National Park Service proposes changes to hunting regulations for national preserves

The national park service proposed re-introducing bans on certain hunting practices.
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 5:39 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The National Park Service (NPS) has proposed changes to regulations surrounding certain sport hunting practices that are currently allowed in national preserves in Alaska, including where and how hunters can take their game.

The proposed changes include prohibiting taking a big game animal while it swimming, taking wildlife from a motorboat, taking wolves and coyotes during their denning period, and taking cubs or female bears with cubs. The proposal would also prohibit bear baiting which is a method of attracting bears to a specific site via a food based lure. Predator control or reduction would also be prohibited, meaning that activities or management actions that involve efforts to reduce predator populations would not be allowed. The proposal also adds a revision of the definition of trapping in the federal regulations.

Peter Christian, the chief spokesperson for the NPS in Alaska said these changes would only impact sport hunting and “would not affect subsistence hunters” who use national preserves as a hunting ground for subsistence hunting practices as defined by federal law.

The prosed changes are part of ongoing litigation surrounding hunting practices on national preserves in Alaska. “Things were fine until around 2015 when the state began authorizing hunting practices in national preserves that sort of ran counter to what we consider to be sporting practices,” Christian said.

The litigation issues began in 2015 after the NPS responded by enacting a separate set of regulations for national preserves in Alaska. When the NPS made the regulation changes, multiple lawsuits arose and eventually in 2020, new regulations were made that Christian said “repealed all of [the prior] hunting bans and reauthorized them on park service lands.”

The new proposal is the result of NPS reassessing the 2020 regulations. Christian said they “found that these were just simply not compatible with the NPS Organic Act and the park purposes.”

The NPS Organic Act of 1916 helped create the national parks system with the goal of conserving scenery, along with natural and historic objects and wildlife in an effort to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy them.

Another reason for the new proposal stems from safety concerns. The NPS worries that bear baiting will lead to bears seeking out food from people, making them overly comfortable and aggressive around humans. This raises safety issues for people that do not use the land for hunting.

The new proposals are open for public comment which can be viewed at the NPS website.