, and then on whatever the final package includes.”
Quinley says input from public hearings will be used to draft specific language banning the state hunts on preserve lands that will be included in the compendium which is scheduled to be released in mid January. Leaphart says it would be better if public hearings were also held after the actual regulation language comes out.