National Park Service Compendium
Ongoing Issues — Questions/Answers
Questions and Answers
The National Park Service (NPS) relies on several broad themes to justify the preemption of state hunting regulations, many of which are discussed below. For complete information, please read the NPS proposals, the department’s comments, and the NPS response to those comments (available on the “documents” tab).
Do the State of Alaska and the National Park Service (NPS) have wildlife management responsibilities on national preserves in Alaska?
Yes. Congress, through ANILCA, provides NPS with negative powers; i.e., restrictive regulatory powers which generally limit NPS authorities regarding wildlife to restricting state or ANILCA title VIII subsistence harvest under specific circumstances. Conversely, ANILCA provides the State of Alaska with positive powers and “reaffirmed the basic responsibility and authority of the State ...to manage fish and resident wildlife on Federal lands.” ANILCA provides that the State will manage fish and wildlife populations across Alaska; e.g., determine harvestable surplus; allocate harvestable surplus; and set methods and means of harvest, as well as seasons and bag limits. 43 CFR § 24.1(a) concisely summarizes this state-federal relationship, “[f]ederal authority exists for specified purposes while State authority regarding fish and resident wildlife remains the comprehensive backdrop applicable in the absence of specific, overriding Federal law.
If both state and federal agencies have responsibilities, why does this really matter to the public? To the department?
This matters to the public because NPS is limiting wildlife harvest opportunities without conservation concern or objective criteria.
Besides the process, consultation, and the public opportunity concerns listed previously, given the roles and responsibilities of state and federal agencies regarding wildlife, preventing the State of Alaska from exercising its authorities is an action of considerable significance. NPS action implies a formal finding (but without corroborating evidence) that the state's management fails to ensure the conservation of species and sustained-yield management principles.
Are parks and preserves overseen as independent units by state wildlife managers?
No. The department manages wildlife on the game management unit level — a broader ecosystem level. This approach allows the department to manage entire populations on an ecosystem scale, recognizing that wildlife cross land ownership boundaries. NPS policy states this approach is appropriate; however, NPS did not acknowledge this policy in the justification or decision document.
Science has demonstrated that few if any park units can fully realize or maintain their physical and biological integrity if managed as biogeographic islands. Instead, park units must be managed in the context of their larger ecosystems. The ecosystem context for some species and processes may be relatively small, while for others this context is vast. In any case, superintendents face the challenge of placing each of the resources they protect in their appropriate ecosystem context and then working with all involved and affected parties to advance their shared conservation goals and avoid adverse impacts on these resources.
NPS states there must be "no possibility" of state regulations "disrupting naturally-functioning ecosystem process." What is the department's concern with this?
The emphasis on “natural” ecosystems erroneously implies there is, or was, no human presence within park units across the country. In Alaska specifically, these statements fail to take into account that Alaska Natives and others have influenced wildlife and the environment for more than 10,000 years. After statehood, the department began managing wildlife populations, regardless of land ownership, on a sustained yield basis per the Alaska Constitution. This included lands that would eventually be designated by Congress as park and preserve lands under ANILCA.
Additionally, without clear understanding of how NPS defines a “naturally-functioning ecosystem process,” which the department requested and was denied, it is a challenge to argue for or against this as a workable standard. At a more basic level, proving a negative in this manner is practically impossible. This applies not only to the state hunting regulations in question, but nearly all human uses.
Do department management actions seek to control "natural" wildlife populations?
No. The department management activities are short-term actions intended to influence reproduction and survival of wild populations to achieve management objectives on abundance and sustainable harvest, but not fundamentally alter or permanently change natural dynamics.
Do efficient methods of take necessarily constitute an "unnatural" manipulation of wildlife populations?
No. The preempted state regulations are not part of a predator control program and do not have the potential to create "unnatural" wildlife populations. Rather, these regulations provide additional harvest methods for wildlife populations where an increased level of harvestable surplus exists. No additional take of brown or black bears was authorized by these regulations — all harvest is regulated under current seasons and bag limits.
Is human consumption of wildlife allowed by ANILCA and NPS policies?
Yes. When establishing Alaska park units, ANILCA defined their purposes and values. This includes the consumptive use of wildlife on national preserves. Subsistence is also a use and value in these areas, as well as in a majority of national parks. In fact, the legislative history from ANILCA stated that "rural residents have been, and are now, a natural part of the ecosystem serving as a primary consumer in the natural food chain." NPS policies require this management direction be carried forward.
The regulated take of black bears with the aid of artificial light and brown bears over black bear bait stations were not historically authorized. Why is it okay now?
The Alaska Board of Game considered these regulations through a comprehensive public process, which included an opportunity for the NPS to provide perspectives and opinions. Following public testimony and input by department staff on the status of area wildlife populations, the board authorized this take with the understanding that it would not jeopardize the sustainability of wildlife species and would provide a reasonable harvest opportunity by the public. In the case of using artificial light for the take of black bears, the board recognized a customary and traditional practice that, while not widely used, has cultural importance to some. Once again, these new regulations do not authorize additional take. Also, the department retains emergency order authority and will not hesitate to employ this authority if an unexpected conservation concern arises.
Are the impacts of these preempted regulations inconsistent with "sport" hunting?
No. As stated previously, these authorizations are not part of a predator control program and additional harvest is, or is expected to be, low. The State of Alaska is required to maintain the sustainability of all wildlife species — including predator and prey. Additionally, we question whether NPS can arbitrarily define "sport hunting," especially considering nothing in federal law or regulation regarding "fair chase" on park and preserve lands exists.