Yearling brown bear cubs near the Russian River Ferry. (Photo by Matt Conner/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Yearling brown bear cubs near the Russian River Ferry. (Photo by Matt Conner/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Judge delivers victory for opponents of brown bear trapping in refuge

U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason ruled against proposed changes to the refuge’s public use regulations

A federal court has ruled to uphold regulations prohibiting brown bear baiting in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason rejected efforts to overturn a 2016 rule regulating hunting and trapping on the refuge, including prohibiting brown bear baiting, affirming that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has authority to manage wildlife it oversees.

Groups such as the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and Trustees for Alaska celebrated the ruling, which was delivered last week, as a victory for Kenai’s brown bears.

“This decision means that the Kenai Refuge will continue to function as a true refuge for vulnerable Kenai brown bears and other species,” said Rachel Briggs, staff attorney with Trustees for Alaska. “The ruling further maintains the Skilak area for wildlife viewing, and confirms the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Service to manage wildlife refuges to support an array of uses and protect wildlife diversity.”

Plaintiffs included the State of Alaska, Safari Club International and Alaska Professional Hunters Association, among others. Defendants included the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others.

The ruling in State of Alaska v. Bernhardt, which was delivered on Nov. 13, can be viewed by searching case number 3:17-cv-00013-SLG.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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