Kenai

On March 16, 2020, Wilderness Watch and our allies fired off our latest legal salvo in the ongoing litigation case to protect brown bears and reasonable hunting restrictions promulgated for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in Alaska. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) promulgated these regulations, which have been challenged by the State of Alaska, the Safari Club International, and a coalition called the Alaska Professional Hunters Association. Wilderness Watch and our allies from several other organizations have intervened in the lawsuit to protect the regulations.

 

At issue is a set of regulations finalized by the FWS in May 2016 that codified several long-standing, common sense management decisions, collectively known as the Kenai Rule. The State and the Safari Club unfortunately challenged the following three parts of the Kenai Rule:

 

  • To continue the longstanding prohibition on hunting brown bears over bait in the Refuge,
  • To emphasize wildlife viewing and environmental education in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area (WRA) within the Refuge, including restrictions on some hunting and trapping on two percent of the Refuge, and
  • To extend the FWS’s typical safety buffer regarding the use of firearms in high-use areas to protect public safety in the Kenai River and Russian River corridors.

Wilderness Watch and our allies believe that these regulations that the FWS promulgated in the Kenai Rule are quite reasonable, and we will continue to fight to protect them from being overturned by the State of Alaska and the Safari Club. We have requested oral argument for the next step in this case.

 

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is the most accessible of all of Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges. Located on the Kenai Peninsula, the Refuge includes approximately two million acres of important wildlife habitats and has long been valued for the recreational opportunities it provides. Approximately 1.3 million acres is Congressionally-designated Wilderness and would be affected if the rule is overturned.

 

The Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area (Skilak WRA) and the Kenai and Russian Rivers are among the most used areas of the Refuge. Visitors come from around the world to fish these rivers, and enjoy the stunning scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities. The Service has long managed these areas to balance a variety of recreational uses with the conservation of wildlife habitat.

 

Our deep thanks go to Trustees for Alaska for representing Wilderness Watch and our allies on this case.

 

Photo: Cows and their damage in the North Mariposa Mountains Wilderness, Arizona, by George Wuerthner

 
 
 
 

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