FAIRBANKS - A National Park Service decision to curtail hunting and trapping in three federal preserves has drawn heavy criticism from state officials.
"We have authority to manage wildlife populations, and these federal closures of state general and subsistence hunting and trapping are unjustified," state Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd said in a news release Thursday. "Allowing park managers to supersede state regulations based on undefined 'values' is an unwarranted and confrontational intrusion upon the state's management prerogatives."
The Park Service announced this week it had closed sport hunting and trapping of wolves in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. It also prohibited the killing of black bear sows and cubs in their dens using artificial light in parts of Denali National Preserve and Gates of the Arctic National Preserve.
Lloyd said the closures are based on "poor interpretations" of data.
"We have shared with them information that clearly shows that bear and wolf populations in these areas are healthy, but they have apparently chosen to ignore these facts," Lloyd said.
Park Service spokesman John Quinley said the federal agency's numbers differ from the state numbers. Its mandate - to manage for natural processes and ecosystems - also differs from the state, Quinley said.
"It gets back to the fundamental jurisdictional difference between federal law and what the governor and state Legislature wants the Department of Fish and Game to do," Quinley said.
The three preserves were established the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which allowed general hunting within their boundaries. In Alaska's national parks, only federally qualified subsistence hunters are allowed.
The friction began in January, when the state Board of Game adopted a new regulation allowing the taking of black bear sows and cubs in dens with the use of artificial light in two game management units that overlap the two federal preserves.
The Park Service submitted a proposal to the state Board of Game to amend the regulation to exclude federal land. The game board rejected the proposed amendment. Board chairman Cliff Judkins suggested the Park Service make its own rules regarding its land, if the agency didn't like the state's regulation.
In a news release Thursday, Judkins called the Park Service closures "a blatant attempt to undermine our public process and may be a violation of ANILCA."
Said Quinley: "He appears to be contradicting himself."
The strife intensified last month when state wildlife biologists working under a board-approved predator control effort shot and killed a pack of four wolves, including two wearing Park Service radio collars, near the Yukon-Charley preserve boundary. The wolves were part of a Park Service long-term research project.