The Progressive


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For Immediate Release
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Call to End Federal Subsidies for Wildlife Slaughter

Alaska aerial hunting of bears and wolves sparks protest

A coalition of over 35 conservation organizations and scientists is demanding that U.S. Department of the Interior end financial support for excessive removal of wolves and bears in an attempt to increase populations of “game” and trophy species such as caribou, elk and moose. A rulemaking petition to end that financial support has been at the Department since September 2021 without any apparent action.

This renewed demand comes after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game operation to gun down 94 brown bears (including cubs), five black bears and five wolves from helicopters in the southwest portion of the state between May 10 and June 4, with the purported objective of “growing” a declining caribou herd. This appears to be the largest “lethal removal” of native carnivores in state history. The coalition effort is being led by the Humane Society of the United States, the Global Indigenous Council, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The groups are seeking a meeting with Secretary Haaland to urge her endorsement of a new rule forbidding federal funding of state game practices that are inconsistent with the national policy of fostering naturally diverse wildlife populations and healthy predator-prey dynamics. Federal aid constitutes a large portion of the state game budgets, exceeding a billion dollars annually.

"As guardians of our ancestral lands, we request that the Secretary Haaland meet with us, for it is not just the bears and wolves that face annihilation, but it is a vital part of our Native American culture. We request that federal funds be distributed with the wisdom to preserve the delicate balance of wolves and bears and the soul of our people." Stated Tom Rodgers, representative of the Global Indigenous Council.

“Alaska’s practices directly contradict federal wildlife policy, which is to manage for natural diversity,” declared Wendy Keefover, senior strategist for native carnivore protection for the Humane Society of the United States. “The Biden administration should suspend all further payments of federal funds to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game until its wildlife management complies with federal ecological standards.”

The Endangered Species Act status of both brown bears, known as grizzlies, and gray wolves means that federal wildlife agencies spend money to safeguard sustainable populations while state agencies, using federal dollars, are destabilizing these same populations.

The coalition also points to extensive wolf eradication efforts in states such as Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. However, as evidenced by last month’s helicopter bear shooting spree, the anti-predator “intensive management” program in Alaska is even more extreme.

“Millions of tourists travel to Alaska spending billions of dollars annually – just to catch a glimpse of Alaska’s iconic bears and wolves in the wild.” stated PEER board chair Rick Steiner, an ecologist and retired University of Alaska-Fairbanks professor, pointing to numerous studies showing that predator removal does not result in more game animals. “Alaska’s predator-killing policies are both economically counterproductive and scientifically bankrupt.”

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.