Trump Puts Predator Control Back In Hands of the States

Trump Puts Predator Control Back In Hands of the States

Who gets to manage wildlife on national wildlife refuges? Thanks to House Joint Resolution 69, the states do. President Donald Trump signed the resolution in April. It nullified the Obama administration's Alaska National Wildlife Refuge Rule, which placed predator management on Alaska's national wildlife refuges in the hands of federal officials. The refuge rule, adopted in 2016, essentially stripped Alaska Fish and Game of its authority to manage wildlife on national wildlife refuges. Although those refuges are controlled by the federal government, individual states manage the wildlife within them.

Predictably, groups like the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife protested HJ Resolution 69. A representative of the Center for Biological Diversity told the Huffington Post, it was "yet another extremist assault on the environment." Not exactly, said Sportsmen's Alliance spokesman Brian Lynn.

"The federal government does not manage wildlife beyond the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," Lynn said. "The Obama administration's ruling essentially redefined predator management and took it away from the state. Wildlife managers with other state agencies were very concerned about the refuge rule. So were a number of conservation groups. This was a complete anomaly, and it set a dangerous precedent. On top of that, Alaska has three separate federal statutes that protect its right to manage the wildlife inside its borders."

Illustration by: Sean Delonas


Generally, hunting rules and regulations for resident game species on federal refuges are set or dictated by state wildlife agencies. Wildlife Management Institute President Steve Williams said state and federal managers do disagree about hunting on refuges at times, but they typically work out those differences. The Alaska ruling, however, was a sweeping overreach that would have taken predator management on some of the state's 16 refuges away from Alaska Fish and Game and turned it over to federal biologists.


"Basically, the state thought wolves and bears need to be managed better, and the Fish and Wildlife Service thought the state was inconsistent in its management efforts," Williams said. Williams served as the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under George W. Bush. "The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge ruling created this fear among many state wildlife agencies that management on refuges all over could be taken over by the feds, giving each administration the opportunity to change the rules as they see fit."


Williams can't say what the Obama administration's motives were. It's entirely possible Fish and Wildlife Service biologists were genuinely concerned about the overharvest of wolves and bears. But the last-minute addition of the refuge rule by Obama was certainly questionable.

"It's pretty well established that wolves and bears have taken a pretty heavy toll on caribou and moose in parts of Alaska," Williams said. "Both are important for subsistence and recreational hunters alike, so, I'm not sure what the Service was thinking when it agreed to the rule."

In all, Alaska's 16 refuges cover more than 76 million acres, about 18 percent of the entire state. Arctic NWR, the largest in the state and the country, is 19.3 million acres. It's located in a region where subsistence hunting is vital and recreational hunting is popular. A continued decline in caribou and moose numbers could have a significant impact on residents and businesses in and near the refuge.


Lynn thinks there could have been an anti-hunting element at play. Wolf and bear management activities in particular are a popular target for anti-hunting groups, so it's not out of the question that Obama sought to appease those organizations on his way out.

"I think in some ways it [Alaska National Wildlife Refuge Rule] reflected the Obama administration's attitude about hunting and wildlife management in general," Lynn said.

The Sportsmen's Alliance along with Safari Club International and the Alaska Professional Hunters Association filed suit last year to overturn the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge Rule. The suit was dropped after President Trump nullified the refuge rule.


Recommended for You

Pass on your passion and make hunting fun for children with these tips! How-To

How to Make Hunting Fun for Kids

Jeff Johnston

Pass on your passion and make hunting fun for children with these tips!

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians. News

The Ticks Making Hunters Allergic to Meat

David Hart

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians.

Use these steps to accurately estimate a bruin's size. North America Big Game

How to Field Judge Bears

Jospeh Von Benedikt

Use these steps to accurately estimate a bruin's size.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 12: High Plains Elk

David Draper teams up with Fred Eichler to hunt elk on the high plains of southern Colorado.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 7: Beginner's Luck

Host Kali Parmley takes first-time hunter Danae Hale of CZ-USA to Wyoming for a mule deer hunt. After covering all the basics with Danae, the girls head into the field and what happens next goes way beyond either of their expectations!

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 8: Midnight Sun Grizzlies

Kevin Steele and CZ-USA's Jason Morton return to Alaska's arctic tundra for Kevin's second and Jason's third attempt on the legendary species. Things are looking up on day one but time will tell if the boys will get a shot a the king of the tundra.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

From trajectory to penetration to recoil, we evaluate this cartridge for the big-game use case. Ammo

Is the .308 the Perfect North American Big Game Cartridge?

Richard Mann

From trajectory to penetration to recoil, we evaluate this cartridge for the big-game use...

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians. News

The Ticks Making Hunters Allergic to Meat

David Hart

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians.

Perfection takes practice, a little skill and the understanding that not all steaks are created equal. Recipes

How to Properly Grill Venison Steak

Hank Shaw

Perfection takes practice, a little skill and the understanding that not all steaks are...

See More Stories

More News

I was at my desk in the early spring of 2011 when I got a call from a sports agent looking for News

Justin Tuck: The NFL Bowhunter

Mike Carney - June 13, 2016

I was at my desk in the early spring of 2011 when I got a call from a sports agent looking for

A magnificent male specimen of charismatic megafauna is shot and killed and the public erupts in News

Hunting Without Apology

Thomas McIntyre - October 03, 2016

A magnificent male specimen of charismatic megafauna is shot and killed and the public erupts...

Sometimes the drama plays out on an international stage, as it did last summer with Cecil the lion News

Can Hunters and Non-Hunters Honor Shared Values?

Tovar Cerulli - August 10, 2016

Sometimes the drama plays out on an international stage, as it did last summer with Cecil the...

See More News

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.