Backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Department of the Interior wants to eliminate regulations on hunting bears and wolves in Alaskan wildlife preserves, essentially converting the parks into taxpayer-funded, free-fire game ranches.
Esquire UK points out that such a ranch is where former Vice President Dick Cheney shot his hunting companion in the face. Despite that proud historical tradition, this year U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C introduced the SHARE Act, which would make it easier to purchase gun silencers. It would also prevent the National Park Service from regulating hunting in natural preserves, such as the ability to trap and shoot bears and wolves in their dens, including cubs during hibernation season. The legislation was scheduled for a hearing on June 14, which was postponed after Rep. Steve Scalise was shot during baseball practice.
For years, the NRA and hunting and fishing groups have urged Congress to pass a version of the legislation.
Acting National Park Service director Michael Reynolds prepared a memo to the Department of the Interior on June 30 outlining the agency's objection to the bill. The memo was returned to him with objections crossed out and a directive not to share them with Congress, McClatchy reports.
Heather Swift, an Interior Department spokeswoman, refuted that. "At no point did the Department tell the NPS not to communicate with Congress. In fact, the document in question is not even addressed to Congress," she told McClatchy. Jeremy Barnum, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said the agency had not been directed to avoid speaking with Congress. Those claims "are false and mischaracterize the process," he said.
The bill's hearing has not yet been rescheduled.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was previously in the news during the final days of the Republicans' Obamacare-repeal bill, when he phoned holdouts Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and threatened to withhold federal funding from her states if they did not vote yes.
Zinke later learned that Murkowski is chair of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee, which distributes funds to the Department of the Interior. The two senators ultimately voted against the health-care bill.
Murkowski has not commented on the latest development from the department.
In other gun-safety news, Trump announced this week that he will lift prohibitions on civilians purchasing military-grade weapons.