Donald Trump Likely to Sign Bill Removing Inhumane Hunting and Snaring Protections on Federal Refuges
Wildlife activists around the globe have been outraged by the U.S. Senate’s bill to overturn a hunting regulation that protects Alaskan predators from inhumane hunting practices. The motion, initiated by Don Young, Representative for the Alaska district, was approved by a majority vote largely supported by the Republican Party and has sparked a global frenzy.
Alaska’s Republican officials claim that the regulation by federal government has usurped the state’s authority and believe that the state should maintain the right to manage the fish and wildlife on its lands. The final decision now rests with President Donald Trump as to whether hunters will be given the freedom to carry out what animal rights activists deem to be barbaric actions against predators in Alaska’s federal wildlife refuges.
But what does this mean?
The regulation to prohibit predator control was passed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under the Obama administration. The rule protects predators from unethical hunting practices such as the aerial shooting of bears and wolves, hunting bear cubs and mothers, and hunting wolves and coyotes during the denning season. It also prohibits the hunting of bears using bait, steel-jaw traps, and wire snares. Once the bill is signed into law, Alaska’s iconic predators will no longer be protected from these condemned practices in wildlife refuges.
What is predator control?
Predator control is the explicit intention to reduce predator populations for the benefit of prey species. Federal law prohibited predator control practices in order to promote natural diversity by avoiding artificial and manipulative management activities that favor certain species to the detriment of others. With the new bill in force, these practices will once again be allowed.
The motive behind the motion is to boost population numbers of prey animals such as moose, caribou, and deer, for hunting purposes. Alaska’s Governor Bill Walker pleaded the case of subsistence hunting in a January lawsuit against federal regulations. “As Alaskans, we have a unique relationship with our land – especially in the most rural parts of our state where residents rely on hunting and fishing to put food on the table. These regulations impact our basic means of survival. Alaskans must be able to provide for their families and the rules that have been put forward by the federal government do not support that.” argued Walker.
The state permits both subsistence and recreational hunting by residents as well as non-residents under the sport hunting regulations. However, federal law dictates that the elimination of non-resident hunting should be the first call of action should the supply of game populations fail to meet with hunting demands.
The question remains as to whether predator activity is negatively affecting game population numbers significantly enough to impact subsistence hunting.
In areas such as the Kenai Peninsula where moose population concerns were raised, the main causes for declining numbers were attributed to factors other than predator volumes, such as vehicle collisions, food availability and even traps intended for predators. So we are effectively sentencing predators to brutal punishments for human-induced impacts on ungulate populations. The FWS also concluded that overall populations of moose in Alaska are generally healthy.
But interfering with the natural order is only part of the problem.
The major issue is the question of ethics. Simply put, if we condone the gunning down of bears and wolves from aircrafts, the killing of cubs and mothers, and the trapping of predators with snares and fences, can we still call these areas wildlife refuges?
Former FWS director Don Ashe commented that the unsporting nature of these practices also goes against longstanding American traditions of ethical hunting, good sportsmanship and the spirit of fair-chase, in an article submitted to the Huffington Post last year.
Depleting predator populations could also reduce ecotourism opportunities, in the form of activities such as wildlife viewing and photography. On the other hand, the opposing argument is that the rule negatively impacts hunting tourism. But according to the FWS, the regulation promotes long-term sustainability that would benefit all forms of wildlife-based ecotourism on federal wildlife reserves.
So what now?
Despite these arguments, the state remains adamant on its reasoning to have the rule revoked against strong contentions from environmental scientists, wildlife advocates and opposing members of Congress. President Donald Trump is likely to sign the bill, once again highlighting the Trump administration stance on environmental issues.
As we await the final verdict on the bill, we remember some of the great men who instilled in us a deep sense of respect toward wildlife, and responsibility to protect our natural resources.
In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “The wildlife of today is not ours to do with as we please. The original stock was given to us in trust for the benefit both of the present and the future. We must render an accounting of this trust to those who come after us.”
Let us hope that these words can once again instil sense and compassion among wildlife hunters, political authorities, and lawmakers alike.
catchFred wildlife contributor