The rat-murdering, fox-killing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday that nobody is going to start eliminating any predators on its property until the proper paperwork is complete. Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials last week announced plans to start killing wolves on Unimak Island in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Alaska in June to try to help out a rapidly declining caribou herd.
Federal officials warned that if shooting starts before a federal environmental study is complete, they will ask the U.S. Attorney's office to bust state gunners as trespassers. USFWS Alaska regional acting director Rowan Gould said in a press release that his agency wants to work with the state, but wasn't even told of state concerns about disappearing Unimak caribou until December. Since then, he said, federal biologists have been working with state biologists to try to determine why caribou are dying.
The state says it knows why: Because wolves are killing and eating them.
The issue, he pointed out, is not a federal objection to killing ever-popular wolves, but a requirement of the law. He noted his agency hasn't shied from killing predators before, including in such cases as Rat Island where there was considerable collateral damage in the form of birds, including at least 41 bald eagles.That may well be, Gould conceded in a letter to the state, but there is a "process federal land managers must follow prior to initiating new management programs." That would be National Environmental Policy Act review process. Gould said federal biologists are already trying to help state biologists get the proper permits.
"We have used the NEPA process in every instance where we conducted predator control on National Wildlife Refuges Lands in Alaska, including the Rat Island invasive rat eradication project and the trapping of foxes to protect brant colonies on the Yukon (River) Delta," Gould said in his statement.
Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com
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