The first actions of a new Congress generally tell us what will be on the agenda for the coming years. If this pattern holds true, it does not bode well for Alaskan wildlife. This week, two bills were introduced in Congress that would have lasting implications for Alaskan Wildlife.
The first was a bill presented in the House by Don Young (R-Alaska) that is intended to overturn Obama-era regulations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The regulations concerned hunting on Alaska’s 76 million acres of wildlife refuges, specifically it outlawed shooting or trapping wolves while they are in dens with their cubs and also using airplanes to scout for grizzly bears.
Young argued that the issues should be left for the state to decide and that it should not be based on a federal guideline. Opponents of the law, including the Humane Society of the United States argue that overturning the law is a move backwards and is unconscionable. When implementing the rule last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that these rules would help ensure sustainable populations of bears, wolves, and other animals in refuges.
The House sided with Representative Young’s argument in this matter, and the resolution passed 225-193, along party lines.
It should be noted here that hunting represented a $1.2 billion dollar industry for Alaska in 2011, the latest available year for reports. The bill will now pass to the Senate, and if approved there, to President Trump’s desk for approval.
In the meantime, trouble is also brewing from the Senate as Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is sponsoring a bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge up to oil drilling.
Murkowski wants to open 2000 acres of the refuge to the oil industry. Opponents of the proposal say that while only 2000 acres would be open to active drilling, the required infrastructure and associated pollution would have a negative effect on the wildlife that calls the refuge home.
Of specific concern is the Porcupine Caribou Herd which some Alaskan Natives rely on for food. The caribou use the refuge as their calving grounds.
Murkowski has only just introduced her measure, and its future remains uncertain.
So what does this all mean? It appears to me that this Republican Congress is showing us what they have to offer. Nothing new. It seems that the only thing on the Republican agenda is rolling back Obama administration laws and regulations. For me, that is no way to govern.