National Park Service Compendium
Ongoing Issues — Overview
NPS continues to preempt the department’s management authority despite lack of discernible standards
The National Park Service (NPS) through its annual park compendium review has again finalized closures that establish or extend restrictions over Alaska state hunting regulations on preserve lands. Each year since 2010, NPS has preempted harvest opportunities important to rural Alaskans and to hunters in general. Examples of opportunities blocked through the compendium process include the use of artificial light in the customary and traditional take of black bears at den sites and expanded wolf harvest opportunities based on increased levels of harvestable surplus. NPS has continued these restrictions in the 2013 compendium, by extending previous closures and blocking expanded wolf and coyote harvest opportunities based on increased levels of harvestable surplus and the regulated taking of brown bears over black bear bait stations. NPS offers no biological support to back its restrictions, claiming only that the State’s allowances violate park values or cause unacceptable impacts to park resources.
Congress explicitly states in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) that “the taking of fish and wildlife for sport purposes and subsistence uses, and trapping shall be allowed in a national preserve under applicable State and Federal law and regulation.” While the Alaska Department of Fish and Game recognizes that ANILCA also grants NPS the authority to “designate zones where and periods when no hunting… may be permitted for reasons of public safety, administration, floral and faunal protection, or public use and enjoyment,” we have significant concerns over the process NPS uses to implement this authority. The agency’s refusal to engage the department in meaningful consultation has been frustrating and repeated requests that NPS identify clear standards have drawn no response.
NPS refuses to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between the preempted state hunts and actual or potential impacts to specific resources and/or values. No details are provided to demonstrate that an unacceptable impact would likely result from the hunting allowed under the state regulations. Alaskans deserve to know precisely how preempted state hunts are out of balance with other park values, especially considering congressional direction that hunting shall be allowed. Without such analysis it becomes impossible to predict whether subsequent perceived impacts might compel NPS to further preempt state regulations.
At the only agency meeting held prior to the proposed compendium’s release, NPS informed the department that the state hunts in question violated park values and would be preempted unless altered to conform to NPS preferences. No objective criteria or biological information necessary for informed decision-making was presented or discussed.
The department annually provides written comment on proposed NPS closures that preempt state hunting regulations. This year, in addition to meeting with NPS, because of growing concern over the extended closures, the department developed a series of questions aimed at clarification and increased understanding to determine how the proposed and extended NPS closures fit into the management framework created by Congress, including through ANILCA. Also requested was more information regarding the validity of multi-year “temporary” closures, among other concerns.
The response from NPS was disappointing. The majority of the department’s most pressing inquiries were swept aside as, essentially, “asked and answered.” Other responses misconstrued the purpose and intent of department comments, did not fully respond to comments, or simply ignored department comments altogether.
With no genuine attempt at meaningful analysis and consultation by NPS, the department is left with few viable alternatives to cooperatively fulfill its responsibility to manage fish and wildlife on preserves under the Alaska Constitution and ANILCA.
The department recently elevated its concerns to NPS National Director Jonathan Jarvis. It is the department’s hope that his office can maintain our historically cooperative relationship by satisfactorily addressing the State’s concerns.
You are encouraged to review the “question and answer” and “documents” tab to get a full picture of the situation and the department’s concerns.