Refuge hunting regs challenged by state

Jan 9, 2020


The battle between the state and federal government over hunting regulations on federal lands continues.
Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Hunting regulations put in place on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge three years ago are at the center of a new lawsuit filed by the state of Alaska.

After a lengthy and sometimes contentious public process in 2015, the “Kenai Rule” was approved that prohibited certain state-authorized activities within the Refuge, including hunting brown bears with bait, and discharging firearms near the Kenai and Russian Rivers, among others. Nicole Schmitt is executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, which is also named in the lawsuit.

“Ultimately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is mandated by Congress to manage wildlife on national wildlife refuges for natural diversity and that includes maintaining healthy populations of predators. The state, through these measures, is trying to manage predators on federal land to scarcity, which runs contrary to the ultimate goal of managing wildlife in its natural diversity.”

The state claims in its suit that those rules “infringe on Alaska’s constitutional obligation to its citizens to provide a sustainable yield of state wildlife resources.” In this case, the resource is moose. Supporters of those expanded hunting opportunities say predator control is necessary to help restore the central peninsula’s moose population. Opponents say loss of habitat, not predators, is responsible for dwindling numbers of harvestable moose. 

The state is asking the courts to overturn the Kenai Rule, and order the refuge to comply with state hunting regulations. If it sounds like another case of the State of Alaska fighting what it considers federal overreach, that’s not far off.

“The National Park Service and (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service do allow the state to manage wildlife on federal lands, except for when the state’s actions undermine the protection of healthy populations of all native wildlife.” 

The state is charging that the federal regulations weren’t adopted for conservation, but rather the rules were put in place to impose subjective views “ethical” hunting activities.