Western Caucus Applauds Trump’s Signing of Bill Returning Wildlife Management to States
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul A. Gosar D.D.S. (AZ-04), Vice-Chairman for Indian Affairs and Oceans Don Young (AK-At Large), Chairman Emeritus Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-01) and Western Caucus member Rep. Aumua Amata (American Samoa– At Large) released the following statements after President Donald Trump signed H.J. Res. 69 into law, legislation that overturns a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or the Service) rule that undermines Alaska’s authority to manage fish and wildlife on state, private and federal lands:
“Upholding the rule of law and protecting Alaska’s authority to manage fish and game throughout our state is critically important to me – which is why I worked tirelessly to eliminate this unlawful rule from the federal register,” said Congressman Young. “The FWS rule was entirely inappropriate. Not only was it a major violation of laws passed by Congress, it undermined years of scientific and peer reviewed game management in Alaska and falsely vilified the people of my state. The Obama administration never ceased to amaze me when it came to trampling upon the promises made to the Alaskan people, and this rule was yet another blow to the rural residents of my state. I applaud all those that stood united with the Alaskan people. I’m proud to say logic, reason and the law won the day.”
“I was proud to work alongside my colleagues in the Western Caucus to help pass this commonsense legislation into law that will protect state wildlife management authority throughout the country. The Service rule was a perfect example of the ham-handed regulations that were synonymous with the Obama Administration. This new rule would have destroyed the cooperative relationship between the federal government and the State of Alaska. Even more troubling, it would have set a dangerous precedent for future top-down Washington mandates that supersede local management decisions,” said Chairman Gosar. “I thank Vice-Chairman Young for his excellent leadership in repealing another misguided mandate from the previous administration. Let’s keep this momentum going in the right direction.”
“The resolution recognizes that states, like Alaska, have successfully managed their wildlife for generations and the hostile takeover by the national fish and wildlife bureaucrats would only screw it up. I thank President Trump for signing this resolution that reaffirms confidence in the intelligence and goodness of the American people, stopping the harassment from Washington 'experts' and curbing abusive overreach from the federal bureaucracy,” Congressman Bishop said.
Aumua Amata remarked, “I want to congratulate my friend Don Young on the President signing H.J. Res. 69 into law. I look forward to working with him and my other colleagues on the Natural Resources Committee and Western Caucus to make sure that local governments have the ultimate authority on how their lands are managed. This law is a good step forward in that regard.”
On August 5, 2016 the Obama Administration published another overreaching regulation in the form of the final rule of the USFWS and the Department of Interior entitled “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska” (81 Fed. Reg. 52247).
On February 7, 2017, Representative Don Young (AK-At Large) introduced H.J. Res. 69, a joint resolution of disapproval that utilizes the Congressional Review Act to overturn the final rule. The House passed H.J. Res. by a bipartisan vote of 225-193 on February 16, 2017 and the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 52-47 on March 21, 2017.
The Congressional Review Act requires a simple majority in both Houses as well as a signature by the president and uses expedited procedures that allow for nullification of an entire regulation through a joint resolution that cannot be filibustered. The CRA prevents the rule from continuing in effect and also prevents a substantially similar rule from being reissued. The Parliamentarian has advised that all rules submitted during the 114th Congress on or after June 13, 2016, are eligible for review under the CRA in the 115th Congress. Bills used to review rules from the 114th Congress were eligible to be introduced in the 115th Congress on the 15th legislative day, January 30, 2017. Rules are reviewable under the CRA through the 60th legislative day.
The State of Alaska filed a lawsuit on January 13, 2017, to overturn the August 5th final rule. Safari Club International, in conjunction with the Alaska Chapter and Alaska Kenai Peninsula Chapter, also filed a lawsuit on January 19, 2017, to overturn this rule.
The rule seizes authority away from the State of Alaska to manage fish and wildlife. The new regulation explicitly violates the Alaska Constitution. The USFWS rule also violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (P. L. 96 –487, §1314), a law passed by Congress that explicitly gave the State of Alaska the authority to manage fish and wildlife resources on state, private and federal lands throughout Alaska. This new regulation also violates the Alaska Statehood Act (P.L. 85-508, § 6(e), another law passed by Congress that granted the State of Alaska full authority to manage fish and wildlife within its borders, including on federal lands.
This broad USFWS rule will negatively impact current management within 16 federal wildlife refuges in Alaska, which encompass 76.8 million acres or 20 percent of the state. The rule seizes management authority away from the State of Alaska for both non-subsistence and subsistence uses.
The rule is strongly opposed by the State of Alaska as well as numerous stakeholders and organizations. On February 13, 2017, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner, Sam Cotton, wrote Rep. Young in support of passage of H.J. Res. 69. On February 6th, twenty-seven sportsmen’s conservation groups sent a letter to House leadership in support of passage of H.J. Res. 69. The Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Outdoor Council, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies – representing the interests of all 50 states – and much of the hunting and angling community in Alaska have all expressed opposition to this rule.
This overreaching USFWS rule undermines Alaska’s authority to manage fish and wildlife on state, private and federal lands. The new regulation destroys the cooperative relationship between the state of Alaska and the agency that has historically worked well. This power grab threatens management policies in wildlife refuges nationwide and if allowed to stand will set a dangerous precedent for future top-down mandates from the federal government that seize authority from states.