Trump Faces Backlash Over New Rules That Will Let Alaska Hunters Kill Bears, Wolves in Their Dens

President Donald Trump's administration is facing backlash from wildlife conservation groups over a new rule that will roll back the previous administration's restrictions on hunting and trapping wild animals in Alaska.

The National Park Service described the new rule as an effort to reinstate federal alignment with the state's hunting regulations, according to an NPS news release. The rule, which is expected to go into effect in late June, would reverse course on hunting restrictions introduced in 2015 by President Barack Obama's administration.

NPS spokesperson Peter Christian told the Anchorage Daily News that hunters would be allowed under the new rule to use artificial lighting to entice black bears out of their dens, employ bait to attract black and brown bears, hunt wolves and coyotes during their denning season, and catch caribou while they are swimming.

The rule will "more closely align hunting and trapping regulations with those established by the state of Alaska by providing more consistency with harvest regulations between federal and surrounding non-federal lands and waters," NPS Deputy Director David Vela said in the news release. The rule has so far received support from Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, both of the state's senators and several sports and game organizations in the state.

Brown Bear in Alaska
A brown bear fishes for salmon at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska, on September 17, 2018. A new rule announced this month by the National Park Service will ease some hunting restrictions in Alaska. Ronald C. Modra/Getty

However, the rule has been criticized by conservation groups that say it is at odds with the preservation mission the NPS was founded upon. Kati Schmidt, communications director at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), described the move to Newsweek as a "shameful rollback" of the Obama-era regulations and said the rule did not strictly apply to Alaska residents who rely on hunting for their livelihoods.

"Amid the global pandemic, the Trump administration is declaring open season on bears and wolves, through their sport hunting rule on national parklands in Alaska," NPCA President and CEO Theresa Pierno said in a statement shared with Newsweek. "Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had the opportunity to halt this rule that includes baiting park bears but chose instead to ignore common sense and opposition by members of Congress, scientists and tens of thousands of Americans."

Pierno continued, "Through this administration's rule, such treasured lands will now allow sport hunters to lure bears with greased doughnut bait piles to kill them, or crawl into hibernating bear dens to shoot bears and cubs. Shooting hibernating mama and baby bears is not the conservation legacy that our national parks are meant to preserve and no way to treat or manage park wildlife."

Defenders of Wildlife also spoke out against the rule shortly after it was announced on May 20, describing it in a public statement as an "onslaught against wildlife on public lands."

"This unwarranted policy reversal would set a dangerous precedent for the National Wildlife Refuge System and could threaten the sustainability of the isolated population of Kenai brown bears in Alaska," Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark said in a statement on the organization's website.

The NPS did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment before publication.

The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register this week, according to the NPS news release. The agency said it will go into effect 30 days after it is published.