Like it or not, the United States inaugurated Joe Biden as its new president yesterday. I purposefully avoid taking political sides because I truly believe that the outdoors, conservation, and hunting should be bi-partisan issues that affect everyone. We only focus on how politics affects your right to hunt, fish, and enjoy the outdoors. In that spirit, I wanted to briefly cover some of the ways that the new administration may affect the lives of hunters and outdoors enthusiasts.
How Does The President Influence Hunting and Fishing?
It may seem counterintuitive that the federal government can affect the hunting and fishing in your state. After all, wildlife is generally considered property of the state it resides in and we do have the tenth amendment. While this is partially true, there are several key ways the executive branch of the U.S. government can control hunting. For starters, there are some species considered property of or controlled by federal law. Waterfowl is one example, which is covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The species listed under this act are included in international treaties. As a result, the U.S. government sets regulations for duck hunting, for example, and requires waterfowl hunters to buy a federal duck stamp.
Federal public lands are also controlled by the U.S. government and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The USFWS is run by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, a cabinet position, appointed by the President. 28% of the United States is federal land and much of this is open to hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation.
Finally, the endangered species act is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Management of species listed as threatened or endangered must adhere to specific guidelines set forth by executive branch agencies.
What We Know About The Biden Administration’s Hunting and Fishing Stance So Far
So far, there have been several important developments that will potentially affect us. President Biden’s administration has already signaled they will be taking a close look at two agency actions that were implemented under the Trump administration. The first is the delisting of the Grey Wolf as an endangered species across the lower 48. Several months ago, the USFWS had finished delisting the grey wolf because they no longer met the definition of threatened or endangered animals. This rule and the new administration’s stance on it could have implications for how state wildlife officials can manage wolves, whether farmers can protect their livestock, and whether there can be controlled license hunts for wolves.
The second agency action that will be reconsidered, is the rollback on restrictive rules for hunting in the state of Alaska on National Preserves which was completed in June of 2020. This change had once again allowed the use of dogs and bait to hunt bears and allowed the shooting of swimming caribou among other things. Most importantly, they brought the rules for the Alaskan national preserves in line with the rest of the state hunting laws in Alaska. The Biden administration may change these rules back to the more restrictive previous rules established in 2015.
Finally, let’s take a look at Biden’s nominee for the Interior Secretary who will be reviewing the above agency actions and managing our federal lands and resources. The nominee for Secretary of The Department of the Interior is Deb Haaland. She is a U.S. representative from New Mexico and would be the first Native American to serve in a cabinet position. She is an indigenous person from the Laguna Pueblo tribe. A quote from her website mentions hunting and fishing:
“We as human beings depend on the planet for the things we need to live – clean water; the food we need that we get from farming, hunting and fishing; shelter; everything. It has been that way since time immemorial.
The ways we manage those resources have certainly changed over the years, and maybe not for the better in many cases, but we still depend on nature to survive and I believe it is our responsibility to pass our natural treasures on to future generations to enjoy and so they can carry on.”
Hopefully, this means she will be friendly to America’s hunters and anglers who do so much to manage and fund wildlife conservation.
If you’d like, you can send feedback about the new potential agency rule changes to:
Encourage the new Interior secretary to let Alaska continue to manage the wildlife in the National Preserves like they successfully have in the rest of the state. Also, let them know that you want the management of wolves to be done at the state level based on recommendations of local biologists and wildlife officials since the previous population goals have been met.