ANCHORAGE – The State of Alaska filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the National Park Service’s (“NPS”) and Fish and Wildlife Service’s (“FWS”) regulations attempting to prohibit certain hunting methods on national wildlife refuges and national preserves. Among other consequences, the NPS and FWS rules would impact some of the customary and traditional methods of harvest practiced by Alaska’s subsistence users.
“As Alaskans, we have a unique relationship with our land – especially in the most rural parts of our state where residents rely on hunting and fishing to put food on the table,” said Governor Bill Walker. “These regulations impact our basic means of survival. Alaskans must be able to provide for their families, and the rules that have been put forward by the federal government do not support that.”
Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth echoed the Governor’s sentiments, and pointed out the restrictive nature of the federal regulations.“Alaskans depend on wildlife for food. These federal regulations are not about predator control or protecting the State’s wildlife numbers,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “These regulations are about the federal government trying to control Alaskans’ way of life and how Alaskans conduct their business. This is contrary to state and federal law.”
State wildlife officials use their professional expertise, research and scientific data to manage wildlife populations across land ownership boundaries, including land owned by the federal government. Considering all information available, the Alaska Board of Game found that the population numbers were at a sufficient level to authorize hunters to practice the hunting methods NPS and FWS are attempting to prohibit.
When considering their prohibitions, the federal agencies did not dispute state officials’ assessment of the current wildlife populations. The agencies simply did not like how or when the hunters were going to take the wildlife.
In addition to affecting how and when hunters can hunt, these regulations impair the State’s ability to manage wildlife resources in the future. “There is no question that hunting is allowed on Alaska’s national preserves and wildlife refuges,” said Sam Cotten, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “To preserve the ability to hunt for future generations, state officials need the flexibility to manage wildlife populations. These regulations remove that flexibility.”
The complaint filed by the State asserts that the federal regulations unlawfully preempt the State’s authority to manage wildlife resources and adversely affect subsistence and non-subsistence hunting rights protected under federal laws. The complaint seeks to overturn the regulations and ensure that state hunting laws are applied on federal land in Alaska.
For more information, contact Assistant Attorney General Cheryl Brooking at 269-5100.