Hunters in Alaska may no longer be able to bait bears in national preserves if a National Park Service proposal is approved. Currently, bear hunters are allowed to put out pastries, bacon grease, or dog food to draw out the animals. According to the National Park Service, the new proposal will likely "lower the risk that bears will associate food at bait stations with humans and become conditioned to eating human-produced foods." The new proposal also reverses the 2020 Alaska Hunting and Trapping rule, which authorized the highly contested practice. The new proposal seeks consistency in national preserves and NPS harvesting policies. It will also respect "natural processes, abundances, and wildlife behavior." According to the release, it will also assert federal authority over hunting and trapping on Alaska's national preserves.
"We take seriously our responsibilities under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and the NPS Organic Act, which include mandates for hunting while also conserving and protecting wildlife in our national preserves," said NPS Alaska Regional Director Sarah Creachbaum. "This proposed rule would realign our efforts to better manage national preserve lands in Alaska for natural processes, as well as address public safety concerns associated with bear baiting."
The proposal was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 9, and public comment will be open for 60 days until March 10. After the public comment time frame, the final rule will be published and go into effect 30 days after publication.
The move has been applauded by animal rights supporters who feel the bear baiting is a "cruel practice." U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason discovered issues in September with a 2020 Trump administration rule that peeled back restrictions on national preserve land. The judge looked at the rule in conjunction with a case brought by animal rights and conservation groups. However, since the National Park Service was already working on a proposal to change the rule, she put it back into their court. Currently, appeals are pending.
The president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, Sara Amundson, released a statement saying the NPS' proposal was "a victory for Alaska's iconic wildlife species."
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