U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Decision Closes State Approved Skilak Loop Hunt
(Juneau) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game learned today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will implement additional hunting closures on the Kenai Peninsula.
In a news release today, the USFWS has promulgated a closure of state-authorized wolf, lynx and coyote hunting within the Skilak Loop Management Area. The closure is scheduled to go into effect on November 10, 2013.
The federal agency’s decision to close hunting is in response to the March 2013 Alaska Board of Game action allowing limited hunting for these species. The board’s decision was based on public proposals that requested additional hunting opportunities. The proposals were modified to accommodate concerns by the USFWS related to other public uses in the area and do not threaten conservation of the species.
In taking this action, the USFWS failed to respond to any of the significant issues the department raised in comments provided at public hearings and in writing. At that time, the department had requested the USFWS work with them to review the comments and the issue. No contact has been forthcoming from the USFWS since that time.
Doug Vincent-Lang, Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation noted, “Preemption of valid state regulations is becoming a regular feature of federal overreach into state management of fish and wildlife. This action sets yet another poor precedent for future action by the USFWS to close any authorized state hunt when federal managers determine it does not fit within their philosophical agenda. With nearly 80 million acres of national wildlife refuge lands in Alaska, this is a significant issue that deserves better attention to long-held commitments to interagency coordination and cooperation.”
Only one week ago, the USFWS used its emergency authority to close national wildlife refuge lands on the Kenai Peninsula to the taking of brown bears.