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WA Rep Opposes Brown Bear Rule Change in AK

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Brown bears on the Kenai peninsula in Alaska are an isolated and at-risk population. (Berkely Bedell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Brown bears on the Kenai peninsula in Alaska are an isolated and at-risk population. (Berkely Bedell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
November 2, 2020

SEATTLE -- Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal is among the members of Congress calling for the withdrawal of a proposed rule that would open up brown bear-baiting and trapping on an Alaska refuge.

The letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt stated the proposed change would allow for the "inhumane and indiscriminate" use of traps for brown bears on the two million acres of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Nicole Whittington-Evans is the Alaska program director for Defenders of Wildlife.

"Brown bear-baiting has never been allowed on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and in the past has been considered to be in conflict with the purposes of the refuge," Whittington-Evans explained.

Alaska officials say the proposed rule would make hunting and trapping rules more consistent across the Kenai peninsula.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service originally opened up the public comment period in June. After receiving more than 34,000 comments and a call to hold a public meeting locally, Fish and Wildlife reopened the comment period. It now closes on Nov. 9.

The rule change would allow trapping without a federal permit in the refuge. Whittington-Evans said there are concerns traps could be placed within a mile of campgrounds and trailheads.

"Users that have other animals like dogs or even horses could be impacted," Whittington-Evans contended. "Even children could potentially get involved with traps. And so there's a lot of concerns about human safety as well."

She added brown bears in this area are a vulnerable population.

"Brown bears on the Kenai peninsula are considered an isolated and at-risk population," Whittington-Evans maintained. "And they have had a lot of impacts from human settlements over the years and also from human hunting."

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA