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Sportsmen's Alliance Steps Up for Rights of Alaska, Native Communities

Also read about legislative updates from New Mexico, Colorado, Connecticut, North Dakota.

Sportsmen's Alliance Steps Up for Rights of Alaska, Native Communities

Image courtesy of Sportsmen's Alliance

The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and Alaskan Professional Hunter's Association will once again step in to protect scientific wildlife management, the right of Alaska to manage game on federal lands within its borders and the rights of Native communities. The two groups were recently granted intervenor status in a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal-rights organizations seeking to destroy many scientific and culturally important practices on National Parks and Preserves lands in the state.

"This will mark six years of fighting on behalf of proven wildlife management methods, states' rights and the legally protected rights of Native communities in rural Alaska," said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation. "This is not only extremely important to the state of Alaska, it could have negative consequences for public-land management in every state. Anti-hunting groups are desperate to federalize hunting regulations in Alaska because they see it as a pathway to federal regulation of public lands nationwide."

The ongoing saga, which the Sportsmen's Alliance and Alaskan Professional Hunter's Association have fought from the very beginning, dates to 2015 and the Obama administration. Ultimately, after four years of litigation and petitioning of the National Parks Service, the two hunting groups were victorious when the agency rescinded the rule changes and returned to the standard of wildlife management – that being states, and not the federal government, dictate management decisions (such as season dates, methods and means of hunting and bag limits) within state boundaries, even on federal land, using accepted scientific wildlife management principles and in accordance with local customs and tolerances.

Other legislative updates from Sportsmen's Alliance

Now, however, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) wants to force a return to the rules adopted by the NPS during the Obama Administration. That rule took regulatory authority to manage hunting and trapping on Alaska National Preserves from the state and granted it to the NPS. The changes also outlawed traditional hunting practices that rural Alaskans rely on in hunting in remote areas.

The Obama-era rule changed who is tasked with managing hunting and trapping on federal lands open to hunting. These lands exist throughout the nation, but the fight in Alaska is particularly important. The animal-rights activists are confident that if they succeed in federalizing hunting regulations in Alaska, where the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act puts significant constraints on federal agencies, they can succeed in federalizing hunting throughout the country, including on National Wildlife Refuge System units, which were included in the original rule changes and Sportsmen's Alliance lawsuit. Congress reversed the rule changes for wildlife refuges, but were kept from doing so for preserves. Wildlife refuges provide vital public hunting lands nationwide.

As they did in 2015, it is likely that HSUS and the other anti-hunting groups will again try to manipulate public opinion to disguise the NPS power grab by portraying the rule change as a federal ban of unpopular hunting practices. Native Alaskan hunting practices, like hunting denning bears and swimming caribou, are traditional in Alaska, and are used only to hunt for food in very remote, select areas.

"If the federal government can usurp management powers of fish and game on millions of acres of public land in Alaska, they could use the precedent to do so on federal land nationwide; politicizing wildlife management and relegating it to the whims of the Oval Office and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.," said Bruce Tague, vice president of government affairs at the Sportsmen’s Alliance. "This is unarguably a major threat to the future of hunting and trapping in North America. The Alliance has willfully engaged on this issue for years to protect and preserve the outdoor heritage of Alaska and the United States as a whole."

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