Protecting Animals In Our National Parks And Refuges

Photo Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States

National parks, preserves and wildlife refuges located in Alaska belong to all Americans, which means it is up to each of us to protect the animals living on these special lands from the worst kind of predator, a "super predator" in fact: the trophy hunter.

Trophy hunters killed grizzly bears, black bears, wolves and coyotes in Alaska using some of the most barbaric and unsporting means: shooting swimming caribou from motor boats; luring grizzly bears to buckets of rotting meat and pet food for a point-blank kill; using cruel, steel-jawed traps or snares; and rooting out black bear mothers and their cubs using artificial lights at the den in wintertime and killing them; slaughtering wolf and coyote mothers at the den with their pups and extended family members--exploiting them when they are completely vulnerable--and scouting grizzly bears from planes, landing and then shooting them.

Trophy hunters aren't killing animals for their meat or fur, or for subsistence. They butcher a once wild animal, a sentient being who is a family member, to prove how manly and virile they are. They hang an animal's head on a wall, they turn bears into rugs, and stuff wolves in full-body-mounted displays. This is nothing but a sick competition, ticking each species from a checklist, racing against each other to kill more animals to win prizes and other inducements from groups like Safari Club International.

Thanks to federal land managers, these egregious killing methods are no longer permitted in a large portion of Alaska. That's because on October 15, 2015, the National Park Service on its National Preserves, and this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on its National Wildlife Refuges, passed administrative rules that prohibit several of the most controversial and unsporting hunting activities. There are more than 96 million acres of these federal lands - national preserves and wildlife refuges - in Alaska impacted by these rules; more than in all the lower 48 states combined. These lands are home to wolves, wolverines, grizzly bears, black bears, lynx and other species whose very survival has been threatened repeatedly by reckless killing and dismal state management.

Alaskans should support these rules not only because they protect animals, but also because millions of people travel to Alaska annually to experience our abundant wildlife, and those tourists spend over $2 billion annually, immensely bolstering Alaska's sagging economy.

When the wolf population was decimated in Denali National Park because they were lured out of the Park and trapped ruthlessly on nearby state lands, many wolf-watching tourists abandoned Alaska for Yellowstone National Park, where they know they can see wild wolves in their natural habitat. Alaska hotel owners, restaurants, wildlife guides, and others who depend on tourism are economically harmed. The damage has been done in Denali. Not only does it need to be undone, we need to prevent this from happening in other parts of the state.

Yet the Alaska Board of Game continues what they call "Intensive Management," the slaughter of large carnivores in a misguided attempt to boost numbers of the prey species coveted by trophy hunters. This isn't surprising, considering that the BOG is composed of governor-appointees who aren't biologists, but are instead trophy hunters, trappers, NRA members, and even a hunting lodge manager. This group not only fails to recognize how much Alaskans value their wildlife, but they all appear to be oblivious to the fact that wildlife watchers and ecotourists bring far more money into the state economy than do trophy hunters.

In a statewide poll conducted in March, Alaska residents voiced their strong support for ending some of the most cruel and unsporting methods of hunting on national wildlife refuges and preserves in our state. What's more, these new rules are completely in keeping with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which allows for subsistence hunting while conserving and protecting preserves and refuges for their wild characteristics.

It is now up to each of us to tell our elected officials in Congress that public lands are meant to be managed in trust for all of us. They don't belong just to the BOG, or trophy hunters, or trappers. Whatever your political views are of the Obama administration, the fact remains that he, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service put forth policies that are far more humane, scientifically sound, and ecologically-minded and in keeping with Alaskans' values.

The animals in these parks belong to all Americans, and to our children and grandchildren. We must do whatever we can to protect them.