The Federal Subsistence Board (FSB) has been gathering public comment on its proposal to close Dall sheep hunting in Units 24A and 26B. These two units are public land and sit west of the Sagavanirktok River in the Brooks Range.
Safari Club International spoke out in opposition to the FSB. They have stated that these types of decisions should not be made by a federal agency, but rather by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Update as of July 29th
On July 29th, the FSB voted unanimously to close these two units. This closure will affect all federal lands on both sides of the Dalton Highway. Likewise, this closure affects mostly walk-in access to hunters and closes all hunting for Dall sheep in the area, even subsistence hunting for the sheep. This closure will extend until the end of the 2023 and 2024 Dall sheep regulatory cycle.
The FSB states that the reason for the closure was the declining sheep population due to harsh winters through 2019 – 2021. They also state that their survey numbers showed that the sheep population is 25% of what it was in 2012. Due to the cost and remoteness of the area, surveys can not be performed annually and are usually years apart. However, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game argues that the population still would have recovered over the full-curl restriction that it had imposed on hunters.
The full-curl restriction means that hunters were only allowed to take old mature rams that were declining. In many instants, harvesting this kind of Dall sheep actually helps the herd. Older rams usually no longer breed and eat more food than the younger sheep. Hence removing the rams from the landscape frees up more food for the younger sheep and hunters provide money to be used for further conservation of the species.
Going Against Public Comment for the Second Time
This closure comes on the heels of another decision by the FSB that closed millions of acres to “non-local” caribou hunters. Both of these decisions were passed by the FSB despite strong opposition from the public and state officials. During the public comment period, the FSB received 22 comments against the closure. National organizations such as the Wild Sheep Foundation and Boone and Crockett Club also called in to voice their opposition to the closure.
However, as stated above, the FSB voted unanimously in favor of the closure. Many public comments questioned FSB chairman Jack Reakoff’s accounts and studies as anecdotal. Several times Reakoff claimed to know that all the legal rams in the unit were killed in 2021. However, with no air surveys performed, Reakoff was doing the majority of his viewing and glassing from the Dalton highway. This method, of course, can not account for all the Dall sheep in the two units.
You can read more about this closure by clicking here. Likewise, you can read more Alaska hunting news by clicking here.
What are your thoughts on this closure? Have you hunted in Alaska? let us know in the comments!