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  • Gina Scrofano

US Senate to Vote on Egregious Wildlife Refuge Law


"Refuge: A place of shelter, protection or safety."

-Dictionary.com



Although that definition is rather broad, the fact that the word refuge and critical aspects of its meaning are part of our National Wildlife Refuges cannot be ignored.


The National Wildlife Refuge website states, "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages 16 national wildlife refuges in Alaska, totaling 76,774,229 acres. These refuges are part of a National Wildlife Refuge System dedicated specifically to wildlife conservation."


Along with the conservation of natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health, it was that dedication to wildlife that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) amended the regulations for National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska with rule 81 FR 52248 last year. It was that rule that prohibited egregious hunting methods, and it is S.J. Res. 18 that would repeal it.



What is 81 FR 52248?

Volume 81 Federal Register 52248, "Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska", is a rule made by the U.S. FWS which was registered on August 5, 2016. The rule amended regulations for National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) in Alaska and prohibited the following:


1. Killing bear cubs and mother bears with cubs at their dens

2. Luring brown bears with rotting meat and pet food for a point blank kill

3. Trapping bears with steel-jawed leghold traps and wire snares

4. Killing wolves and coyotes (including pups) at their dens

5. Killing bears from an aircraft or scouting of bears from aircraft for kill after landing



What is S.J. Res. 18

Senate Joint Resolution 18 is a proposed law that would completely repeal 81 FR 52248, which means that the unsporting methods listed above would go from illegal to legal. This resolution might be voted on by our US Senators as soon as next week.



Non-Denning Seasons Remain Unaffected WITHOUT S.J. Res. 18

For example, number 4 listed above applies to the wolf and coyote denning season ranging from May 1 - August 9. Meaning killing wolves and coyotes (and pups) in their den is restricted by FR 52248 for only 4 out of 12 months. It appears that is not enough for those who support S.J. Res. 18, as it would expand denning to a full 12 months, which means it would include time periods when animals are in hibernation.



Hunting For Food and Defense of Life and Property Remains Unharmed WITHOUT S.J. Res. 18

The rule S.J. Res. 18 would repeal (81 FR 52248) does not have any impact on Federal subsistence regulations (36 CFR part 242 and 50 CFR part 100) or the taking of wildlife in defense of life and property as defined under State regulations (see 5 AAC 92.410).



Even Hunters Are Opposed to S.J. Res. 18

Numerous hunters themselves do not support the resolution as they believe it is unnecessary. Subsistence hunters do not find it fundamental to kill cubs or shoot bears from an aircraft, and true marksmen do not see that as fair game.



Shouldn't Alaskan Residents Have The Say?

Short answer, they tried. Long answer, it's complicated. (Read on to learn more regarding this.)



Alaska State Legislation and Board of Game (BOG)

The primary goal of Alaska State Law and BOG is to provide an overabundance of game for hunters/trappers within NWRs, primarily moose, caribou, and deer. Due to that goal, the Intensive Management (IM) statue was implemented. Through IM, disgraceful methods (as numbered above) were legalized, which focused on killing a heightened number of predators, such as bears, wolves, and coyotes in the theory that the numbers of their prey would increase, thus providing more consumptive game for hunters.



US Federal Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Along with recognition regarding the importance of subsistence, it is the responsibility of the FWS to conserve wildlife, as well as the natural and biological diversity, biological integrity and environmental health within NWRs. Habitat diversity must be maintained naturally, avoiding artificial manipulation whenever possible. Attempts to boost the population of one species at the detriment of another is highly unwarranted and ecologically harmful. Modern biology confirms that a natural balance will continue conservation while also providing plenty of subsistence, which led to 81 FR 52248 in 2016.



US Federal Wildlife Service Authority

The above approach to NWRs is in accordance with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 3111-3126), National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-ee), the 1964 Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136), as well as with applicable agency policies (601 FW 3, 610 FW 2, and 605 FW 2).


The general power of the FWS is congressionally granted, providing ultimate management authority of resources in NWRs (adhering to various mandates such as those listed above), which is explained in detail within the 'Federal and State Mandates for Managing Wildlife' section of 81 FR 52248.


Who Has Interest In National Wildlife Refuges?

Alaskan NWRs are homes to some of our nation's most treasured animals and lands, and are Federally funded by all taxpayers in our United States. Tourists that visit Alaskan NWRs to view wildlife contribute over $2 billion annually and hunters contribute about $450 million. Viewing of wildlife also supports thousands of jobs for Alaskans.



FWS Comment / Public Hearing Period

Before 81 FR 52248 became law in 2016, the FWS provided a 90-day comment and stakeholder meeting period. Residents, stakeholders, Tribal Entities, and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Corps., were invited to comment via mail, email, at meetings or at one of the nine public hearings that were held to discuss the rule. Strong support of the rule was shown, including that of Alaskan residents.



Alaskan Resident Survey

Remington Research Group also conducted a telephone survey from Feb. 24, 2016, through Feb. 25, 2016. The results showed that Alaskan's oppose baiting and trapping within refuges and oppose killing in dens by more than a 2-to-1 margin.


Alaskan residents certainly did provide their input, and more Alaskan's supported 81 FR 52248, which means even if Alaskan's had 100% say, they most likely would oppose S.J. Res. 18.



Who Does Support S.J. Res. 18?

Not everyone is going to come home from work and read the 27 pages of 81 FR 52248. Many residents who support S.J. Res. 18 don't even realize exactly what it entails and what it would be repealing. They're told that it attacks the rights of Alaskans and hunters, and because they haven't read the rule, they believe it.



Smokescreen By Leadership

It is important to note that when you read articles claiming that the State of Alaska supports S.J. Res. 18, it is not referring to Alaskan residents, it is referring to State Legislators and the BOG. Although those supporting the resolution attempt to spin this into a state rights movement for Alaska, behind that smokescreen, you will find the National Rifle Association (NRA), Safari Club International, pressure from leadership, and those lining their pockets through special interests, such as trophy hunting.



Well, This Is Suspicious..

House Joint Resolution 69 is the House version of S.J. Res. 18. Rep. Don Young is the resolution's primary sponsor (among the small amount of only three total sponsors). Rep. Don Young is a licensed trapper and a former board member of the NRA. During his testimony in front of the House in Feb 2017, he admitted on the floor that he used to get paid bounty by the Federal Government to kill wolf pups in their dens.



And This Just Makes No Sense..

Don Young also claimed during testimony that no hunters would be shooting cubs or sows if the resolution passes. If that is the case, then why would he be pushing his resolution which explicitly repeals the only rule in current law that prohibits bear, wolf, and coyote denning in Alaskan refuges?



Passed By The House

The US House of Representatives already passed H.J. Res. 69. The vote was 225 to 193 (roll call here). It appears not enough of our representatives had the courage to fight the weight from those with special interests.



We Must Tell Our Senate to Vote Based on The Merits

Opposing S.J. Res. 18 does not make you an anti-hunting extremist, it simply proves you are aware of the facts regarding Federal funded refuges, modern biology and current laws that protect and naturally conserve our most treasured wildlife and their habitats.



Not Convinced?

I kindly suggest you give 81 FR 52248 a thorough read. The truth is, only when you know the facts of the rule that S.J. Res. 18 is repealing, it is impossible to have a stance on this issue.




1. Find your US Senator Here


2. Call Your Senator

Provide your name and address, then kindly urge them to vote 'No' on Senate Joint Resolution 18 (Senate Version of HJ Res 69), which would repeal the FWS rule protecting wildlife within the Alaskan National Refuges from cruel and ecologically damaging hunting methods.



2. Follow Up With An Email To Your Senator

Senators often require that you submit emails via their website, so be certain to take a print screen of your message before you hit the send button.


Quick Message Link

You may also submit an email to your senator via the HSUS quick message link, but please be sure to personalize your message, as we must show our senators that this truly means something to us and we are not simply 'click happy.'


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