In a largely party-line vote Tuesday, Senate lawmakers approved a measure to repeal an Obama-era rule that largely banned hunting of predator species on more than 76 million acres of 16 federally owned national wildlife refuges in Alaska, reports NPR.
The rule was instituted by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2016 to protect predator species from aerial hunting, live trapping or baiting of predators such as bears and wolves, as well as a ban on the killing of predators while near their dens or their cubs.
The bill, which was already approved by the House last month, will now head to Donald Trump’s desk, who is widely expected to sign it.
Alaska Rep. Don Young, The bill’s Republican sponsor, Alaska Rep. Don Young, argued that the FWS restrictions represented federal overreach.
“Not only does this action undermine Alaska’s ability to manage fish and wildlife upon refuge lands,” said Young. “It fundamentally destroys a cooperative relationship between Alaska and the federal government.”
Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington was not convinced by Young’s argument.
“This isn’t about states’ rights,” she said, according to the AP. “It’s not about prohibiting hunting. … It’s about how we can manage these wildlife refuges to the degree that agencies believe are necessary for the preservation of these wildlife heritage areas.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) also who spoke out against the measure.
“While shooting sow grizzlies with cubs may be legal, I suspect the public will never view it as ethical,” he said. “And I have to wonder what good old [Theodore Roosevelt] would have to say about recent decisions to allow unlimited bag limits on black bear cubs, or baiting of bears or shooting female grizzlies with cubs?”
“This isn’t hunting — it’s slaughter,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Killing wolves and bears in this cruel, unsportsmanlike fashion is outrageous, especially in national wildlife refuges that belong to all Americans.”
He added: “Repealing these protections also undermines the critical role predators play in healthy ecosystems.”