Katmai Bears Win Reprieve
Last month I relayed a story out of Alaska involving brown bears and hunting on state-owned lands inside Katmai National Park. The gist of that story was that Alaska's Board of Game was willing to reopen the Kamishak Special Use Area, which had been closed to hunting since 1985, to hunting beginning this July 1.
Well, the news today is that following heavy lobbying, with significant input from the Alaska office of the National Parks Conservation Association, the Board of Game has voted unanimously to call off the hunt.
"We're ecstatic," says Jim Stratton, NPCA's Alaska regional director. "In our testimony before the board on this issue, NPCA presented 11,000 letters from our members in all 50 states asking that this area be kept closed and, to their credit, the board listened."
The special use area is adjacent to the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, and NPCA and others have been worried about a decline in bear numbers in both that sanctuary and the Katmai Preserve portion of the national park. "With declining bear numbers observed at both McNeil and Katmai, it made no sense to add to the problem by opening yet more land for brown bear hunting," says Stratton.
While the conservation groups also asked the Game Board to reduce hunting in the Katmai Preserve, where bear hunting is legal, the board did not move in that direction.
"Our next step in this effort to protect Katmai and McNeil bears is to work with the National Park Service," says Stratton. "The Park Service has a mandate from Congress to ensure 'high concentrations' of brown bears, but our evidence concludes that's not happening."