Reaction To Supreme Court’s Decision To Deny Argument To Reverse Kenai NWR Bear Baiting

When bear baiting, a controversial practice of hunting bruins, was proposed to be banned earlier this year by the National Park Service on federal refuge land, hunting groups were going to push back.

But as the Alaska Beacon reports, the Supreme Court won’t hear arguments to challenge a longstanding ban on bear baiting in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge:

“Bear baiting allows hunters to use donuts, dog food, bacon grease or other foods to attract bears, making it much easier to shoot bears. When the state of Alaska first authorized brown bear baiting on Kenai Peninsula state lands, human-caused bear mortality rose six-fold, causing a significant decline in this isolated population and prompting emergency closures of bear hunting in the refuge. With this prohibition, the Fish and Wildlife Service can better ensure the sustainability of Kenai brown bears, fulfilling its responsibility to conserve biological integrity and diversity on our refuge lands,” Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said in the statement.

The Alaska Department of Law, however, considers the Kenai refuge prohibition part of a larger pattern of federal infringement on the state’s rights, including rights under the Alaska National Interest Conservation Act, a spokesperson said.

“While the Ninth Circuit’s decision is only about brown bear baiting within the Kenai Refuge, the larger issue is the scope of the federal government’s authority on public lands,” department spokesperson Patty Sullivan said by email. “When Alaska became a State, Congress gave the State the authority to manage wildlife and hunting throughout Alaska, including on federal lands. When Congress passed ANILCA, it preserved—rather than displaced—local control over how hunting will occur in Alaska. The Ninth Circuit chiseled away some of the authority Congress meant to preserve for the State. It remains unclear whether, in a future case, the Ninth Circuit will further shift the delicate balance between state and federal power. The State will continue to defend Alaska’s management rights going forward and limit the reach of this unfortunate decision.” …

Baiting of brown bears has never been allowed in the refuge, located south of Anchorage, since its formal creation in 1980, but the Alaska Board of Game has tried to change that. Disputes with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the subject go back several years.