Ted Spraker: National Park Service rule on hunting in park preserves is a big lie



“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” This famous saying, attributed to many, is a fitting description of the tall tale by the National Park Service and its new proposed rule to eliminate traditional harvest methods by Alaskans.

The definition of a lie is “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.”  Make no mistake, this is about federal government bureaucrats and their anti-hunting, anti-Alaska agenda making assertions through an agency rulemaking process to deceive the public.  

The State of Alaska has been embattled with Department of Interior agencies for decades. The State is defending traditional harvest methods implemented by the Alaska Board of Game, which go through a very public process and scientific analysis. These traditional harvest methods were protected by “saving clauses” in the Statehood Compact Act, ANILCA, 2017 Congressional Review Act, and recently the Supreme Court case Sturgeon v. Frost

Below is a list of National Park Service-proposed regulations and their distortion of the truth. 

The new proposed rule defines the term “sport hunter” as a fair-chase hunter. Most Alaskans fall under a general/sport hunting designation and hunt for food security and sustenance. The new rule would reinstate prohibitions that were in place under the Obama-era 2015 rule on “methods of harvest that are not compatible with generally accepted notions of ‘sport’ hunting.”  This is an ignorant statement by the National Park Service. “Generally accepted,” as most of us are aware, is not about Alaskans or our way of life.

The National Park Service proposal cites “public safety” concerns as the reason to eliminate all bear baiting on park preserves. The Park Service will be hard-pressed to talk about one incident where a bear bait station was a threat to the general population. Most dangerous or fatal bear encounters have been either with spot and stalk hunters or hikers enjoying the outdoors. Bears don’t habituate to food; they habituate to a site. If they only habituated to food, bears would be lined up at Safeway heading for the doughnut section. If baiting is such a distasteful harvest method, the Park Service should have included fishing using bait and duck hunting from a blind. This effort is simply another attempt to prohibit hunting.

Elimination of denning with artificial light as an unethical practice. Another big lie. Several Native elders from Huslia came to the Board of Game in 2012 requesting the board allow the use of artificial light to take a black bear in a den. Keep in mind, it has never been illegal to kill a brown or black bear in a den, if the season was open. The elders spoke of a traditional method of using artificial light when harvesting a bear, however, it was rarely practiced. This harvest method was a safety exercise used to avoid a brown bear in a den or a sow black bear with cubs. Additionally, the flashlight was used to assure an accurate shot placement. The assertion from the Park Service that the use of artificial light in bear dens is widely used by sport hunters is a false narrative and is an assault to Alaska Native traditions. In addition, the practice is only allowed in portions of four of the 26 game management units in the state where it is customary and traditional.

Prohibition of predator control. The false narrative (lie) by the National Park Service, asserts that hunters or trappers will harvest enough predators to benefit prey populations. This has never occurred in Alaska. The only time a sufficient number of predators (about 80%) have been removed from an area that benefited a prey population was under an intensive management program authorized by the Board of Game, implemented by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and has never occurred on federal public lands. The Board of Game does not pass general hunting regulations of predators to benefit prey species. Regulations are always justified to increase harvest opportunity. The predator control assertion by the National Park Service has no merit and is simply anti-hunting rhetoric. 

Elimination of trapping by non-rural residents is another violation of the Statehood Compact Act, ANILCA, and is anti-hunting in general. The proposed rule would prohibit any “methods of harvest that target predators for the purpose of increasing populations of prey species for human harvest. Hunting predators would be prohibited even if they do not in fact reduce predator populations or increase the number of prey species.”  ANILCA Section 1313 directs the administration: “taking of fish and wildlife for sport purposes, subsistence uses, and trapping shall be allowed in a national preserve under applicable State and Federal law and regulation.” 

Elimination of harvesting caribou from a boat. The rural/Native traditional practice of harvesting swimming caribou from a boat was made legal in 1982 in the northwest part of Alaska by the Board of Game. The National Park Service justified a subsistence harvest as a cultural practice but must eliminate “sport or recreational” hunting because it invokes Western concepts of fairness that do not apply to subsistence practices. In other words, if you grew up in rural Alaska and traditionally used the practice of harvesting swimming caribou, then moved to a non-rural designated community, you are now automatically deemed a “sport” hunter with no ties to your traditional practices. By the same token, a teacher from Florida with no ties to Alaska can move to a rural designated community and become a subsistence hunter. 

Consultation with the Tribes and ANCSA Corporations. This one was a big whopper told by the National Park Service. In consultation with the tribes and corporations, the Park Service championed a false narrative that most “sport hunters” (i.e., Alaskans who are not federally qualified under subsistence) would be in direct competition for the resource. Non-local hunters experienced millions of acres of public lands closed by a group of unelected bureaucrats. In April of last year, the Federal Subsistence Board closed nearly 40 million acres of public lands to non-local moose and caribou hunters. It is a lie to say non-local hunters are in direct competition for the resources in the park preserves. Outmigration from rural communities to hubs and cities is expected to grow as climate change and economic prospects jeopardize the foundation and social makeup of numerous rural Alaska communities. These circumstances eliminate federally qualified status for many former rural residents.  

In a 2017 scientific publication by the National Park Service’s own biologist: “We did not detect an effect of sport hunting activity on caribou resource selection, supporting our null hypothesis. This indicates that sport hunting does not inhibit the ability of caribou to migrate through Noatak. Local hunters have harvested caribou at key river crossing locations for 10,000 years in northwest Alaska. That these locations continue to be used by caribou and local hunters to this day may support our findings. Further, studies elsewhere have also found environmental factors have a greater impact on animal space use than hunting. Our finding of a lack of effect of sport hunting activity on the likelihood of caribou migrating through Noatak does stand in apparent contrast to concerns voiced by local hunters regarding the negative effects of sport hunters and commercial air transporters.”

The National Park Service reaching out to consult with the tribes and corporations on this false narrative of competition between Alaskans, contradicted by their own biologist, is not only deceitful, but disgraceful. 

ANILCA clearly recognizes Congress’ principal intent to maintain sound wildlife populations, to preserve untouched ecosystems, to safeguard resources for subsistence, and to preserve opportunities related to sport hunting.  Wildlife populations managed under state regulations have remained healthy and viable on preserves for over 30 years after the passage of ANILCA. The proposed rule has outcomes that upset Congress’ intended balance by unnecessarily pitting rural and non-rural hunters, and park values against each other.   

Alaskans should speak out against the National Park Service’s dishonest justification for these new proposed rules, its anti-hunting agenda, and the agency’s attack on the people of Alaska. 

I encourage all Alaskans to submit one simple comment under the rule making portal: “The NPS proposed rule on hunting in the park preserves to eliminate “sport” hunting and predator control is a big lie!” Send your comment to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http//www.regulations.gov. The Regulation Identifier Number is 1024-AE70 .

Ted Spraker of Soldotna was a ADF&G career wildlife biologist, six term member of the Alaska Board of Game, and president of the Kenai chapter of Safari Club International. Photo credit: ADF&G.


  1. The Federal definition of ethical hunting on Federal lands outweighs the State definition. Hypocritical to use Native subsistence practices when wealthy sports hunters want equal preference

      • Field dressing a caribou without gutting is easy, have not tried a moose that way. Will admit to using a sabre saw instead of an axe. You will get further sticking to what you know, not what you suspect.

    • Federal law ALL of it prohibits favoring any group for any other group. ANILCA subsistence rules are ALL unconstitutional. I am an ALASKAN and deserve the exact same access as all other Alaskans.

  2. As usual, Government overreach for the sake of control and at the behest of luny enviros.
    James Madison in Federalist 45:
    “The powers delegated by the proposed constitution of the federal government, ARE FEW AND DEFINED. Those which are to remain in the state governments, ARE NUMEROUS AND INDEFINITE. The former (federal government) will be exercised principally on external objects, a war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce… The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, AND PROPERTIES OF THE PEOPLE; and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the state.”

  3. Thank you Ted for all your service to Alaskans and wildlife resources over the many years.

    Having just participated in a local advisory committee meeting yesterday, your article is quite timely.

  4. In EVERY other state the state manages resident wildlife. Why are the Feds trying to manage resident wildlife in Alaska, why are we allowing them to try and manage our resident wildlife?

    • It’s because they don’t want people hunting anything in “their” areas. They always go back to the Organic Act to dictate all of their wants and needs for the Preserves in Alaska, but they don’t realize is that there were other laws put in place after the Organic Act was put in place specifically for Alaska. It’s pure ignorance and it shows the lack of awareness that Alaskans have for the Preserves, which is the people own the land and they practice Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping in the Preserves. The Feds think things should be left alone for them to study and roam on the land without any Alaskans around “killing” everything. I think the Subsistance Coordinators within these Entities should be put on the hot spot for not advocating for all of the people of Alaska and the laws put in place.

  5. Perhaps the recent SCOTUS decision in West Virginia v. EPA can be used in this instance.

    Has Congress specifically authorized the type of restrictions the parkies are trying to impose by fiat ?

    • Its not up to Congress. The Park Service is well within its statutory authority to not allow these practices but they have to go through the Federal rule making process, just like they did during the Trump administration to allow these hunting practices. Also, none of these provisions would impact rural Alaskans because ANILCA provides for a rural subsistence priority.

      • cman, you couldn’t be more incorrect, it is up to congress and congress gave explicit congressional intent for the state to manage fish and wildlife via ANILCA. All of these hunting practices would hurt all Alaskans who do not have the correct zip code. Nothing in ANILCA states that the park service has discretionary authority to eliminate traditional hunting practices if they find them distasteful.

        • The CFR disagrees with you. See 50 CFR 100.3(a). The CFR are the regulations that actually enact Title VIII of ANILCA and it’s states that nothing in the subsistence regulations supersedes agency-specific regulations. The NPS under the Trump administration used their regulations to allow the practices on their lands.

          • You are missing the entire point of the article. Most Alaskans hunt for food security and sustenance, just because you are not a qualified federal subsistence hunter doesn’t mean you should be excluded from traditional harvest practices. ANILCA protected these practices. Sec 1313

  6. Not a hunting other than subsistence advocate, it seems this article inordinately favors the big game hunter who wants to experience something other than Florida gater getaway excursion ‘hunting’, wild boar in Georgia excitement, or the ‘thrill’ of shooting a 26 point bred domestic elk penned up in Indiana Backwoods Bed & Breakfast.

  7. The National Park Circus and its giant cadre of mission creepers, does more to discredit itself, than anything I could ever say.

  8. Big thanks to Governor Dunleavy, who declared all waters and lakes navigable south of the Brooks Range, and are owned by the State now. The Kobuk River is where swimming caribou are taken with a boat. Even if this rule making passes, to not allow the taking of swimming caribou with a boat. The rule will be mute, since the river is owned by the State and the federal system will have no jurisdiction to enforce it.

  9. World wide animal populations are down 70% according to National Geographic surveys and as a 3rd generation, born and raised Alaskan I have seen the diminishing wildlife here in this state, always known fish and game board members as pro harvest, not sustaining fish and game populations, trapping, sport hunting are more and more becoming a thing of the past, so has the take domain religious excuse for decimating Alaskas Fish and Game resources.
    Thanks to President Trump stopping pebble through Army Corp of engineers permit denial and, EPA regulations, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service would help to bring back fish and wildlife #s.
    Examples of State of AK Fish and Game failures., Kenai Peninsula Moose population devastated, Kuskokwim River Salmon runs devastated and on and on and on.

    • The Kenai Peninsula moose population is not devastated. I often count dozens of moose right along the road on any given day. Most moose are not legal to hunt on the Kenai.
      As for Kuskokwim River salmon, their diminishing numbers is not a state F&G issue, they are likely a federal problem due to high seas intercept by foreign trawlers.

      • Steve;You are incorrect. We used to count up to 150 + Moose on grocery runs from Moose Pass to Anchorage in the late 1960s as us kids made a sport of who could see the moose first.
        Yes foreign interception of our fish are a big problem but commercial fisherman lobby leads fish & game to make wrong dissisions regarding openers not allowing proper salmon escapement. We need the feds to enforce the Magnuson Stevens Act against high seas interceptions;-)

        • Joseph,
          Your anecdotal evidence lines up with the fire history of the Kenai, specifically the fires caused by steam powered trains that cleared forests from Seward to Anchorage allowing for plentiful moose browse during those times. Since we no longer have steam powered trains causing fires along the rail line, moose browse has suffered along with moose populations in the immediate area.

          The Feds enforce the Magnuson-Stevens Act. High seas intercept is a boogeyman that no longer exists in the quantity needed to cause the poor return of certain salmon species seen across their range…thanks to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

          • Steve-O; You are incorrect.You may have been too young to realize the Hugh Moose population on the Kenai. When is the last time you heard of an Asian trawler being captured or blown out of the water by the coast Guard?

  10. The park service tries to play federally qualified users against non qualified users, this is a divide and conquer technique because they ultimately despise both as both are consumtive users. Great article………………

    • Reasonable people can disagree here but often the people came after the trapper, who cleared the trail, and feel they have the right to walk with their pets (not leashed) and blame the trapper when the pet gets caught. They want the trapper to keep his sets 100 feet off the trail which essentially would cause the trapper to quit his livelihood.
      These are not sensible restrictions IMO.

  11. The goal is simple. To make life so miserable people die or leave.

    Democrats and the swamp (redundant, I know) give less than a damn about people. The less white and less rich you are, the caring drops proportionally.

    The rich white progressive left wants the resources for themselves. The rest of us are inconveniently in the way.

    If a few hundred natives and bush people die to make the party of Karen feel better about themselves, small price to pay.

  12. Lord give us a way to get the feds out of the way. If you are an Alaska citizen then you can argue about Alaska resources. If not, shut up.

  13. When the National Academy of Science evaluated the idea that slaughtering the predators boosted moose and caribou populations they determined the entire scheme by Fish and Game was ineffective, and a giant waste of our money.

    Facts like this do not deter those with a blood lust. In Canada you have a much better chance of seeing bears. Alaska has become a sterile dead zone.

  14. Ted Spraker is sensible and reasonable which is why multiple governors and legislatures approved him for the Board of Game.

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