Doug Vincent-Lang: Yet another unjustified attack by feds on Alaska

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By DOUG VINCENT-LANG

The National Park Service is once again dividing Alaska by unjustifiably undermining the state’s sustainable management of Alaska’s wildlife. In the latest attack, the National Park Service has proposed rule making that prohibits traditional methods and means of hunting throughout national preserves in Alaska.  

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act passed by Congress in 1980 is the single largest expansion of protected lands in U.S. history. Nearly 40% of Alaska was set aside for conservation and preservation purposes.

During the drafting of ANILCA, many Alaskans attended congressional hearings throughout Alaska as well as traveled to Washington D.C. to voice their concerns for how important it was to have continued access to resources on what would be new conservation system unit lands.

Based on this testimony, Congress included clear provisions protecting Alaskans’ traditional way of life and our ability to use the newly set aside federal public lands, and the resources on those lands, for our cultural, social, and economic needs.

ANILCA’s provisions are clear. They allow Alaskans to continue to access and hunt on the federal preserve lands Congress created in Alaska. Congress specifically designed ANILCA to allow all Alaskans to access our fish and game resources and for the State to manage these resources and the methods and means of hunting. 

Despite this, the National Park Service has repeatedly tried to reinterpret this agreement and law and restrict Alaskans’ access to cherished State resources. This is unacceptable. Alaskans must rally to protect the balance Congress promised—a balance that maintains our resources for use by future generations. 

By taking away our opportunities to hunt and be out on our lands, the National Park Service erodes the terms of our agreement memorialized in ANILCA to ensure this balance. Fish and wildlife are primary food sources for Alaskans and are vital to cultural and traditional heritage. 

In its current rule making, the National Park Service is trying to rewrite ANILCA and dictate not only where, but also how, Alaskans can hunt on park service lands. The National Park Service is claiming they need to ban certain state general hunting regulations that they claim are incongruent with their park values and represent unfair hunting practices. Yet despite this, the very regulations they are proposing to ban under state regulations, they propose to implement through the authority of the Federal Subsistence Board.

We are perplexed by this seemingly incongruent logic.  

To begin, the National Park Service is claiming Alaska has “sport” hunting regulations.  Alaska does not have sport hunting regulations. Alaska has general hunting regulations that provide for subsistence and general hunting. In contrast, the Federal Subsistence Board regulations only allow rural qualified users to participate. 

When the National Park Service replaces state general hunting regulations with federal regulations they limit participation. State regulations provide the opportunity to hunt on park service land for Alaskans who have customary and traditional ties to wildlife, but are displaced to urban areas for health, educational, and socio-economic reasons. Federal regulations do not. But they do allow for a new rural resident who has no customary ties to resources here to hunt. So, the proposed rule must not be to provide for customary and traditional practices. And the rule making must not be because the hunting methods are against park values. If it were, the National Park Service would ban the practices entirely. Yet they have not. They allow these practices by rural residents. 

One is left to wonder how it can be within park values to allow the taking of a swimming caribou by a new rural resident who has no tie to this method while barring a person who has a history of traditional and cultural hunting practices but now is displaced to an urban center from hunting. 

The National Park Service also has no conservation concerns for our wildlife driving this rule making. They agree our populations are healthy and appropriately managed throughout Alaska preserves.

In sum, their rulemaking is not providing customary and traditional practices, they are not re-enforcing park values, and there is no conservation concern. It’s simply an example of making hunting rules that are unneeded, to solve problems that don’t exist, by bureaucrats that don’t hunt. It is not what Congress intended.

Congress enacted ANICLA to allow Alaskans to hunt on newly created preserve land.  ANILCA is supposed to allow all Alaskans to access our fish and game resources.  Now the park service seems to be saying that they can rewrite this law and unilaterally determine how, in addition to where, Alaskans can hunt on National Park Service land.  This appears to be a desire to replace state management with federal management and abandon finding ways to fulfill the commitments made to Alaskans in ANILCA.  

Expect Alaska to continue its fight to ensure the bipartisan commitments made to our state at statehood and reconfirmed under ANILCA are maintained and not eroded by unilateral federal actions. 

We, as Alaskans, should be in control of Alaska’s resources, not federal agencies in Washington D.C. who are more interested in forwarding preservation agendas than honoring the rights of Alaskans. Please join in this fight.

Doug Vincent-Lang is the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

16 COMMENTS

  1. ‘Federal’ anything is always a failure. Who in D.C. thinks they have Alaska’s best interests at heart? Most of them can’t find Alaska on a globe. And the federal government has a ‘federal subsistence board’?! No one, outside our state should have anything to say in how we conduct our hunting and fishing. They make a rule and go home. WE make a rule and we need to be able to live with it.

    • “Always a failure.” Seems like an extraordinary stretch, even by the often hysterical and over ripe responses routinely posted on this site.

  2. Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game has neglected sustained game populations in favor of free for all harvesting including out of state guiding. Catering to organizations like the Safari club, Trophy over subsistence,. Example; Many of us witnessed the over harvesting of Dall Sheep in the Kenai Mountains in the 60’s which are close to extinct.
    Summarize; State of Alaska Game Boards have been a dismal failure.

    • Gen 3, I beg to differ with you in regards to ADF&G’s track record of game management. Over all the Department has done good work. The Feds eviscerated our fisheries prior to Statehood, perhaps you were not around then?
      As it relates to game, I think your pals over at the federal Subsistence Board are the ones you need to take your beef up with.

  3. We need to requisition all federal lands in Alaska. If the feds want some land they can rent it. This is clearly
    Stepping over the line. We are loosing more of our freedoms every day with this overreach of government in our business. Where does it say Alaska has to provide the largest and most parks?

      • We can start by making a law that any federal enforcement of any kind will amount to them being arrested. Citizens arrest of a federal employee who tries to control any part of Alaska and its people. We could be the state that says enough of our rights being taken away by fed oversight. This state will survive without the feds.

        • Mark: Consider counseling. Nothing wrong with holding a firm opinion but try and keep them grounded in reality.

  4. The Imperial Federal Government has been slowly but steadily making this place unlivable.

    Curious how most of the people likely to be effected are natives. The left hates minorities almost as much as they hate the political right.

  5. Actually they intend to hand over control of American hunting regulations to the United Nations.

  6. Go spend time around Parkies. Most of the ones I know very happily want you to “look, but don’t touch!” THEIR National Parks.

    It’s one thing to be a good custodian, but most Parkies have a very possessive attitude towards “their lands.”

    “Alaska is just too beautiful for Alaskans.”

    If they could ship us out away from their little paradise, most of them would do it in a heartbeat.

  7. It is incongruent. The “federal” (aka foreign owned corporate Alaska owners in absentia for now) exaggerates its “ownership rights” while influencing Alaska state representatives to toil endlessly on Alaskans’ dime to diminish all local Alaskan property rights. Prove me wrong. Hello Juneau. Barking at you.

    • Barking up the way wrong tree. Try howling. It might be more suitable for your delusional thoughts.

  8. Every year the state proves they can’t manage hunting and fishing. They have grossly mismanaged wildlife resources for many decades. State management is driven by political science. Any area the feds can stop hunting is good. No hunting is better than hunting that is managed by corrupt morons.

  9. To add insult to injury the NPS has started using the Alaska model of pairing Parks and Preserves in the lower 48, which allows for hunting, fishing, and even trapping on NPS land. Let’s not forget that States are responsible for management of fish and game within their borders with a few exceptions designated through Acts of Congress. ANCILA is also an Act of Congress and last time I checked Congress certainly out ranks the National Park Service.

    Here’s what ANCILA says about the issue:
    TITLE XIII–ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS
    ADMINISTRATION OF NATIONAL PRESERVES
    §1313. A National Preserve in Alaska shall be administered and managed as a unit of the National Park System in the same manner as a national park except as otherwise provided in this Act and except that the taking of fish and wildlife for sport purposes and subsistence uses, and trapping shall be allowed in a national preserve under applicable State and Federal law and regulation. Consistent with the provisions of §816, within national preserves the Secretary may designate zones where and periods when no hunting, fishing, trapping, or entry may be permitted for reasons of public safety, administration, floral and faunal protection, or public use and enjoyment. Except in emergencies, any regulations prescribing such restrictions relating to hunting, fishing, or trapping shall be put into effect only after consultation with the appropriate State agency having responsibility over hunting, fishing, and trapping activities.

  10. The practices proposed to be banned on Preserves are so limited as to impact very few non-Federally qualified users. Specifically, bear baiting, the taking of wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the denning season, hunting of black bear cubs and sows with cubs, harvest of swimming caribou, and predator control in general. The Federal Subsistence Board is responsible for implementing Title 8 of ANILCA and providing for a rural subsistence priority. If someone moves to an urban area, they are no longer a Federally qualified subsistence user. Everyone knows (or should know) how that works. DVL seems to think the Federal agencies have no authority to manage Federal public lands and should just bow down to the State. Sorry buddy, but you’re dead wrong.

    Alaska is still unique in that it allows for hunting within National Parks (by Federally qualified subsistence users) and in National Preserves (by everyone, regardless of where they live), so there is no equivalency between NPS lands here and in the lower 48. What DVL wants to do is protect a very small minority of hunters who want to engage in a very small subset of hunting activities. Even among Federally qualified subsistence users, the practices the NPS is proposing to ban are not common, so who is really being disenfranchised here? This is much ado about nothing but never miss and opportunity to whine about “Federal overreach.”

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