Western Caucus’s Own Leads the Charge to Return Wildlife Management to the States

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Washington, DC, February 16, 2017 | comments

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) and Western Caucus members Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06), Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-03) and Congresswoman Liz Cheney (WY-At Large) released the following statements after the House successfully passed Vice-Chairman Don Young’s bill, H.J. Res. 69, by a recorded bipartisan vote of 225-193, legislation that overturns a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) rule that undermines Alaska’s authority to manage fish and wildlife on state, private and federal lands:

“From the beginning, I said I would do everything in my power to overturn this illegal jurisdictional power grab by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, we’re one step closer to delivering on that commitment and eliminating a wrongful seizure of Alaska’s fish and wildlife management authority,” said Vice-Chairman Young. “I’m thankful to all those that played a role in moving this important resolution of disapproval, including that countless state and local stakeholders that worked with me to fight a very serious and alarming overreach by the Executive Branch. I look forward to seeing the swift consideration of H.J. Res. 69 in the Senate.”

“This rule is another classic example of bureaucratic overreach and I applaud Representative Young for his excellent work and leadership on this issue. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game knows best how to manage fish and wildlife in the State of Alaska and this bill ensures they are able to do precisely that,” said Chairman Gosar. “I am pleased to see this bill pass through the House and encourage my Senate colleagues to take up and pass this legislation in a timely manner.”

“Alaskans know what is best for Alaska, just like Minnesotans know what is best for Minnesota. Unfortunately, the actions by the Department of the Interior represent yet another overreach by the Federal Government and takes power away from the state of Alaska. I am proud to support H.J. Res 69, which returns control back where it belongs; with the state,” remarked Congressman Emmer.

Congressman Duncan said, “I am proud to work with my friend Don Young of Alaska to restore Alaska’s rightful authority in this matter. Sportsmen around the country will be pleased by this action in the House today. The sustainable management of these natural resources needs to be a state-led function, and this rule would have set a bad precedent that could have negative implications for the lower 48 states as well.”

Congresswoman Cheney said, “The rule the House voted to overturn today is yet another example of the federal government's determination these past eight years to destroy a state's ability to manage their wildlife. We in Wyoming understand how important it is for our local communities to have a say in how our land and our wildlife are managed. I am pleased to support this resolution and continue the work here in Congress to return more control back to the states where it belongs.”


Background:

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.

A full list of endorsements can be found HERE. A full list of cosponsors can be found HERE. Bill text can be found HERE. More Info HERE.

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.

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