Ptarmigan Tracks

The Newsletter of Camp Denali,
North Face Lodge & Parkside Guest House

Online Version 2014

Unbearable Hunting Practices

Unlike any national park in the Lower 48, sport hunting is allowed throughout 20 million acres of National Park Service land in Alaska. How come? Because of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act's (ANILCA) creation of "national preserves." As ANILCA transformed the map of Alaska into shades of green, one of many compromises made with Alaskans was the allowance of traditional sport hunting on preserves.

The rub is that the State of Alaska’s wildlife policies have been at odds with national parks' policies. The State manages wildlife for "sustained yield," defined as “the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of the ability to support a high level of human harvest of game.” But national parks exist for the protection of wildlife. Manipulation of wildlife is expressly prohibited in parks and preserves.

This philosophical difference was rather peaceful until the State adopted an “intensive management” policy in 1994. Intensive management aims to boost moose and caribou populations for human consumption largely by waging war against predators: brown and black bears, wolves and coyotes.

Recently liberalized hunting techniques have included baiting of brown bears with anything from jelly donuts to bacon grease, spotlighting of sows and subs in their dens to lure them out of hibernation, and extending the season and bag limits for wolves and coyotes during their denning season. What was a five-per-season limit for wolves, in parts of Katmai and Lake Clark National Preserves, is now 10 per day.

For years, the State Board of Game has ignored NPS requests to exempt national preserves from such aggressive predator hunting policies. Year by year, the NPS has put temporary bans on such practices. Now, with the State’s urging, the NPS has proposed a permanent federal ban. While we fully support the ban, it shortsightedly omits black bears from the prohibition on bear baiting.

Alaska's national preserves belong to all of us. Proposed regulations are open for public comment through December 3rd. Follow the issue with the Alaska Regional Office of the NPS, National Parks Conservation Association, and Denali Citizens Council.

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