Trump Administration Hunting Rule Change: Making it Easier to Execute Alaska’s Bears in National Parks

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

While doing a troll through the excellent jurist.org website, I noticed the following hunting rule change,  US National Park Service removes prohibitions on hunting practices in Alaska :

The US National Park Service (NPS) published a new rule in the Federal Register on Tuesday that will remove certain prohibitions against hunting and trapping practices that are otherwise allowed by Alaska state law.

The NPS is removing paragraphs (f) and (g) of 36 C.F.R. § 13.42, which deal with the taking of wildlife in national preserves. While most of the methods prohibited by paragraph (g) were also prohibited by the State of Alaska, the NPS found that some conflicted with authorizations by the State of Alaska. Among other practices, hunters can take black bears with artificial light at den sites, take wolves and coyotes during denning season, and take swimming animals under the new rule.

The rule was originally published on May 22, 2018 for comments, and the comment period was open for 168 days. The NPS received approximately 211, 780 pieces of correspondence on the proposed rule. The NPS also consulted with the State of Alaska and Alaska Native tribes and corporations.

The new rule will take effect on July 9.

Now, I’m not a hunter, but the first thing that struck me. Are the now allowed practices fair?Sporting, even? It’s one thing to execute the animalls, but still…

To repeat: “Among other practices, hunters can take black bears with artificial light at den sites, take wolves and coyotes during denning season, and take swimming animals under the new rule.”

Hunting Issues

I grew up in a rural community, located sixty miles (and sixty years) from mid-town Manhattan. And not in a hunting family – although there was Uncle George. Who went to Alaska or Canada to snag bear. Closer to home, he sometimes shot with a bow and arrow. He occasionally gave us some venison. but my mother who, if truth be told, was never the best of cooks for food outside her comfort zone – just really didn’t know what to do with it.

My more immediate encounter with hunters – hoped fpr non-encounter, really, was the annual arrival of hunting season. We lived close to state game land.  And hunters came up from the city – not knowledgeable, nor skilled nor sporting, and often pretty well-lubed – to try their hand at kiilling local deer.

From my free-range childhood,I well rememeber the hunting season days. When Mom – and other responsible parents – locked us down. Because every once in a while, a local kid got shot. – at least every year or so. And killed even.

So. if you say hunting season to me, I still reflexively bristle.

Dick Worth

But to bristle is not to reject. I’ll telll you some other time how my fear of water has led me to become an avid diver,

Onto my main point. Now, I often found myself hanging around the high school at odd times, and as editor of the school newspaper, was often sniffing around for a story. So I got to know the staff pretty well. Including a senior janitor, Dick Worth. We became buddies. And discussed many things

And I decided I wanted to learn how to fire a gun. I thought that was something everyone should understand how to do. In case I ever had to. I didn’t want to find myself, at crecuh time saying, now how does this work?

And Dick was happy to take me out and teach me how to fire a rifle.

Something I continued to pursue casually while an MIT undergraduate. MIT requires all its undergraduates to complete four athletics units – or at least did while I was a student.  As well as pass a swim test to earn a degree. In fact, IIRC, the then-captain of the water polo team refused to take the test, even though a member of the dean’s staff begged him to. She begged; he refused. Not entirely sure how that one worked out.

If one wanted to sign up for sailing lessons or ballroom dancing – this after all, was MIT – one had to get in line early. And I was a typical lazy teenager and valued my sleep. As for rifle clasees or pistol, one could sign up later, So I did both. And I have good eyesight – even better then – so I was good enough to be asked to try out for the teams. That was more of an honor than you might think, because at that time, we typically placed top-5 in national contests (and that included the military academies).

Hunting and Hyprocisy

I eat meat, but I don’t want direct responsibility for killing animals.

Which may speak to a certain hypocrisy.

If so, I stand convicted.

Never joined either the MIT pistol or rifle teams, Nor did I ever take a shot at Bambi or any  other living creature.

And I haven’t fired a gun now in at least forty years.

That said, I still question how sporting it is to kill denning or swimming animals.

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25 comments

  1. cocomaan

    There’s a philosophical name/concept for this, it’s the difference between Fair Chase and not Fair Chase.

    https://www.boone-crockett.org/fair-chase-statement

    https://www.boone-crockett.org/bc-position-statement-fair-chase

    I wouldn’t call this hunting fair chase, but then again, hunting considered fair chase includes waiting for whitetail deer to walk onto corn fields with standing corn.

    This sounds more like predator control to me, than hunting.

    Reply
    1. occasional anonymous

      So basically strive to do it quick, do it clean, and do it in a way that affords the animal some reasonable chance of escaping?

      Reply
  2. Judith

    This was posted on the web site for the NWR in MA where I go birding. So it seems the hunting regulations on federal lands are changing in more than just Alaska:

    Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex
    73 Weir Hill Road
    Sudbury, MA 01776

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    March 16, 2020
    UPDATED: 4/19/20
    Contacts:
    Linh Phu, Refuge Complex Manager, 978-579-4026, Linh_Phu@fws.gov

    Assabet River, Great Meadows, Oxbow National Wildlife Refuges
    News Release for Public Review of Hunt Plan

    Hunting is a traditional use of the National Wildlife Refuge System. At the Assabet River, Great Meadows, and Oxbow National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs), we welcome people of all backgrounds and abilities to participate in recreational hunting.

    Assabet River, Great Meadows, and Oxbow NWRs are seeking public review and comment on their proposed hunt expansions. The public is invited to review the draft documents for our proposed hunts, including the Draft Hunting Plan, Compatibility Determination and Environmental Assessment. These documents will be available for a 45-day comment period.

    Assabet River NWR is proposing to:
    ● Expand opportunities for big game, upland game, and migratory bird hunting on refuge lands.
    ● Provide opportunities for mentored, veteran, and youth specialized hunts.
    ● Open 123 additional acres to hunting.

    Great Meadows NWR is proposing to:
    ● Expand opportunities for big game, upland game, and migratory bird hunting on refuge lands.
    ● Open 778 additional acres to hunting

    Oxbow NWR is proposing to:
    ● Expand opportunities for big game, upland game, and migratory bird hunting on refuge lands.
    ● Open 128 additional acres to hunting.

    Reply
  3. duffolonious

    With denning animals being killed, isn’t this counterproductive? You are probably killing the mother, even if you don’t kill the babies, they’ll still probably die.

    Some time back there was an article on here about non-local hunters in Siberia, and the local man in the article was complaining about them killing mothers during the mating season (so they often were either pregnant or rearing there young). Which he thought as extremely wasteful.

    Makes me think the people approving these rules are the “we can do whatever the f*** we want” crowd. And damn the consequences.

    Reply
    1. L

      You are partly right on that. One big driver for these rule changes has been the sport guide hunters. People who fly to Alaska to get a bear. Permits are expensive and if you are flying all the way there you want to make sure you can get one, or that your clients do. So by “taking off the gloves” you make it easier for out of state fools to get their prize.

      But the other big push is Moose hunters. For many years the hunting community in Alaska and elsewhere has been saddled with a persistent and asinine assumption that since bears (or wolves) eat Moose, you have to kill more bears (or wolves) so that you can get your moose. (Again Permits are expensive). This is an old view that comes down from the days when the state would pay per wolf pelt to keep the game animals “safe” (for hunters). This was also behind prior efforts by Palin and others to legalize aerial hunting of wolves.

      It is a longstanding tension between those who see us as part of the cycle (and thus prefer to balance populations naturally and accept fewer Moose some years) versus those lazy morons who assume they have a god given right to road hunt.

      Apologies for the rant but this one issue really offends me. And I am comfortable with killing my own food.

      Reply
  4. Watt4Bob

    This literally “throwing red meat to excite the base”.

    Trying to make sense of the behavior of a terrified politician is a fools errand.

    Trump is feeding the ship into the boiler piece by piece trying to regain lost momentum.

    Seems a futile effort, but times are strange.

    Reply
  5. Chauncey Gardiner

    Is there any rational reason to execute bears, beavers, otters, or other wildlife in national parks and preserves where wildlife has been protected? In my view this is just another contemptible act of abuse of wildlife, the environment, and their fellow citizens by a group of insecure people with deep psychological issues who should be extended compassion at the personal level, often due to their own history of being abused, sense of inadequacy or personal fears, and evident need to project their personal power. These acts are clearly not being done out of a need for food or protection of human life.

    Reply
    1. L

      See my comment above about Moose hunting. In a twisted way it is about food availability but only in the most short-sighted manner.

      Reply
    2. MT_Bill

      National Parks are a separate case, This is the first I’ve heard of any hunting within a National Park in the U.S. But AK is always different. And a large % of the population does hunt/fish at a subsistence level.

      The “refuge” in wildlife refuge stems from being a refuge from commercial market hunting, long since outlawed, but active at the time that U.S. wildlife refuges began being established. They are now refuges from ag conversion and residential development. As of last year, duck stamp revenue has exceeded 1.1 billion dollars total, and either purchased or placed under easement 6 million acres of wetlands for wildlife conservation. This is outside of the excise taxes placed on fishing and hunting goods that again are solely directed at conservation under the Pittman Roberts Act.

      Reply
    3. Copeland

      Sounds a little like Westworld: A “park” specifically created to provide a safe space for killing.

      Reply
  6. Michael Fiorillo

    While I’m not a hunter, I’ve also fired guns as a yout,’ under trained supervision – target practice with pistols and skeet shooting – despite fundamentally hating and fearing them.

    I also have bad memories of encountering drunken idiots from NYC stumbling through the Catskill woods with guns, something that used to literally drive my father insane. And, of course, Trump’s order is typically disgusting on multiple levels.

    All of that said, it still needs to be pointed out that the ability of common people to range widely to hunt and put food on the table is a largely American phenomenon, and can be thought of as a democratic right that set the country apart from Europe, where hunting was for aristocrats, and “poachers” were often hung.

    That reality complicates the matter, and is something opponents need to be mindful of when developing strategies to oppose this kind of bloodlust. At a minimum, the idiots from PETA need to be kept at arm’s length.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      I agree with you – and though I don’t hunt, I have good friends who are hunters. One of whom has extended a standing invitation to hunt doves together – but I don’t think I could accept that without triggering a divorce from my beloved husband the birder. Which I very much don’t want to do! But there’s hunting, and then there’s shooting denning and swimming animals….

      Putting food on the table is an entirely different matter.

      Reply
    2. JWP

      Oddly enough this was his chosen use for hunting, protected species. Many hunters I know hunt with conservation in mind and do so infrequently and often of invasive species. If this was a political move it would be wiser to create a larger federal bounty program for feral hogs or asian carp, species that need to be eliminated to protect others. I can see room for hunting as a right being used as a cause for good, much like how New Zealand is trying to exterminate all mammals, of which there are no native species. I agree with Michael that orgs like PETA need to be kept away from the main policy for there are solutions that incorporate the desires of hunters and conservationists and those who are both.

      Reply
      1. ChrisPacific

        Trapping works well for that, but hunting can be a mixed blessing. They do make a contribution but extermination is not usually their goal, since that would mean the end of recreational hunting. They want a managed but nonzero population, and can be a vigorous lobby against extermination efforts for conservation.

        Bounty programs can also be problematic, as Terry Pratchett explains:

        Shortly before the Patrician came to power there was a terrible plague of rats. The city council countered it by offering twenty pence for every rat tail. This did, for a week or two, reduce the number of rats—and then people were suddenly queueing up with tails, the city treasury was being drained, and no one seemed to be doing much work. And there still seemed to be a lot of rats around. Lord Vetinari had listened carefully while the problem was explained, and had solved the thing with one memorable phrase which said a lot about him, about the folly of bounty offers, and about the natural instinct of Ankh-Morporkians in any situation involving money: “Tax the rat farms.”

        Reply
  7. MT_Bill

    There’s been a huge push the last two years for the feds to line up hunting regulations on federal land with the surroundings state’s hunting laws.

    Most of this has been for relatively minor changes to reduce confusion, so if pheasant season opens state-wide in MT on October 15th, then pheasant hunting on MT refuges that allow it should also open on 10/15, not November 1st.

    Which species are available for hunting has always been contentious on federally owned land like wildlife refuges. The wildlife refuges were bought and paid for with duck stamp dollars, so duck hunting and to a lesser extent Upland bird hunting has always been an approved use. The new changes have been for allowing other types of hunting such as deer, bear, feral pigs, or predator hunting.

    But the general push has been for aligning all hunting laws, so if AK allows these practices under state law, then the feds have been told at the cabinet level to make it happen.

    Reply
  8. CarlH

    My Dad and his side of the family were hunters. Not avid, but hunters nonetheless. I didn’t understand the ethics even as a child. The hunters I have seen and met do not need to do it for the meat. They do it because they enjoy it. I will never understand how one can derive pleasure from killing. That having been said, I also know a couple of people who grew up in far different circumstances than I did and for whom hunting had been an absolute necessity.

    Reply
  9. Candace Charvoz Frank

    Peeling the onion, you would find Safari Club International behind devastating and inhumane massive changes to almost all reversals that protected species at risk, humane practices and habitat. Their legal dept specializes in weakening or eliminating major legislation such as the endangered species act. I could go on….

    Web host Louisa Wilcox and her associates are conservation experts on the bears:
    http://grizzlytimes.org/

    Reply
  10. Fiery Hunt

    The taking of “swimming” animals is a waste of an animal. The water is more likely to spoil the meat if you can even get to the animal.

    Only exceptions I can think of are a)beaver trapping and b) moose or bear in 6 inches of water. I believe an animal not on “dry land” is considered “swimming” regardless of the depth of water.

    Reply
    1. Fiery Hunt

      Just read further…

      Aimed specifically at caribou either wading or exiting water.

      In line with subsistence hunting regs.

      As for the denned animal changes, I don’t know. But I do know, no ethical hunter would dream of it.

      Reply
  11. jr

    I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, mountain country to be exact, and I knew a lot of deer hunters growing up. Of all of them, the only one who hunted strictly for the meat was my maternal grandfather. For the rest it was a ritual, a ritual affirming their dim conceptions of manhood, their right to use violence and to kill. Later in life, thinking back, it struck me as exactly that: peasants who had finally earned the right to bear a weapon and to hunt from their masters. No wonder they cling to the things. I have no time for hunters, unless it’s feeding your family, it’s savagery. Frankly, I enjoy reading the news about a few of them getting offed every year…

    Reply
  12. The Rev Kev

    Just had a thought. International travel is out so all those American hunters can no longer go to places like Africa to kill themselves a vicious giraffe as a trophy. Perhaps this is why the relaxation of hunting rules – to please these wealthy hunters that are now twiddling their thumbs.

    Reply
  13. Joseph Weidle

    I wanted to post a comment regarding both the title and content of this article
    I often read the articles posted by Jerri-Lynn and find them insightful and well written I have to say however I was surprised by both the title of the post and how it failed to accurately explain the context of the rule change
    I enjoy reading Jerri-Lynn’s article and in no way is this an overall criticism as I hope to continue to read and learn from her posts
    I do feel that the title “Trump Administration Hunting Rule Change:Making it easier to Execute Alaska’s Bears in National Parks is extremely sensational and completely out of context with the intent of the rule change.For someone not familiar with the rule think of it as TRUMP EXECUTE and NATIONAL PARKS those are the key statements in the title Leading someone to believe the essence of the rule would be to facilitate execution of animals in National Parks
    If the title was National Park Service Aligns regulations with State Law for Hunting and Trapping in Alaska’s National Preserves the context of the post would not create an instant distaste toward the Trump Administration and would accurately describe the purpose of the regulation change
    I am no fan of the current administration however I am also not a fan of sensational headlines especially when the title does not match the facts and although there are several changes which I find personally distasteful the basic idea is that in 2015 the Nation Park Service passed regulations applicable to hunting and trapping in the Alaskan Federal Reserves not the National Parks which superseded or voided state regulations in direct violation of the Alaskan National Interest and Conservation Act which requires the federal agencies to defer to the state in matters of Wildlife Management.So in essence the National Park Service sought to align their regulation with those of the state
    There was support for these changes especially from the Tanana Chiefs Conference which represents 42 member tribes and covers 37% of Alaska’s interior.Several of the rule changes such as harvesting bears and cubs from their dens is a Native American practice dating back centuries and is used as a food source as is the taking of Caribou while in water this regulation change does not apply to other animals
    I still find these sad but I should also mention that several of the rule changes have been part of wildlife management in other states for years.In Pennsylvania where I live due to the Quaker Blue Laws Hunting on Sundays has been prohibited forever until this year now 3 Sundays are allowed however one of the 2 exceptions to this regulation is the hunting or trapping of coyotes which is allowed 24 hours a day seven days a week.Some states allow bear baiting(MAINE) for example and other allow for hunting bears with
    hounds
    I have hoped that in writing this comment I could explain context of the regulation change rather than leaving the title description guide the reader and I hope no one takes offense

    Reply
  14. Michael McCarthy

    If taking the life of an animal is for food ok as long as the method is humane – as little pain as possible inflicted on the animal. If it’s just to sever its head to put above your fireplace, I sincerely hope the same happens to you someday.

    Reply

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