USFWS
National Wildlife Refuge
Alaska Region

Proposed Regulatory Changes

A photo of a brown bear sow with cub at sunrise in Kodiak.  Photo Credit Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Brown bear sow with cub at sunrise in Kodiak
Photo Credit Lisa Hupp/USFWS

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing changes to regulations for National Wildlife Refuges (refuges) in Alaska that would clarify allowable practices for the non-subsistence take of predators on refuges in Alaska and update existing Alaska refuge regulations for closures and restrictions.  The proposed rule and associated environmental assessment was published in the Federal Register on January 8, 2016. We have now extended the comment period for an additional 30 days - the comment period will end on April 7, 2016.

The proposed rule and the notice for the public hearings are available at the following links:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/01/08/2016-22/non-subsistence-take-of-wildlife-and-public-participation-and-closure-procedures-on-national#addresses

Direct link to docket:
http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;rpp=100;so=DESC;sb=docId;po=0;D=FWS-R7-NWRS-2014-0005

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/01/08/2016-21/non-subsistence-take-of-wildlife-and-public-participation-and-closure-procedures-on-national

These proposed regulatory changes for the non-subsistence take of wildlife would apply only to State regulated general hunting and trapping and intensive management activities on Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. These proposed regulations would not change Federal subsistence regulations (36 CFR 242 and 50 CFR 100) or restrict taking of fish or wildlife for subsistence uses under Federal subsistence regulations.

You may submit comments by any one of the following methods:

  1. Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R7–NWRS–2014–0005, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then click on the Search button.  On the resulting page, you may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”

  2. By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R7–NWRS–2014–0005; Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.    

We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us.  To obtain general information and to stay informed about the process, please check back on this website.

We will hold nine open houses and public hearings on the proposed rule as follows:

new icon We will hold nine open houses and public hearings on the proposed rule (see table below for locations and times).  If you cannot make the hearing in person, please call-in using the following number: 1-877-784-8548, passcode 32753227#

Date

City

Time of Open House

Time of Public Hearing

City

Location Information

January 26 , 2016

Kotzebue, Alaska

1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Kotzebue, Alaska

Selawik National Wildlife Refuge Conference Room at the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, 160 Second Avenue, Kotzebue, Alaska; 907-442-3799

January 27, 2016

Kodiak, Alaska

4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Kodiak, Alaska

Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, 402 Center Ave, Kodiak, Alaska; 907-487-2600

February 8, 2016

Bethel, Alaska

4 :00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Bethel, Alaska

Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Conference Room, 807 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway, Bethel, Alaska; 907-543-3151

February 10, 2016

Fairbanks, Alaska

5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, 101 Dunkel St., Fairbanks, Alaska; 907-456-0440

February 11, 2016

Tok, Alaska

5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Tok, Alaska

Tok School, 249 Jon Summar Road, Tok, Alaska; 907-883-5312

February 16, 2016

Soldonta, Alaska

4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Soldonta, Alaska

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Ski Hill Road, Soldotna, Alaska; 907-260-2820

February 18, 2016

Anchorage, Alaska

4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Anchorage, Alaska

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Office, Gordon Watson Conference Room, 1011 Tudor Rd. Anchorage, Alaska; 907-786-3872

March 1, 2016

Dillingham, Alaska

4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Dillingham, Alaska

Dillingham City Council Chambers, 141 Main Street, Dillingham, Alaska; 907-842-1063

new iconMarch 2, 2016

Kodiak, Alaska

4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Kodiak, Alaska

Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, 402 Center Ave, Kodiak, Alaska; 907-487-2600

March 3, 2016

Galena, Alaska

1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. new icon

Galena, Alaska

Larsen Charlie Community Hall, Galena, Alaska; 907-656-1231

Please check back for further updates.

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Background

National wildlife refuges in Alaska are mandated to conserve species and habitats in their natural diversity and ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the National Wildlife Refuge System are maintained for the continuing benefit of present and future generations of Americans. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing changes to the regulations governing Alaska refuges (under 50 CFR 36) to ensure that we are managing those refuges in accordance with our mandates and to increase consistency with other Federal laws, regulations, and policies. In addition, we aim to more effectively engage the public by updating our Public Participation and Closure Procedures to broaden notification and outreach methods, ensure consultation with Tribes and the State, provide for increased transparency in our decision-making, and to allow for additional opportunities for the public to provide input.

We recognize the importance of the fish, wildlife and other natural resources in the lives and cultures of Alaska Native peoples and in the lives of all Alaskans. These proposed regulatory changes would not change Federal subsistence regulations (36 CFR 242 and 50 CFR 100) or restrict taking of fish or wildlife under Federal subsistence regulations.

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) provides a priority to rural Alaskans for the nonwasteful taking of fish and wildlife for subsistence uses on refuges in Alaska. Under ANILCA all refuges in Alaska (except the Kenai Refuge) also have a purpose to provide the opportunity for continued subsistence use by rural residents, in a manner consistent with refuge purposes to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity or fulfill international treaty obligations of the United States.

The changes we are considering would:

  • Codify existing Federal mandates for conserving the natural diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health on refuges in Alaska in relation to predator harvest. Predator control is not allowed on refuges in Alaska unless it is determined to be necessary to meet refuge purposes, federal laws, or policy and is consistent with our mandates to manage for natural and biological diversity and environmental health. The need for predator control must be based on sound science in response to a significant conservation concern. Demands for more wildlife to harvest cannot be the sole or primary basis for predator control on refuge in Alaska.

  • Prohibit the following particularly effective methods and means for non-subsistence (Federal) take of predators on refuges in Alaska due to the potential for cumulative effects to predator populations and the environment that are inconsistent with our mandates to conserve the natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health on refuges in Alaska:

    • take of bear cubs or sows with cubs (exception allowed for resident hunters to take black bear cubs or sows with cubs under customary and traditional use activities at a den site October 15 – April 30 in specific game management units in accordance with State law)

    • take of brown bears over bait;

    • take of bears using traps or snares;

    • take of wolves and coyotes during the spring and summer denning season (May 1– August 9); and

    • take of bears from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel has occurred (take of wolves or wolverines from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel is already prohibited under current refuge regulations).

  • Update the Public Participation and Closure Procedures. The following table summarizes the current regulations for the Public Participation and Closure Procedures and updates we are considering.

Public Participation and Closure Procedures

Current Potential Updates
Authority
Refuge Manager may close an area or restrict an activity
on an emergency, temporary, or permanent basis.
No updates
Criteria (50 CFR 36.42(b))

Criteria includes: public health and safety, resource protection, protection of cultural or scientific values, subsistence uses, endangered or threatened species conservation, and other management considerations necessary to ensure that the activity or area is being managed in a manner compatible with refuge purposes.

Add conserving the natural diversity, biological integrity,
and environmental health of the refuge to the current list of
criteria.
Emergency closures or restrictions (50 CFR 36.42(c))

Emergency closure may not exceed 30 days.

Closure effective upon notice as prescribed in 50 CFR
36.42 (f) (see below for details). Closures related to the
taking of fish and wildlife shall be accompanied by notice
with a subsequent hearing.

Increase the period from 30 to 60 days, with extensions
beyond 60 days being subject to nonemergency closure
procedures (i.e. temporary or permanent).

Closure effective upon notice as prescribed in 50 CFR 36.42 (f) (see below for details).

Temporary closures or restrictions (50 CFR 36.42(d))

May extend only for as long as necessary to achieve the
purpose of the closure or restriction, not to exceed or be
extended beyond 12 months.

Closure effective upon notice as prescribed in 50 CFR
36.42 (f) (see below for details). Closures related to
the taking of fish and wildlife effective upon notice and
hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected by such
closures or restriction, and other locations as appropriate

Temporary closures or restrictions related to the taking of fish and wildlife may still only extend for so long as necessary to achieve the purpose of the closure or restriction. These closures or restrictions must be re-evaluated as necessary, at a minimum of every 3 years, to determine whether the circumstances necessitating the closure still exist and warrant its continuation. A formal finding will be made in writing that explains the reasoning for the decision. When a closure is no longer needed, action to remove it will be initiated as soon as practicable. The Service will maintain a list of refuge closures and publish this list annually for public review and input.

Closure will be subject to notice procedures as prescribed in 50 CFR 36.42 (f) (see below for details). For closures related to the taking of fish and wildlife, consultation with the State and affected Tribes and Native Corporations, as well as the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected will be required.

Permanent closures or restrictions (50 CFR 36.42(e))

No time limit.

Closure effective after notice and public hearings in the
affected vicinity and other locations as appropriate, and
after publication in the Federal Register.

No time limit.

For closures related to the taking of fish and wildlife, consultation with the State and affected Tribes and Native
Corporations, as well as the opportunity for public comment
and a public meeting in the vicinity of the area(s) affected will be required. Proceedings of meetings will be recorded and made available to the public upon request. Closures would continue to be published in the Federal Register.

Notice (50 CFR 36.42(f))

Notice is to be provided through newspapers, signs, and
radio.

Add the use of the Internet or other available methods, in
addition to continuing to use the more traditional methods of
newspapers, signs, and radio.

For more information, contact Stephanie Brady with the National Wildlife Refuge System at (907) 306-7448

Last updated: March 2016