What Hunters and Anglers Should Know Before They Vote

Americans who enjoy fishing, hunting, and other wilderness sports should be aware of a number of important issues before stepping into the voting booth in November.

Despite objections from many prominent Hawaiians and a federal regional fishing council, President Barack Obama recently quadrupled the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM), first created by President George W. Bush in 2006.

Obama used his executive authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to extend the marine reserve’s boundaries, banning fishing and mining in the 200-mile exclusive economic zone surrounding the reserve, which covers much of the northwestern islands of Hawaii and their surrounding waters.

Following the expansion, PMNM has become the largest protected reserve on Earth, comprising about 582,578 square miles, nearly double the size of the State of Texas.

Former Hawaii governors George Ariyoshi (D) and Ben Cayetano (D) and former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) wrote a letter to Obama trying to prevent the declaration from being issued. The letter read, in part, “The proposed expansion will impact the State’s ability to continue its trust responsibility to native Hawaiians.

“The native Hawaiian traditional fishing practice to bring fish and other resources back to their families and communities is prohibited in [the monument] area,” Ariyoshi and his co-authors wrote.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC), which manages waters around the U.S. Pacific Islands, says Obama’s decision to expand the monument “serves a political legacy.”

“Closing 60 percent of Hawaii’s waters to commercial fishing, when science is telling us that it will not lead to more productive local fisheries, makes no sense,” Edwin Ebisui Jr., chairman of WPRFMC, said in a statement. “Today is a sad day in the history of Hawaii’s fisheries and a negative blow to our local food security.”

Hawaii is not the only state to have its authority to govern millions of acres of land usurped by the national government. In a series of moves, the Obama administration seized control of nearly 100 million acres in Alaska over the past year -- an amount of land comparable to the size of New Mexico.

Obama’s Alaska land grab was made possible by a previous action by another liberal president. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter designated 157 million acres of Alaskan land -- through the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) -- to be national parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, recreational areas, national forests, and conservation areas.

One bright spot of the law was that the federal government recognized the State of Alaska’s authority to manage various natural resources, including fish and wildlife, on the vast majority of the lands covered by the law. Alaska successfully managed those lands to the benefit of wildlife, hunters, and anglers since the law was passed.

Despite this track record of success and a mostly amicable relationship between federal and state authorities, the Obama administration seized control of millions of acres in what amounts to a significant intrusion on Alaska’s authority to govern land within its borders.

In October 2015, the National Park Service overrode Alaska’s predator control regulations on 20 million acres of land. In July 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seized control of fish and wildlife management on an additional one million acres of land that had previously been under the control of the State of Alaska under ANILCA. Further, under new rules that became effective in September 2016, FWS took control of 77 million acres of national wildlife refuges in Alaska from the state. The new rules undermine Alaska’s comprehensive wildlife management plans by limiting or prohibiting previously approved hunting practices relating to wolves and bears.

If the past is any guide, populations of caribou, deer, moose, and other wildlife will suffer because of the rules, as predator populations boom without the presence of hunters. In addition, it is likely bear/human and wolf/human conflicts will rise as a result of the new protections, which means more and more people will suffer from unnecessary injuries or even death, as they have in other parts of the country when the federal government has prevented licensed hunters from controlling predator populations. Alaska’s rural subsistence populations will also likely see their ability to provide for themselves diminish over the winter.

None of these rules, regulations, or land grabs were necessary; neither wolf nor bear populations in Alaska are threatened or endangered. Indeed, Alaska has for decades been the only state in the nation with huntable populations of grizzly bears, and until wolves were reintroduced in the lower 48 states, it was the only state that allowed seasonal wolf hunting.

The Obama administration’s actions in Hawaii and Alaska were not motivated by a desire to do what’s best for wildlife or for the people of Hawaii and Alaska, and the administration showed no care for America’s hunters and anglers. Obama’s actions were motivated by a desire to attain as much authority as possible for the federal government and to enhance the power and influence of his radical environmental constituency before leaving office.

One of the candidates in the 2016 race, Hillary Clinton, has promised to double down on Obama’s environmental policies. Americans concerned about property rights, hunting, fishing, and states’ rights should make their voices heard about these failed policies.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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