WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Cheney issued the following statement today regarding her vote in favor of H.J. Res. 69 which overturns a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) rule challenging Alaska’s authority to manage fish and wildlife on state, private and federal lands. The Resolution was strongly supported by the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and 27 Wildlife and Sportsman Groups.
“The rule the House voted to overturn today is yet another example of the federal government’s determination these past eight years to destroy a state’s ability to manage their wildlife. We in Wyoming understand how important it is for our local communities to have a say in how our land and our wildlife are managed. I am pleased to support this resolution and continue the work here in Congress to return more control back to the states where it belongs.”
On August 5, 2016 the Obama Administration published another overreaching regulation in the form of the final rule of the USFWS and the Department of Interior entitled “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska” (81 Fed. Reg. 52247).
On February 7, 2017, Representative Don Young (AK-At Large) introduced H.J. Res. 69, a joint resolution of disapproval that utilizes the Congressional Review Act to overturn the final rule.
The Congressional Review Act requires a simple majority in both Houses as well as a signature by the president and uses expedited procedures that allow for nullification of an entire regulation through a joint resolution that cannot be filibustered. The CRA prevents the rule from continuing in effect and also prevents a substantially similar rule from being reissued. The Parliamentarian has advised that all rules submitted during the 114th Congress on or after June 13, 2016, are eligible for review under the CRA in the 115th Congress. Bills used to review rules from the 114th Congress were eligible to be introduced in the 115th Congress on the 15th legislative day, January 30, 2017. Rules are reviewable under the CRA through the 60th legislative day.
The State of Alaska filed a lawsuit on January 13, 2017, to overturn the August 5th final rule. Safari Club International, in conjunction with the Alaska Chapter and Alaska Kenai Peninsula Chapter, also filed a lawsuit on January 19, 2017, to overturn this rule.
The rule seizes authority away from the State of Alaska to manage fish and wildlife. The new regulation explicitly violates the Alaska Constitution. The USFWS rule also violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (P. L. 96 –487, §1314), a law passed by Congress that explicitly gave the State of Alaska the authority to manage fish and wildlife resources on state, private and federal lands throughout Alaska. This new regulation also violates the Alaska Statehood Act (P.L. 85-508, § 6(e), another law passed by Congress that granted the State of Alaska full authority to manage fish and wildlife within their borders, including on federal lands.
This broad USFWS rule will negatively impact current management within 16 federal wildlife refuges in Alaska, which encompass 76.8 million acres or 20 percent of the state. The rule seizes management authority away from the State of Alaska for both non-subsistence and subsistence uses.
The rule is strongly opposed by the State of Alaska as well as numerous stakeholders and organizations. On February 13, 2017, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner, Sam Cotton, wrote Rep. Young in support of passage of H.J. Res. 69. On February 6th, twenty-seven sportsmen’s conservation groups sent a letter to House leadership in support of passage of H.J. Res. 69. The Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Outdoor Council, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies –representing the interests of all 50 states – and much of the hunting and angling community in Alaska have all expressed opposition to this rule.
This overreaching USFWS rule undermines Alaska’s authority to manage fish and wildlife on state, private and federal lands. The new regulation destroys the cooperative relationship between the state of Alaska and the agency that has historically worked well. This power grab threatens management policies in wildlife refuges nationwide and if allowed to stand will set a dangerous precedent for future top-down mandates from the federal government that seize authority from states.
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