Sportsmen’s Alliance Sues Department of Interior
Suit due to refuge system overreach
On February 10, the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, the Alaska Professional Hunters Association and two rural Alaskans filed suit against the federal government seeking to overturn two Obama-era restrictions governing the management of National Wildlife Refuge and National Preserve lands within Alaska’s borders.
The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and APHA believe the rules are an overreach of the federal government into the traditional state role of game management, and this action in Alaska sets a dangerous precedent that puts hunting at risk on hundreds of millions of acres of public land nationwide.
The 96 million acres of National Wildlife Refuge and Park Service lands at stake in this lawsuit cover an area slightly larger than Montana, the fourth-largest state in the union.
“Game management belongs in the hands of boots-on-the-ground state biologists who understand the traditions, goals, game animals and ecosystems better than anyone, certainly better than a federal bureaucrat simply reading a report in a Washington, D.C. office,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance and Foundation. “These two rules represent yet another act of the Obama Administration that sets a bad precedent for states across the country that, if not stopped, would allow federal bureaucrats or a future administration more in line with anti-hunting activists to continue seizing control of traditional state decisions.”
Changes affected wolf and coyote seasons, baiting bears
The enacted rule changes banned commonly accepted hunting methods, including the extension of wolf and coyote seasons to summer months suitable for hunting in the colder Alaska climate, and use of bait while hunting bears.
“These changes even go so far as to completely outlaw normal wildlife management practices involving seasons, bag limits, and methods and means, even when that is the only feasible way to restore other wildlife species such as moose, caribou or deer,” continued Heusinkveld.
Alaskans and sportsmen around the country have shown broad support for the position of the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and APHA. The State of Alaska has filed suit to overturn the rule changes, as has Safari Club International. All of Alaska’s senators and representatives oppose the changes, as does the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), along with numerous other national organizations. AFWA, which is a partnership made up of state wildlife management professionals across the country, has stated that the rules compromise state authority to manage fish and wildlife.
“This is nothing but blatant federal overreach that will destroy Alaska’s predator-prey balance, impact and set precedent for sportsmen and public-land users nationwide and, moreover, decimate residents both economically and in their ability to provide for their families from a subsistence perspective,” said Heusinkveld.
State primary authority to set rules
Alaska has specific protections set in law. On three occasions Congress has directed that the state–not the federal government–has the primary authority to set hunting and fishing rules in Alaska: 1959 in the Alaska Statehood Act, 1980 in the Alaska Lands Act (that created most of the Alaska refuges) and 1997 in Refuge Improvement Act (which also made hunting and fishing priority public uses on all refuge lands).
“It is clear that the federal government has overstepped its authority in this issue, and we’re confident that our lawsuit, coupled with Congressional action and the formal review promised by Interior Secretary-nominee Representative Zinke, will ultimately restore proper and commonsense authority to game management in Alaska,” said Heusinkveld.—courtesy Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation
photo by Lee Leschper