If you haven't seen some of the articles floating around the internet with regards to HJ Resolution 69 I would be very surprised. Headlines that more or less read: "The Senate just voted to legalize the killing of baby bears and baby wolves with poison from helicopters armed with nuclear weaponry and steel traps"... Or something to that effect. Groups like PETA, the Humane Society, and news sites like The Dodo and Huffington Post have all spread a slew of misinformation about the nullification a rule (more like a long list of rules) put in place but the US Fish and Wildlife Service for wildlife reserves in Alaska.
Finding information about what this bill does and does not do was more difficult than it needed to be. First, most of the articles written on the topic were written with an anti hunting slant and provided very little detail. But the hunting community websites did not do much to put the minds of readers at ease with regards to the arguably unethical practices being legalized through this resolution. With the exception of the Boone and Crocket Club saying that there was a lot of misinformation being spread around (though they didn't specify what that misinformation was) I was not able to find any statements from hunting organizations addressing the things that had the anti-hunters feathers ruffled...
So what is a critical thinker to do? I got on Alaska Fish and Game's website and was able to easily determine that aerial hunting of bears, or anything else for that matter, would still be illegal under state law. Outstanding. What about everything else? I eventually had to call Alaska Department of Fish and Game. I informed the lady who answered the phone that I am a hunter from out of state and that I write a hunting blog, and that I was looking for information regarding the Resolution and what state law actually allows. "You mean the thing about people killing bears in their dens? Yeah. Nobody does that...." That is what I thought. She went on to inform me that it is a Native American practice that is legal in some instances for traditional purposes, but not something that just anybody can do. She then tried to refer me to one of their public information officers who was unavailable and I was then pointed toward the agency facebook page where they did do a question and answer regarding the Resolution.
The text of that post is as follows: THE TRUTH ABOUT ALASKA'S REFUGE RULE REPEAL
We've been hearing from many folks concerned about the recent repeal of the Alaska refuge rule. The repeal nullifies regulations that allowed the federal government to override state wildlife management authority on Alaska’s 16 wildlife refuges. Contrary to what some activists claim, it does not allow hunters to gas wolf pups in their dens, to shoot bears and wolves from airplanes, or allow bears to be taken in steel-jawed traps.
Q. DOES THE STATE OF ALASKA PERMIT AERIAL GUNNING OF BEARS?
A. Aerial hunting of bears is prohibited under general hunting regulations. Bears may be taken from the air in state-approved intensive management programs in limited areas by state staff only. The state is not conducting intensive management for bears on any federal lands, nor was it prior to the FWS rule.
Q. DOES THE STATE OF ALASKA ALLOW AERIAL HUNTING OF WOLVES?
A. Aerial hunting of wolves is prohibited under general hunting regulations. Only agents of the state in approved intensive management programs in limited areas may hunt wolves from the air. There are no state intensive management programs on National Park Service or FWS lands.
Q. DOES THE STATE OF ALASKA PERMIT THE GASSING OF WOLF PUPS?
A. This is prohibited under general hunting regulations.
Q. DOES THE STATE OF ALASKA ALLOW THE DENNING OF BEARS AND/OR CUBS?
A. The harvest of black bears at dens is allowed in a limited area under state and federal regulations where it is considered a customary and traditional practice for obtaining food.
Q. DOES THE STATE OF ALASKA ALLOW DENNING OF WOLVES OR WOLF PUPS?
A. No. This can occur only in approved intensive management programs and only by state staff. It was done in one program in 2008 and 2009.
Q. DOES THE STATE OF ALASKA PERMIT THE TAKING OF BEARS OVER BAIT?
A. Yes. The harvest of bears over bait is a form of regulated take in many areas of Alaska and the Lower 48 states. The Federal Subsistence Board also allows federally qualified subsistence users to harvest bears over bait on federal land.
Q. DOES THE STATE OF ALASKA ALLOW BEARS TO BE TAKEN IN STEEL-JAWED TRAPS?
Q. WILL THE STATE BOARD OF GAME AUTHORIZE PREDATOR CONTROL IN REFUGES?
A. No, only the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can authorize predator control programs in refuges.
I think that the only thing here that some people likely will walk away still having a problem with is the topic of denning bears and their cubs. But even that is only happening in rare instances where it is a traditional practice in limited areas. And while some may condemn such activities, many of the people who would condemn them are also the first people to stand up for Native American rights and traditions. So perhaps some ideological self examination is required on the topic.
With those things cleared up, what was this bill really about? When Alaska became a state one of the conditions was that the state be allowed to manage fish and wildlife, not the federal government. The rules put in place by the federal government were in some cases redundant and, on top of that, were a violation of that agreement between the state and the federal government. That is not a good precedent to set for Alaska or nationwide.
I am firmly of the belief that the federal government should manage our public lands, and that overall they do a better job of protecting those lands than the states would. I also am firmly of the belief that the states should be managing wildlife, including hunting and fishing regulations. Why? I could write an entire blog post on the topic. In short, I would say that for over 100 years states have been managing wildlife, seasons, regulations, methods of take, etc. They have done so successfully. They have partnered with the Forest Service, BLM, and USFWS on many things, but the state agencies have been at the helm. I think it should stay that way, partially because I don't want people in other states who do not have any skin in the game to have a say in what methods of take are legal here in Idaho. If the USFWS can implement a rule like this in Alaska they might be able to do so here in Idaho or elsewhere.
For further reading on the topic visit Alaska Fish and Game's website here.