You and I and all American taxpayers fund 16 wildlife refuges in Alaska representing 85% of our country’s federal wildlife refuges. So we all – not just Alaskans – have a vested interest in the management of these 76 million acres.
For years, Alaskan state officials have been asking the feds for permission to extend their so-called predator control tactics to these refuges – basically seeking sanction to allow for cruel and unbalanced killing of bears and wolves. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly denied these requests and last year, the denial was made permanent via a federal rule. This year, the Republican controlled Congress and President Trump have officially revoked that rule, creating an opening for kill-freaks to get their rocks off:
These [anti-predator] tactics include killing black bear cubs or mother with cubs at den sites; killing brown bears over bait; trapping and killing brown and black bears with steel-jaw leghold traps or wire snares; killing wolves and coyotes during denning season; and killing brown and black bears from aircraft.
Now sure, that all sounds horrible and revolting and vomity but have you considered the other side’s argument?
“Some of you will say, ‘Oh, we have to protect the wolf puppies,”‘ [Representative Don] Young [(R- AK)] told colleagues on the floor of the House.
“That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the law.”
Oh those uppity we-shouldn’t-shoot-animal-familes-in-their-dens people. Sheesh.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) adds that anyone who gets ill thinking about sadists running down animals in helicopters for slaughter should be comforted knowing that it’s still illegal to use “gas against wolves” in Alaskan wildlife refuges. So see, not actually worse than Hitler on the Sean Spicer scale, I guess.
And as usual with political issues, we can follow the money:
At the heart of the disagreement between state and federal wildlife managers is what each group thinks should guide its purpose. The federal government has argued that the goal on refuges and in parks should be biodiversity. The state Board of Game has an interest in ensuring maximum sustained populations for hunting.
In other words, kill the predators so there are more prey (e.g. moose and caribou) for richie rich trophy hunters who have powerful lobbying groups like the NRA behind them, supporting the revocation of this rule. And never mind about a balanced ecosystem or any of that science stuff which, as we now know, is FAKE NEWS.
But as we have seen with other flailing attempts by the Trump administration to govern, the courts may end up sorting this out:
Geoff Haskett, former Alaska regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, […] left the agency and is now acting director of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Even though President Trump signed the congressional resolution, Haskett believes it will not give the state of Alaska carte blanche to begin predator control on federal refuges.
“It doesn’t change the laws and authorities and existing regulations that the service already has,” Haskett said. “It’s really back to square one.”
Ken Marsh, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, agreed. Without a blanket rule, federal refuge managers likely will consider predator control requests on a case-by-case basis, he said, under provisions of federal environmental law.
Thankfully, common sense and decency still have defenders. And they are willing to go to court. Stay tuned.