Using planes or helicopters to locate wolves and then land nearby to shoot them has been illegal on National Wildlife Refuge lands in Alaska for decades. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service originally adopted the prohibition to prevent the State of Alaska from allowing the practice on Refuges.
USFWS noted at the time that the rule was necessary because “the State’s revised regulation authorizing same-day-airborne shooting of wolves allows, and even invites, excessive reliance on aircraft to pursue and take wolves, which inevitably results in abuse and violations of the Airborne Hunting Act and exacerbates enforcement problems.”
Now, Trump’s USFWS wants to delete the rule entirely, claiming that it duplicates current state law. Not so.
Alaska’s law has no teeth
We submitted comments to USFWS this month outlining how the proposal to delete the 1994 rule fails to explain its decision that the regulation is no longer necessary — or why any of its original reasons for adopting the regulation no longer apply — and that its claim that the rule duplicates state law is bogus. Truth is, Alaska’s law allows an exception to its rule that is so large that there is essentially no prohibition on same-day airborne killing of wolves and wolverines.
This is because same-day airborne shooting is allowed whenever the Board of Game authorizes it under a predator control program. A simple vote by the Board of Game would allow private citizens to shoot wolves and wolverines the same day they have been flying.
In other words, if the USFWS deletes its rule protecting wolves and wolverines from same-day airborne shooting, the Alaska Board of Game would have a path to allowing same day airborne hunting.
Of note, the state would say that they don’t allow same-day aerial hunting, they allow same-day aerial “take,” because they use the word”take” to mean killing a wolf under a predator control program. But the wording is semantics—a person “hunting” with a plane is the same as a person “controlling predators” with a plane. Either way, private citizens should not be using airplanes to kill wolves on National Wildlife Refuges. The state’s purpose in authorizing planes in the killing of wolves is to reduce predators below their naturally occurring numbers, and this undermines the natural wildlife diversity purposes of the Nation Wildlife Refuge System.
In short, deletion of the USFWS rule means the Board of Game could authorize a predator control program on specific refuges at any time, allowing private parties to use planes to locate, land, and then kill wolves and wolverines on the same day.
Politicizing wildlife management
Abandoning a good rule to give the Board of Game power to manipulate predator populations on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska politicizes game management. These federal lands are protected by Congress, and manipulating populations for one interest group has potentially devastating impacts on the intact ecosystems the laws are intended to safeguard.
The Board of Game has already attempted to allow extreme predator control methods like aerial hunting on National Wildlife Refuges in the past. Most Alaskans and Americans seek out these Refuges to see animals like wolves and wolverines, and to experience natural wildlife diversity.
Removing a rule that protects these essential purposes of the Wildlife Refuge System would serve special interests and turn functional management of the system into a destructive one.