By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
A new National Park Service proposed rule marks a substantial step forward for some of our nation’s most iconic wildlife species, including brown and black bears and wolves. The NPS rule would ban certain extremely cruel methods of trophy hunting and trapping on Alaska’s national preserves. We have been fighting hard to achieve this prohibition, urging the Biden administration to reverse a 2020 rule, issued by the Department of the Interior under the Trump administration, which allowed these practices to resume after they had previously been banned in 2015. We’ve maintained for the past two years that the 2020 rule was pandering to trophy hunting interests.
The practices at issue include some truly horrific methods that most hunters abhor, including killing hibernating mother black bears and their cubs in their dens with the aid of artificial lights, shooting wolf and coyote pups and mothers at their dens, shooting vulnerable caribou while they are swimming, using dogs to hunt black bears, and using bait like donuts and meat scraps to attract and subsequently kill brown and black bears.
In 2015, the Obama administration put a stop to these horrors. While the perpetrators of this grisly violence sometimes claimed a need to reduce numbers of native carnivores in order to boost prey species for hunters, science has shown that attempts to manipulate nature in this way produces terrible results. We have seen brown bear populations in Alaska, for example, dwindle because of the state’s intensive, outdated, unscientific management practices that target large carnivores to reduce populations without regard for the impact on the ecosystem.
Alaska state officials should support this proposed rule, not least because millions of wildlife watchers who visit the state each year add hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies—much more than what the handful of trophy hunters bring. In fact, compared to wildlife watchers and other non-consumptive users in Alaska, hunters and trappers account for a mere 0.3% of the total $12.2 billion spent on total outdoor recreation, according to 2019 data.
Moreover, by large majorities, most Alaskans oppose these unfair and unsporting hunting practices. This is also a rule that all Americans should support—with thousands of them heading to National Park Service lands in Alaska each year for the simple pleasure of watching and enjoying the nation’s iconic wildlife while they’re alive and thriving. Ensuring that these practices are banned will allow Alaskans, and all Americans, these opportunities for years to come.
In short, this proposal sets the stage for a monumental victory in the fight to protect wildlife in Alaska. But our work is not over. We thank the Biden administration for taking this step toward ensuring that our treasured wild animals are protected from these outrageous methods of hunting and trapping on Alaska’s national preserves. Now the administration must finalize this proposed rule, and we need your help to show them that it is strongly supported by a large majority of Americans.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.