State appeals for right to bait brown bears in Kenai wildlife refuge

bear, brown bear, grizzly bear, kenai river, fishing

The State of Alaska is asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the state to manage hunting methods on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, including allowing brown bear baiting that is currently prohibited.

The state is appealing a decision by a Ninth Circuit judge from April that upheld restrictions on hunting and brown bear baiting in the refuge. The restrictions date back to 2016, when then-President Barack Obama imposed limits on brown bear baiting and hunting in the refuge.

Conservation groups lauded the court’s April decision upholding the ban on biting, with Nicole Schmitt, executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, calling it “a sigh of relief for all those who enjoy the Refuge and its wildlife.”

State officials in statements Wednesday said they saw the court’s decision as upholding federal government overreach.

“Any attempt to legislate through policy by unelected officials sets a dangerous precedent to all states,” said Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

“We hope the entire Ninth Circuit will hear this case and see the error in the panel’s initial decision that failed to recognize that Congress has left these issues to the states,” Dunleavy said.

The original lawsuit challenging the Obama-era rule was filed by the hunting advocacy group Safari Club International soon after the rule was implemented. A district court judge ruled in favor of the federal government and the Ninth Circuit court upheld the decision when the Safari Club appealed.

Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Douglas Vincent-Lang said in a statement Wednesday that “federal employees living in D.C. should not control how Alaskans hunt.”

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The Associated Press and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at isamuels@adn.com.