Media praises Biden’s racist land-management policies as political win


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New land management policies will strip Native Alaskans of their ancestral rights

James Lacefield, Opinion Editor

Recent news stories have painted President Biden a champion of animal rights, ethical hunting, and environmental conversation. “Biden Moves to End Doughnut Lures and Other Bear Hunting Tactics in Alaska” by the New York Times’ Lisa Friedman highlights the Biden administration’s efforts to overturn Trump era policies regarding wildlife management on federal lands in the State of Alaska. While Crier readers should know me to be an advocate for ethical hunting and conservation, this article is a wild misrepresentation of Biden’s policies and the question of land management on the Last Frontier.

Alaska is one of the last places in North America where a significant portion of the population continues to rely on subsistence hunting for their primary food source, just as they have for thousands of years. To Indigenous Alaskans, herds of caribou and schools of salmon are not exotic species to be tagged on a once-in-a-lifetime trophy hunting trip. These species, and many more, are their versions of the steaks and fishsticks most Americans are able to purchase in the grocery store.

Since many Alaskans rely on these wild animals for their daily groceries, they view these animals in a significantly different way than most modern people. Bears and wolves, for example, pose a serious threat to caribou herds if their populations are not controlled. If a wolf pack was roaming the aisles of Market Basket, I think most of us would agree with the decision to allow these wolves to be killed to ensure we have safe access to food. To subsistence hunters, it is no different. For this reason, the state of Alaska prioritizes subsistence hunting in its wildlife management strategies, or at least it did until the Obama administration came to power in 2008.

For decades, Alaska was given unique privileges to oversee wildlife management on federal lands located within the state specifically to meet the needs of their subsistence hunting populations. Prior to White colonization, subsistence hunters were completely free to manage the lands and waters where they lived for the benefit of native species and their own welfare. The Obama administration, however, implemented restrictions on Alaska’s management practices, including banning many hunting practices which subsistence hunters relied on to maintain their herds and procure meat to survive. President Trump retracted these policies, and gave management oversight back to the State of Alaska.

News articles, however, offer a false narrative of these events. They argue that former-president Trump specifically allowed unethical hunting practices to promote trophy hunting for the blood-thirsty elite. While I am opposed to many of Trump’s environmental policies, it is clear that his decision to allow Alaska to manage its own land was not intended to promote unethical hunting. Rather, it was intended to return the ability of Alaskans to manage their wildlife the way they have for tens-of-thousands of years already.

This decision from the Biden administration to reinstate Obama-era land management policies will have horrific consequences for both the native species and peoples of Alaska. Indigenous Alaskans have been practicing subsistence hunting since they first set foot on the North American continent. They have shaped an entire culture around a symbiotic love for the land and all the creatures which inhabit it. These hunters do not exhibit the blood-lust inferred by the media, nor do they employ unique hunting practices for the sake of being unethical. The methods used by subsistence hunters may seem unethical to the non-hunter, or even to the hunter who takes to the woods as a hobby. But when viewed from the perspective of these Alaskan hunters, it would be unethical to not employ the tactics and strategies they have developed over millennia. To not allow these people to hunt as they do would be to allow native species to die out, and to allow entire villages to starve.

What the Biden administration has essentially said is that we cannot trust Native Alaskans to care for and manage the species they have been nurturing, hunting, and surviving on the way their ancestors have for hundreds if not thousands of generations. It is a decision with its foundations in racist, urban policies. How do we, as people who have been on this stolen land for little more than a few hundred years, know better than those who have developed their entire culture on these lands? Who are we to tell Indigenous people how to live on their own land? The media has neglected this point, instead taking the opportunity to praise Biden and bash Trump.

We should not be politicizing land management and environmental practices in the first place. This sets a dangerous precedent of allowing politics to influence culture and science alike. But when it comes to the only state in the union to have both an integrated population of Indigenous subsistence hunters and a history of preserving its wildlife better than any other region, it is clear that the government has overstepped its bounds.