Intensive management

State management of wildlife on federal refuges in Alaska has survived a court challenge from the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been trying to limit the hunting and trapping of bears and wolves.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a Dec. 30 decision affirmed a low court ruling that concluded Congress was acting within its powers in 2017 when it voted to block Obama-era hunting restrictions ordered in Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges.

Federal officials acted in 2016 because they did not like the looks of state “predation control areas” where the Alaska Board of Game could authorize aerial shooting of wolves or bears or both by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or increase wolf and bear harvests by contracting with private trappers, issuing permits for same-day airborne hunting of wolves and bears by the public, or permitting the take of black or brown bears over bait or with the uses of snares.

To stop such actions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which manages the national refuges, banned those killing techniques on more than 70 million acres of refuge land in the 49th state. More than 75 percent of USFWS-managed lands are in Alaska.

The federal-state disagreement was as much or more about the philosophy of hunting and trapping as about kill levels.

As the USFWS noted in proposing its regulations, the “state of Alaska’s legal framework for managing wildlife is based on a different principle than the legal framework applicable to management of the National Wildlife Refuge system; it is based on the principle of sustained yield.”

Maximum sustained yield

The Alaska Constitution – approved three years before Congress voted to grant statehood to the Alaska Territory – contains a specific “sustained yield” section that stipulates “fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands, and all other replenishable resources belonging to the state shall be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses.”

State officials have for decades wrestled with how to deal with this requirement when managing predators and their prey. In a perfect world, it would be possible to maintain bears, wolves, moose, caribou, deer, Dall sheep, goats and other prey at sustained yield levels approaching their maximum, but the world is not perfect.

Wildlife populations cycle up and down, often at the whims of weather. When prey decline in ecosystems heavy in predators, predation can slow or at times stop their recovery for long periods of time.

The state has taken the view that the right thing to do in such situations is to remove significant numbers of predators to allow prey to bounce back before allowing predator populations to rebuild. The USFWS considers these fluctuations normal and prefers to let nature take its course.

As it argued in blocking state predation control efforts, its policy calls for managing for “historic conditions” such as the “‘composition, structure, and functioning of ecosystems resulting from natural processes that we believe, based on sound professional judgment, were present prior to substantial human-related changes to the landscape.’ In implementing this policy on refuges, we favor ‘management that restores or mimics natural ecosystem processes or functions to achieve refuge purposes(s).’ Additionally, under this policy, we ‘formulate refuge goals and objectives for population management by considering natural densities, social structures, and population dynamics at the refuge level’ and manage populations for ‘natural densities and levels of variation.'”

Mainly, though, federal officials didn’t like the looks of the wolf and harvest techniques – airborne shooting, hunting over bait and snaring – that horrified environmentalists and were distasteful to some hunters and conservationists as well.

But not to Rep. Don Young, Alaska, a long-time hunter and the state’s sole congressman. He went to work to get a House of Representatives vote to overturn the USFWS action, and with fellow, Alaska Republicans Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan pushing in the Senate, Congress sent to President Donald Trump a Congressional Review Act resolution blocking the Interior regulations.

“Alaska Rep. Don Young, the Republican sponsor…says these restrictions represented federal overreach,” NPR reported at the time.

“‘Not only does this action undermine Alaska’s ability to manage fish and wildlife upon refuge lands,’ Young said, ‘it fundamentally destroys a cooperative relationship between Alaska and the federal government.'”

No it’s not

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, promptly filed suit, arguing that if there was any overreaching being done it was by Congress.

It argued that the Congressional Review Act and the joint resolution passed by the House and Senate in accordance with that act violated the separation-of-powers doctrine of the U.S. Constitution by interfering with the executive branch’s duty under the “Take Care Clause.”

As the appeals court ruling summarized, the Center argued that Congress was “preventing the Department of the Interior from implementing its constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws by properly managing the federal wildlife refuge system.”

The once notoriously liberal but increasingly more conservative Ninth Circuit wasn’t buying that. 

“The panel rejected the argument because Congress properly enacted the Joint Resolution, thereby validly amending Interior’s authority to administer national wildlife refuges in Alaska, and Congress, accordingly, did not prevent the President from exercising his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws,” the court’s statement said.

“The panel concluded that because the Joint Resolution did not violate the Take Care Clause, CBD’s complaint failed to state a claim that was plausible on its face.”

In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit went out of its way to offer its opinion on the Congressional Review Act.

Citing James Madison and The Federalist papers, it ends it opinions with the declaration that “Congress’s efforts to exercise oversight of federal administrative agencies by means of the CRA are consistent with the ‘structure of this government, and the distribution of this mass of power among its constituent parts. Congress can therefore use the streamlined procedure in the CRA to disapprove federal regulations without offending the Take Care Clause, and Congress has validly deprived us (the courts) of jurisdiction to consider claims that it violated the CRA’s statutory requirements.”

No real resolution

No one expects the ruling to have any effect on the political battles over predator management that have ebbed and flowed in Alaska since Statehood. One of the earliest acts of the state government was to put an end to long-running federal wolf control programs.

Among other things, the state banned the most effective of predator-control weapons – poison. An indiscriminate killer, it removed all sorts of predators: wolves, bears, coyotes, wolverines, eagles and more.

Poison remains banned in Alaska to this day, but the thinking on predation has shifted from what it was in the 1960s when ecologists generally believed that it was “compensatory,” meaning the predators only removed the portion of a prey population that would have died of natural causes one way or another anyway.

A variety of studies have since found that predation can add to the deaths caused by other forms of natural predation and serve to depress prey populations, or keep populations depressed after winters that cause significant deaths due to starvation.

Big questions remain, however, as to where and when that is occurring as do issues as to how big prey populations should be allowed to grow. That ties directly into the carrying capacity of Alaska’s often marginal wildlife habitat.

With the issues complicated and the emotions hot – some wolf lovers consider wolf hunting akin to murder – it’s possible the battles over predator control will ever end.







31 replies »

  1. The CBD just showed itself as another out of touch leftist organization that does not understand the laws. When the 9th Circuit rules against a leftist organization the way they did with this ruling it should be time to review how and what you are doing, sadly it will not.

    As Rod pointed out, all of the other states in our union are in charge of their wildlife. While we are a different state and we have certain exemptions from various federal laws, we should be in charge of our fish and our game the way they are in every state.

  2. There should be no “state wildlife management” in Alaska. It should all be federally managed/ shut down. Alaskans are too stupid manage anything. Native villages don’t abide by any hunting or fishing laws, so there can be no effective wildlife management from anyone if Natives shoot anything that moves. Only hope for wildlife in Alaska – turn the entire state into a national park. Ban Native “subsistence” hunting, which is a complete joke anyway (for example: remember Natives from Barrow flying down to Anchorage to “subsistence hunt”/ wipe out Cook Inlet belugas).

  3. I couldn’t get past that scary black gun in the picture…frightening! But, nice wolves.. “some wolf lovers consider wolf hunting akin to murder”. Kind of says it all right there. If it isn’t crazy Iranians one has to deal with, it is crazy enviros.

    • So much for that $2 Trillion wasted on trying to “stabilize” Iraq in the last 20 years.

      • How about that Obama $150 billion in unmarked bills, on pallets, on a blacked out plane, in exchange for hostages amd to be used for terrorism? ? Good for Trump. That Iranian terrorist scum had hundreds of US Soldiers blood on his filthy hands. MAGA2020.
        Only thing that death cult understands is a boot on the throat. They wiped their butts with Obama’s outstretched hand.
        How has the money been wasted? Id say money well spent.

      • Steve, how about the trillions wasted on this nonsemse:
        “Defense released a report assuring the world Climate Change would destroy all of us by the year 2020.

        Well, welcome to the year 2020! And welcome to yet another fake doomsday prediction number 42 from our renowned climate experts!

        Yep, our so-called “climate experts” are now 0-42 with their doomsday predictions, and this latest one is a doozy.”

      • Bryan,
        Even the Neo-Cons “homeboy” Tucker on FOX news is questioning this latest drone strike?
        “There’s been virtually no debate or even discussion about this, but America appears to be lumbering toward a new Middle East war,” Carlson said.
        “The very people demanding action against Iran tonight” are “liars, and they don’t care about you, they don’t care about your kids, they’re reckless and incompetent.
        And you should keep all of that in mind as war with Iran looms closer tonight…
        When his guest, Curt Mills of The American Conservative, said war with Iran “would be twice as bad” as the Iraq War and “if Trump does this, he’s cooked,” Carlson sadly concurred: “I think that’s right.”

      • What “new” war would that be Steve? Iran has been at war with the USA since the late 1970’s. They are respondible for killing thousands of Americans. They deserve a nuke. Tucker is questioning what? Killing one of the worlds notorious terrorists who just orchestrated an attack on American soil? Obama kills American citizens with drone strikes and Dems remain silent. Trump kills a terrorist dog with the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands and Dems/libs/media/Hollyweird have a cow..Typical.
        Sorry Dems your failed “to keep feeding the gator in hopes it will not eat you” is for cowards.
        Guess Trump helped Obama with his “red line in the sand”. Thank God Hillary/Obama were not in charge and we had another Benghazi.

      • “No matter how good it may feel that Qasem Soleimani is no longer alive, he likely will end up being more dangerous to the United States, our troops and our allies, as a martyr than as a living, breathing military adversary,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
        (Wa post)

      • None of this has to do with the 9th Circuits ruling against the CBD and for Alaskans. Try and stay on subject boys. But it’s strange to see an entire segment of our population mourn a terrorists death while celebrating how they think that terrorists death can help them politically. We live in strange times.

      • Steve Stine,

        Iran had gotten too cocky, and continued so when their adversary was obviously laying for them. They played into a major trap-setup Trump’s Admin has been developing in a high-profile way, since shortly after he got elected. Now they’re standing there with their pants down around their ankles, trying to look all resolute & Persian.

        Iran has it’s terrorism-vendors openly sashaying hither & yon, thinking they have some kind of impunity to … for example promote agitation and organize destructive mobs up & down the west coast of South America. [Not a bad strategic principle that, but the operational tactics they use must be considerably more subtle & sophisticated.]

        It’s no secret that Trump has gotten Gulf & Middle Eastern actors to come together in common cause … and that their main common worry is the aggression & ambition of Iran. Soleimani made it easy for the US, by not even pretending to be smart about what he was up to. Now they have to get smarter … lower-key, harder to track, less direct.

        Being smarter means they will be able to conduct fewer operations, in fewer theaters, at a slower pace, with fewer agents … in order to avoid further embarrassments.

        Tucker Carson notwithstanding, we’re no closer to ‘war’ now than last week. Like North Korea, Iran’s military status is mostly old 20th C fossils. Like Argentina going against the UK … they can lose the old hardware they have if they want to (which is a real loss), but they can’t effectively conduct a war against updated forces.

        And the poetic idea that Soleimani is more dangerous to American interests dead … what exactly is this new or enlarged danger? Terrorist attacks? Where? Sure, they’d like to demonstrate their reach, say in downtown NYC or DC (they went on alert), but they’ve had to settle for venues like Baghdad. Bad poetry.

        To make an impressive response to the loss of Soleimani – sure they’d like to – the response has to be quick, and it has to be impressive. There’s a certain chance they’ll find a way. But not likely … and lots of eyeballs on them right now. It would be easier to make a less-impressive strike, but that would leave them looking unimpressive.

        No … Trump scored not only in the Middle East, but at home the Democrats & Left are giving him an own-goal, to-boot.

      • Ted,
        Your American view of the situation at hand is not realistic.
        You may look at the lines in the sand and say here is one country, there is another…but in reality there are two million Shiites in Saudi Arabia allone (do you forget the majority of “terrorists” on 9/11 were Saudi Nationals?).
        Terrorists in the middle east have allies in ALL the Arab countries…
        Killing their military leaders does have consequences.
        Iran not only has Migs and F-14 jets…they are one of the most advanced cyber warfare experts in the world… right below China and Russia (who by the way get a lot of their oil from Iran).
        Trump played into the deep state and is going against everything he said during the campaign.
        Just look at the latest amount of cyberattacks in America and ask yourself who is causing this?
        There is and old saying that goes “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword “.
        By looking at the thousands of GI’s currently leaving the east coast, I can tell you this is “the surge” all over again.
        Trump did accomplish one thing and that is a huge deflection from the Impeachment trial that just passed our house of Representatives.
        No more talk of Impeachment in the media…it is back to war in the middle east, just like the powers that be had hoped.

      • Steve Stine,

        MIGs and F-14s? You realize the magnificent Tomcat was designed in the 1960s, eh?

        When those assets were new, 1980s, Iran could not even defeat Iraq with them. Eight years, no dice.

        Children in human-wave charges against machine-gun emplacements. With broomsticks.

        I would tend to agree that a cyber attack is feasible. Whether the Iranian cyber-operatives are ‘that good’ is another question, but they have the numbers. Even the wannabe kid down the street in his mom’s basement can ‘make a scene’.

        Which is the problem with the cyber attack option. It’s not that impressive. An unimpressive response leaves Iran looking unimpressive.

      • Steve,

        With all do respect you worldview defies reality. You think telesur is a reliable nonbiased news source. You think that aljazeera is a reliable nonbiased news source. You have linked to completely 100% antisemitic websites as if they are nonbiased news sources. You think that oil companies are dumping billions of gallons of carcinogens in to Cook Inlet, but you cannot provide ANY proof of it. Your view of reality is not reality, but a completely skewed view where reality does not matter as long as your hyper-partisan and completely false narrative exists. With all do respect you worldview defies reality

      • Steve Stine,

        “We’ll see your 35 revenge-targets, and raise you 52 Iranian-treasures … one for each of the 1979 hostages. Draw, toss or fold.”

        Reality? The DEM coalition is throwing their panties at Soleimani. You could not make this stuff up.

        Here’s the deal. Some years back, the Iranians realized they had their war-fighting, military support, and key economic assets in fixed locations, where an attacker would be able to go directly to them, at any time. They undertook a big project to mobilize those resources, as much as can be, which is quite a bit.

        [The Russians, the old USSR, are very big on this mobility-strategy … in their case because they have such a large amount of low-value territory they have to cover. They may have ‘advised’ Iran on the methods … and they may well have an interest in how it performs in live-action. Meaning, although Moscow makes the right noises on behalf of their Mullah partners … they’d actually like to watch a real-world test of mobility-strategy.]

        When this ‘shell-game’ project started, the main worry was satellites. Each day the adversary tries to get a fresh set of pics, and checks for signs of activity. For their part, they try to determine the orbit of the spy-sats … and also keep close track of cloud-cover, the moon, etc.

        However. Even as this was happening, drone-development was underway, and they no more got their new shell-game going, than drones were able to plug the satellite-gaps. The drones can be anywhere at any time.

        Tehran now knows that we can deprive of them of those 52 high-value assets; not a bluff. “Your move.”

      • I know…
        No one wants to hear it from me, but “it” is resonating across the board.
        Don’t believe me…maybe you can read what a retired U.S. Army Major has to say.
        BTW…Danny served in both Iraq and Afghanistan along with teaching at West Point for many years.

        Danny says:
        “With so much on the line—both for the United States and the world—the time for silence is over.
        Public resistance is the only tool we the people have left…
        Which brings me to President Donald Trump’s worst decision yet, one for which he actually should be impeached: the assassination of Iranian general, and head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, Qassem Soleimani…
        And more than any of America’s many provocations of late, this killing might just lead to war—a war that would, even more than the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, inflame, destabilize and perhaps destroy the region for good.”

        You guys may not like “alternative media” sources, but Danny is not an “alternative” type of guy and when retired majors are putting their name to resistance on this new war, so too should you.

      • Steve Stine,

        Soleimani was a legitimate target on multiple, long-standing grounds. Additionally, he was at the moment ‘in the act’ of adding to his lengthy dossier. Like with the fellow who recently showed up in church to shoot people, unaware that other parishioners were armed … just drop him in his tracks.

        Truth is, President Trump is perfectly correct: the failure of previous authorities to stop Soleimani’s habitual predation is an actual “failure”, of their duty & responsibility.

        ‘Danny’ is within his rights to think & say the moon is made of green cheese. We protect his Right, in the face of thousands of other Army Officers who all view him as an addle-brained ‘case’.

        Same for yourself. You get to sift through those thousands of solid Officers, find the one that reflects a factually-challenged point of view, and champion him & it.

        At the same time, though, it is of course our duty & responsibility to point out that, factually, the moon is made of rocks & minerals, much as we are familiar with here on earth.

        Soleimani, by his own hand & Free Choice, has been a dead man walking, for decades.

      • Steve S, your 2,100th mistake was quoting some treasonous, ex army MAJOR who knows little more then a 2LT and who was probably passed over for LTC (which says a lot).. Like that idiot knows anything.. I dont care if he deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. If he actually did serve and held a frontline position, he would have personally witnessed Iranian terrorist involement daily over the (last 50) years. He would have witnessed American soldiers killed by Iranian EFP/IED’s. What does your “major” do but piss on their graves.
        I spit on the likes of your Major. He is a disgrace to the uniform. Typical of today’s “feel good” military who should have never been in uniform. I put him in the same category of that other army Major “Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan”

      • Steve,

        It’s not that nobody wants to hear it from you, I’ve been imploring you to share your thoughts from YOU…something you keep refusing to do. The problem is that your “alternative media” is neither alternative nor is it media, it is little more than propaganda and lies. When you constantly cite extreme leftwing and socialist government sponsored propaganda as your sources without even thinking, how can anyone take you seriously? You’ve claimed that billions of gallons of carcinogens and toxic waste are being dumped in to Cook Inlet, based upon little more than what a guy named Bob said. Be serious, do your research, look into it and tell me what is being dumped in to Cook Inlet. I’m not playing a “symantecs flute” (whatever that is), I’m dealing with facts something you continually find in short supply.

        If you want to have a conversation about whether removing a completely ridiculous regulation banning jet ski’s in Cook Inlet, dumping processed water in Cook Inlet, or killing a terrorist in Iraq is reasonable then let’s have a conversation. Just please stop being a mouth piece for propaganda and lies.

        Think your own thoughts man, you have a brain and you are a reasonably intelligent person, stop being a parrot who just repeats the last thing it heard over and over.

      • Bryan,
        First off Danny at least will put his real name to his beliefs…something that is rare in today’s anonymous online troll world.
        As for your B.S. comment:
        “If he actually did serve and held a frontline position, he would have personally witnessed Iranian terrorist involement daily…”
        Maybe you should read Danny’s book (Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge)
        I did.
        He watched his best friends get blown up in front of him on a patrol in Iraq…found his best friend shredded to pieces.
        That is a lot for a mid 20’s officer to process.
        Then he watched more of his platoon return back home and blow their brains out with PTSD.
        He admits he still has nightmares himself.
        He does not want this shit to continue for his sons (neither do I).
        Maybe if you could actually say your real name and your real experience, we might respect what you have to say…till then you are just another Trump mouthpiece that could be in Girdwood or Fort Mead…who the hell really knows.
        You opinion is just like any other anonymous troll…just fillers and little substance to change my mind.
        I respect Major Dan for his time in the sandbox and his complete understanding of middle east history (that is why the U.S. Government hired him to teach middle east history at West Point for years).
        Now that he is against Trump and the War Machine everyone wants to forget the medals he received.
        Typical B.S. same as Vietnam veterans against War.

    • Actually, I equate the crazy Iranians wolf hunters. The only difference is that hunters often desperately need some form of supplementation to bolster their otherwise eggshell thin super egos. Killing wolves somehow makes them feel like they are tuff, rugged macho men when in reality, they are quite fragile mentally. Something… less than a real man. They are often associated with driving Dodge pick up trucks because they believe that driving one will make them feel rugged. You’ll also see they driving with one arm on top of the steering wheel and a hand draped downwards over it. As if signifying that the truck was an extension of their ego, a dick extension if you will. When I see this say , “dick extension!” 😂 sadly, this type of person plagues society in many places. As for the wolves, perhaps they need more… aggressive and active help. Clearly , the state and federal governments lack the will of the people.

      • just a heads-up, Tony. it’s a new year and time to get a 2020 Alaska fishing license. those are required when trolling in Alaska.

  4. No other State in the Union has had its wildlife management usurped by the federal government.

    Had Alaska’s Senior Senator Ted Stevens and Governor Jay Hammond foreseen that coming back in the late ‘70s maybe they would have done a better job of protecting Alaska’s sovereign authority to manage its public resources on federal lands in Alaska. I’m sure neither gentlemen had any idea what a mess the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) 1980 would turn out to be for Alaska. They were forewarned, they just didn’t act.

    Sad think is Alaska’s current Congressional delegation is incapable of fixing the mess. The successful action in Congress to overturn the USFWS efforts to usurp state wildlife management on 70 million acres is no better than putting a band-aid over a gun shot wound. Medred got that part right, the fight isn’t over. Alaska won’t regain its sovereign authority to manage wildlife on over 60% of Alaska until Congress fixes ANILCA. That won’t happen under Senator Lisa Murkowski’s watch. She has told be so.

    • Mr. Arno…..overheated use of terms like “usurp” and “sovereign” does little to further the interests of wildlife management in Alaska, which is necessarily and appropriately a cooperative effort between state and feds. And…a one-sided interpretation of ANILCA will not advance the interests of Alaska citizens.. You and I are both old…maybe the next generation will do a better job with all this.

    • Rod Arno,

      While ANILCA does look like a key strategic cornerstone, maybe certain tactical objectives, such as the opening ANWR, have suddenly become low-hanging fruit and fit in well as first-steps.

      The Tongass Forest suggests itself. Given the political will, this could be an eye-popping tactical win for Alaska, and there are cards on the table that weigh in its favor.

      Tongass also carries big strategic implications of its own. Some want to see most of the northeast Pacific coast taken out of play.

      Neither of these resources – oil and timber – are directly in your bailiwick at Alaska Outdoor Council. But they do help support the kind of Alaska, that is at least common-cause with the Council.

      • Ted,

        If the roadless rule exemption is finally allowed it will open up small areas of SE to hunting and fishing opportunities that currently are unreachable by the majority of residents. The roadless rule exemption will be granted this year and new hunting and fishing grounds will be opened for Alaskans.

      • Steve,

        No doubt about it! The roadless rule exemption is just the kind of practical & pragmatic move that makes sense. Hopefully it comes through soon. Southeast could really be something; it used to be, and could be again.

      • Historically public access to public lands in the western USA was made possible by industry pursuing resources; timber, mining, oil&gas, and railroad access corridors. There should be no reason for Alaska to be different. As a conservation organization in the true sense the Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC) has reviewed and committed on resource development projects in Alaska since statehood, and continues to do so. AOC understands the benefits of resources development to the state and its residents and supports resource development as long as conservation standards are upheld.

        Sounds kind of old school but it worked reasonably will for decades in the west. Who knows how things will work out for folks under a preservationist driven regime. Hang on tight.

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