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Wildlife

Trump administration eases hunting and trapping rules in Alaska national preserves

A several year-old grizzly cub stretches as its mom digs for roots on a gravel bar of the Teklanika River in Denali National Park and Preserve. (Bob Hallinen / ADN file)

The Trump administration this week published new rules to increase hunting and trapping on federal preserves in Alaska, a move that conservation groups have said supports the killing of predators and their young but that state leaders, hunters and a tribal consortium have praised.

The National Park Service said the final rules affirm the state’s in wildlife management on national preserves and follows federal policies and law. The rules were released late last month and will take effect July 9.

The changes, published in the federal register on Tuesday, roll back 2015 prohibitions adopted under President Barack Obama. They open the door for hunters and trappers to take:

• Black bears, including cubs and sows with cubs, with artificial light at den sites.

• Bears using bait.

• Wolves and coyotes, including pups, during the denning season.

• Swimming caribou.

• Caribou from traveling motorboats.

• Black bears using dogs.

The agency manages 10 preserves in the state, including at Denali National Park and Preserve, where the preserve lies west of the park.

Alaska leaders last month joined hunting groups in saying the changes align state and federal law. The rule stems from orders from former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in 2017 and a memorandum recognizing states as the leading authorities for fish and wildlife management.

“This rule complements state regulations by more closely aligning harvest opportunities in national preserves with harvest opportunities on surrounding lands,” the park service said in the Federal Register on Tuesday.

“With the release of this final rule, we are eliminating a wrongful federal seizure of Alaska’s authority," U.S. Rep. Don Young said in a statement from the park service in May.

The Defenders of Wildlife called the rules a “new low” for the Trump administration that will allow “barbaric and inhumane" killing of bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens. The group asserted that the state wants to increase game populations by driving down carnivore numbers.

A 2018 federal environmental assessment of the rollback in the preserves said that the subsistence harvest of moose and caribou could increase.

The Tanana Chiefs Conference, representing 42 tribes in the Interior, said last month it supports the rollback, because the 2015 rules threatened the tribes’ way of life and ancient sustainable-management practices.

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