In June, the federal government finalized a rule to appease trophy hunters by allowing some of the cruelest of killing methods on 20 million acres of Alaska’s national preserves. Today, the Humane Society of the United States, along with a coalition of conservation and animal protection organizations, sued the National Park Service over this ill-conceived decision that goes against the agency’s own legal duty of preserving wildlife on American lands for future generations.
Most Americans—including Alaskans—do not support these terrible techniques of killing wildlife, which include using artificial lights to kill black bear mothers and their cubs in their dens, killing wolves and coyotes during denning season, luring brown and black bears to piles of rotting bait to shoot them, trapping brown and black bears, and chasing down black bears with packs of dogs. But Alaska’s wildlife agency authorizes these methods to drive down the number of native carnivores and—allegedly—boost prey species so that there are more prey animals for hunters to kill, although scientific studies show this has not happened. What these methods do instead is cause immense suffering and take a staggering toll on the state’s wildlife populations.
In 2015, in a welcome move, the National Park Service formalized a ban on these killing techniques on Alaska’s national preserves—federal public lands that belong to all Americans. When the state of Alaska and trophy hunting organizations sued to invalidate the rule, our coalition intervened in court to defend it.
Unfortunately, despite hundreds of scientists and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle speaking out in favor of keeping the rule in place, the National Park Service reversed it in June.
A case from Alaska offers a glimpse into what now lies in store for animals as this rule takes effect. Last year, the Humane Society of the United States released footage of a father-son duo brazenly killing a mother bear and her cubs who were hibernating peacefully in the haven of their den. After shooting the mother bear even as the cubs cried out in terror, the poachers shot the two cubs at point-blank range.
The video horrified Americans, and so many of you called for even stronger laws banning such ruthless killing. But instead of stronger laws, our government has opened more of our federal lands for killers like these to target even more animals.
A poll of Alaska voters conducted just this month found that nearly 70% oppose allowing these practices on Alaska’s national preserves. Our coalition lawsuit, led by Trustees for Alaska, puts the National Park Service on notice: it has failed to act in the best interests of the American public and wildlife in order to play into the hands of a small trophy hunting minority. We will now see the agency in court.