Federal vs State of AK approach to ethics: Battle of the op-eds

On September 9th, 2014,  Joel Hard, Deputy Regional Director for the National Park Service, Alaska, published an editorial in Alaska Dispatch News ( formerly Anchorage Daily News):

Alaska predator control methods conflict with national preserve values

“Shooting wolves and coyotes when they are at the den with young pups. Using artificial light to take black bears and their cubs in dens. Using food like stale bread and bacon grease to attract grizzly bears and then shoot them…

These are not the Alaska hunting practices I learned growing up in Southeast Alaska, and they weren’t the sport-hunting practices that Congress anticipated some 35 years ago as it debated the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Today, those practices are legal in much of Alaska. The state and its Board of Game use these and other means to reduce the numbers of bears, wolves and coyotes to boost the populations of moose and caribou. In doing so, they are following the laws passed by the Alaska Legislature…

….This week, the National Park Service proposed federal regulations that include a prohibition of the three hunting practices noted above in Alaska’s 10 national preserves. This action came after several years of discussion with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and other state officials. It came after repeated requests to the Board of Game to exempt national preserves from liberalized predator hunting efforts. And it follows multiple years of implementing temporary federal restrictions on these practices. “

Read the full editorial at ADN…

Next up, on September 20th, was Doug Vincent-Lang, director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Wildlife Conservation:

Vincent-Lang: Pre-empted Alaska hunting regulations are not ‘predator control’

“In his Sept. 10  commentary,  Joel Hard of the National Park Service wrote that certain Alaska hunting practices were not those he learned growing up in Southeast Alaska. While I appreciate Mr. Hard’s personal hunting ethics, I do not believe the National Park Service should insert such opinions and beliefs into federal regulations…

…The regulations being preempted by the Park Service were adopted by the Alaska Board of Game in response to local (mostly subsistence) hunters’ requests to allow their traditional practices to occur. The professionals at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game did not feel it was our role to judge the ethics of these practices. While individual biologists within the department may not have personally agreed with the proposals, leadership did not feel it was our mandate to insert personal hunting ethics into the wildlife management or regulatory process….”

Read the full editorial at ADN…

Vic Van Ballenberghe, a moose and wolf biologist who was appointed to the Alaska Board of Game three times by two governors, responded to Vincent-Lange on September 22nd:

Alaska law does not justify game regulators abandoning decades-old, ethics-based statutes 

“…Vincent-Lang repeatedly states that Hard and other NPS employees used their own ethical judgments when crafting federal regulations challenging the state’s approach. But Hard’s statement that he did not grow up where shooting wolves at dens, using lights to take bears at dens, and grizzly bear baiting were legal was not a reflection of his own ethics but rather an accurate observation that these practices were long illegal under state regulations until they were recently employed to reduce predator populations…

When I served on the board at various times between 1985 and 2002, Fish and Game and the board were very much concerned with ethical standards, and previous boards since statehood clearly were too. That is why shooting wolves from airplanes by private pilots, same-day airborne shooting of all big game species, herding of animals with motor vehicles, the use of poison, transporting hunters with helicopters, trapping bears, gassing wolf pups at dens and a host of other practices were made illegal prior to 2002. But since 2002, in its zeal to accomplish intensive management, the board decided to abandon long-held ethical standards and adopt extreme methods to reduce bears and wolves. And Fish and Game stood idly by, claiming as Vincent-Lang does, that the only standard is one of maintaining sustained yield…”

Read the full editorial at ADN…