The Trump administration is finalizing a rule that will put animals in Alaska’s national preserves—including black bears, wolves and coyotes—in danger. The change will allow hunters to use cruel tactics, including luring hibernating bears out of their dens with bacon and donuts and entering wolf dens with artificial light to slaughter mothers and their pups. It’s their latest attempt to slip environmental rollbacks into law while Americans’ attention is on protests against police violence and the still-raging pandemic.
The new rule, which the National Park Service is expected to publish to the Federal Register on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post, will roll back a 2015 ban under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The repeal will take effect 30 days after it’s published. When it does, it will leave animals on Alaska’s 10 natural preserves, which stretch across almost 20 million acres of federal land, vulnerable.
The Obama-era rule banned aggressive hunting practices including entering dens, baiting animals with junk food, and shooting at caribou and other wildlife from motorboats and aircraft. It aimed to avoid artificially reducing Alaska’s predator populations in an effort to keep ecosystems in balance. In addition to legalizing these cruel hunting practices, the new Trump rules will also allow brown bear hunting at “registered bait stations” within Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
In addition to allowing predator hunting using cruel techniques, the Trump administration’s new rule could create other complications. For instance, conditioning animals to expect a steady supply of junk food can have physiological consequences, including causing bears to hibernate less. This could in turn have unforeseen consequences for animal populations. Hunting predatory animals like bears, wolves, and coyotes could also have cascading effects on the whole ecosystem.
By repealing the rule, the Trump administration claims they’re promoting states’ rights and making hunting regulations for federally-managed Alaskan lands consistent with Alaska’s state laws. But Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said they’re really inviting cruelty and ecosystem decline.
“The Trump administration’s new rules promote the senseless slaughter of some of Alaska’s most iconic wildlife on the very preserves and refuges meant to protect biological diversity,” Adkins told Earther in an email. “It’s outrageous to bait and shoot brown bears and litter pristine public lands with cruel and indiscriminate traps.”
Unfortunately, the move comes as no surprise. The Trump administration has consistently shown it’s willing to expand access to public lands to hunters, including by appointing a former opponent of the Fish and Wildlife Service into a top position at the agency, and attempting to open Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.
“This amazingly cruel policy is just the latest in a string of efforts to reduce protections for America’s wildlife at the behest of oil companies and trophy hunters,” Jesse Prentice-Dunn, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, told Earther in an email.