Board expands subsistence hunting for brown bears

Posted: Friday, May 11, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Federal Subsistence Board has expanded subsistence hunting for brown bears on federal land.

The board measure, passed Wednesday, opened the season earlier in the fall and spring.

Board members rejected another predator control measure, deciding not to allow land-and-shoot wolf hunting on federal lands on the Alaska Peninsula.

Both predator proposals were submitted to the board by the Bristol Bay Native Association. In a letter to the board, the Native association noted that the Northern Alaska Peninsula caribou herd has declined dramatically, from more than 20,000 animals in the 1980s to fewer than than 7,000 in 2000. It blamed wolves, bears and eagles, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

In voting against the land-and-shoot measure, board members said they could not allow predator control on federal lands without first completing a lengthy environmental review that entails a public comment period. The question of predator control on federal lands was not addressed when the federal government drafted its subsistence wildlife regulations, said Judy Gottlieb, the National Park Service representative on the subsistence board.

Land-and-shoot wolf hunting has long been controversial in Alaska. Last fall, Alaska voters reinstated a ban on land-and-shoot wolf hunting on state lands.

Subsistence users, however, appealed to board members to defend their rights. Some said they needed the predator controls to help the caribou herd recover. Others said the measures would allow people to take more wolf pelts and kill more bears to meet subsistence needs, particularly since caribou have become more scarce.

The measure to lengthen the bear hunting season passed 4-2 while the land-and-shoot measure failed 4-1. Board chairman Mitch Demientieff said he abstained from the land-and-shoot vote because he wanted to approve the measure but was bound not to by various laws and policies.

''We're hiding behind fancy laws passed in Washington,'' Demientieff said. Those laws have ''limited our ability as Alaskans to react to something that is only going to get worse.''

When the brown bear measure later came up, Demientieff suggested the board consider it as a subsistence measure only, not as a predator control measure as first intended.

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