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USFWS isn't breaking its own rules

Voices of the Peninsula

Posted: January 23, 2012 - 9:20am  |  Updated: January 23, 2012 - 9:22am

On Jan. 11, Elaina Spraker, argued that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was ignoring their mandates under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) to protect moose on in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

So, is the Fish and Wildlife Service breaking its own law?
In a word, no.

While Mrs. Spraker obviously has an opinion on this issue, she certainly doesn't have her facts straight. Considering the very relevant fact that Mrs. Spraker is the wife of Vice Chair of the Board of Game (Board) Ted Spraker, it makes one question whether certain Board members really have the capacity to objectively evaluate proposals 35 and 36, which would institute aerial wolf gunning on the peninsula. I would argue that they don't.

I would like to take the opportunity to clarify a few of the more glaring of Mrs. Spraker's, and we assume her husband's, misrepresentations and misunderstandings.

First, Mrs. Spraker rightly states that The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was created under ANILCA and incorporated the former lands of the Kenai National Moose Range. However, this is where her understanding of the facts regarding the refuge deteriorates.

Mrs. Spraker contends that the congressional record states that the purposes of the expansion of the Moose Refuge were to

(A) Perpetuate a nationally significant population of moose;

(B) Protect populations of fish and wildlife and their habitats, including moose and other mammals and waterfowl;

(C) Provide opportunities for wildlife-oriented recreation in a manner consistent with the purposes specified in subparagraphs (A) and (B).

I can't speak to whether these purposes are part of the congressional record or not, but in truth it doesn't really matter because the congressional record is not the law. According to the law, among other purposes not relevant to this issue, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was established:

(i) to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity including, but not limited to, moose, bears, mountain goats, Dall sheep, wolves and other furbearers, salmonoids and other fish, waterfowl and other migratory and nonmigratory birds;

(v) to provide, in a manner compatible with these purposes, opportunities for fish and wildlife-oriented recreation.

Perpetuating a nationally significant population of moose doesn't even make the list let alone appear as a primary purpose. Further, Mrs. Spraker conveniently fails to point out that wolves are among those mammals the refuge is mandated to conserve.  She also fails to mention that the refuge is mandated to conserve these mammals, including wolves, in their "natural diversity."

Contrary to Mrs. Spraker's premise that FWS is "failing to fulfill their legal obligations" under ANILCA by not allowing predator control or managing solely for moose populations within the refuge, FWS is actually adhering to their legal mandates by working to conserve all wildlife populations in their natural diversity. Incidentally ANILCA is but one of the federal laws to which the FWS is legally bound, others include the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act and the Wilderness Act. Both of these laws would also dictate the Refuge disallow intensive management within its boundaries.

Not only does Mrs. Spraker misinterpret FWS' obligations she - and we assume her husband - also fails in her analysis of the moose decline; blaming it on FWS' inaction and restrictions.

Putting aside the fact that the refuge is not bound to single species management as Mrs. Spraker would have you believe, the main reason why habitat isn't what it once was in 15A is time. It's been 40 + years since the last major wildfire swept across the Kenai and created all of that excellent but fleeting moose habitat. Nothing will bring it back until another large scale - and potentially catastrophic - wildfire sweeps the landscape. By the way, the Board is well aware that FWS is open to managing backcountry fire on the refuge to improve moose habitat.

Mrs. Spraker also laments the numerous regulations "trappers have been saddled with" in the refuge. Well, I have news for you Mrs. Spraker; trappers aren't the only ones who use the refuge. Kenai Refuge is probably the most visited refuge in Alaska; as such it faces numerous challenges relating to managing recreational use. Without strict regulations, the refuge would quickly be faced with resource damage issues as well as user conflicts. Again, if we go back to ANILCA, the refuge is following their mandates by ensuring recreation is consistent with conservation of wildlife resources.

The final example of Mrs. Spraker's confusion of the issue is her claim that moose in the refuge are in a "predator pit." Gordon Haber, who was a good friend of mine, coined the term predator pit and from his description, 15A is anything but. Rather, habitat pit might be the more appropriate term. I'm not the only one who sees it this way. Not once has there been a single public mention of a predator pit on the Kenai, not even from the Board. However, I don't doubt Mrs. Spraker has heard it in her own home and therein I see a problem.

Mrs. Spraker's husband recently voted with the zero diversity BOG to actually go ahead with the anti-science airborne Kenai wolf kill. If he can so easily misrepresent what is happening on the Kenai, what does this mean for the quality of his decision-making on this issue?

Again, let's clear the record for those who may have been confused by Mrs. Spraker's difficulty portraying the facts. Predators are not the cause of the moose population decline in 15A. There is no evidence that if habitat were improved moose numbers would remain at low levels. And FWS is not legally mandated to allow the state to move forward with an ill-conceived plan within their boundaries.

So, in response to Mrs. Spraker' s question: Why the Fish and Wildlife Service is refusing to follow the law set forth by congress and the purpose for which the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was established? The answer is simple, they're not. The only failure they can be accused of at this point is failing to succumb to pressure of those pressing an agenda that they are not mandated to follow; killing wolves for no justifiable reason. Well done FWS.

John Toppenberg has been director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance for about seven years. He lives in Sterling.

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potomac
191
Points
potomac 01/23/12 - 11:52 am
0
0
Thankyou John Toppenberg

It is almost comical at times to see the game board run by the same idiot that used to run the F&G down on the Peninsula, but all we can do is watch a really dumb reality show unfold. The FWS is to be congratulated on staying the coarse over political B.S.. With the development on the Kenai anyone with half a brain should realize how hard it is to have a controlled burn with so much liability out there with all the houses. They have tried and been dragged over the coals every time a fire get's a little too close, fire management is extremely hard to predict. Thanks to all the cabins, etc. all over the Peninsula we can pretty much say goodbye to fire as a tool to enhance the habitat, even if you killed every predator out there the moose will still crash. The cheapest and least effective action is what the board is proposing to do. One big thing they could do that is also easy but political suicide would be to stop all guided hunting and airplane traffic below 5000 ft during the moose season. Then the next thing would be a substantial increase in hunting licenses to pay for habitat enhancement , road kill mitigation techniques, tree clearing, etc. so many smart things to do, but wait , we have to have smart people to direct the coarse so we loss again, back to that reality show

kenaicommoner
0
Points
kenaicommoner 01/23/12 - 03:06 pm
0
0
right on!

Thanks Mr. Toppenburg for clearing things up for Mrs. TED SPRAKER and her husband. Too bad it won't change the Board's bad decision with regard to the Kenai or all the other bad decisions they make. What we really need is a whole new Board of Game. We won't get that with this Governor...time to find a new one.

Rhonda Lanier
0
Points
Rhonda Lanier 01/23/12 - 03:26 pm
0
0
Thank you so much Mr.

Thank you so much Mr. Toppenberg for this very excellent and factual article. It would be nice if both Mrs. Spraker and her husband would read it and educate themselves, although I don't hold out a lot of hope on that. You are so very correct in that she is entitled to her own opinion, but NOT her own facts. I too find it very disturbing that she seems to be so confused on what the facts actually are and can only assume they are the same opinions her husband has. The fact that he has such a poor grasp of the facts is all the more concerning considering his position as Vice Chair on the BOG.

I hope some day the good people of Alaska will elect a governor who will make certain that BOG members have the capacity to objectively evaluate what is truly best for Alaska's wildlife, not what is favored by the hunters and outfitters.

Jedediah Smith
8
Points
Jedediah Smith 01/24/12 - 08:33 pm
0
0
Whiner Article

The problem with all of you greenies and liberals is you don't know how to discuss issues rationally... therefore you lose the debate. Mr. Toppenberg sounded like a whiny angry little girl who didn't get his way and his only defense was to personally attack individuals. If we took a vote on who could be trusted with accurate information concerning wildlife, Spraker’s would undoubtedly win!

Allen
618
Points
Allen 01/24/12 - 09:32 pm
0
0
Can't Win The Argument, Start Name Calling

You lost the debate in the first sentence.

AKNATUREGUY
295
Points
AKNATUREGUY 01/24/12 - 10:52 pm
0
0
Jedediah Smith Give Us The Facts

Jedediah Smith you are the one that sounds like a little whiny angry girl who doesn't like to see the real facts presented. I think Mr. Toppenberg did an excellent job in presenting the facts regarding modern day wildlife management diversity, the Kenai Refuge, the Spraker's and the good ole boy cowboy Board of Game.

Give us the facts, if you believe Mr Toppenberg's facts are inaccurrate.

woodwise
0
Points
woodwise 01/25/12 - 11:27 am
0
0
Allen and Jedediah what are you talking about?

Thank you Mr. Toppenburg

Allen - not sure why you think he lost the debate in the first sentence. Do you mean by referring to the previous article? That's pretty common for people to do when they are building on another topic so people have some frame of reference. Jedediah. What are you talking about attack? Mr. T is laying out the facts where Spraker had them wrong, which she most certainly did. Why don't you look up ANILCA and other refuge laws if you think Mr. T doesn't have it right? You'll find that he does.

Here, I'll help you with ANILCA since that is the only one Spraker mentioned.
http://alaska.fws.gov/asm/anilca/title03.html

All the other issues check out too. Mr. T is right, Spraker is wrong.

mobyking
6
Points
mobyking 01/25/12 - 12:39 pm
0
0
Science/no science

We keep hearing the words no science in predator control, that must mean F&G should go for a huge government grant and hire some Phd's from Berkley to do a multi-year study on predation.
Let's just disregard all the success F&G has had balancing the predator/prey in throughout the state, and at the same time providing increased subsistence for the residents of the state.
They accomlished this openly but with little fanfare, and it worked so well that even Gordon Haber had to write an article in the paper stating that after he had vehemenately opposed one wolf control project, that it was a success just like F&G promised
Now for two questions.
We have lots of wolves, what do they live on?
Why, when I moved to the Kenai peninsula in 1971 why were there so many moose? According to the experts the 1947 Kenai burn long grown up so much to be good habitat anymore and the 1969 burn wasn't grown up enough to provide any browse yet, but let me tell you there were lots of moose. On the east side of the peninsula in u

mobyking
6
Points
mobyking 01/25/12 - 12:39 pm
0
0
Science/no science

We keep hearing the words no science in predator control, that must mean F&G should go for a huge government grant and hire some Phd's from Berkley to do a multi-year study on predation.
Let's just disregard all the success F&G has had balancing the predator/prey in throughout the state, and at the same time providing increased subsistence for the residents of the state.
They accomlished this openly but with little fanfare, and it worked so well that even Gordon Haber had to write an article in the paper stating that after he had vehemenately opposed one wolf control project, that it was a success just like F&G promised
Now for two questions.
We have lots of wolves, what do they live on?
Why, when I moved to the Kenai peninsula in 1971 why were there so many moose? According to the experts the 1947 Kenai burn long grown up so much to be good habitat anymore and the 1969 burn wasn't grown up enough to provide any browse yet, but let me tell you there were lots of moose. On the east side of the peninsula in u

HealthMaps
0
Points
HealthMaps 02/02/12 - 10:27 am
0
0
Where’s the Beef (moose)? (I mean, science?)

Setting aside the ethical issue of killing wolves and bears to increase the moose population – but not indefinitely- where is the science that not just supports predator control but indicates what is going on with our moose and for that matter all the other creatures on the Kenai? Where is the data? Is it current? Who is collecting it? Are there properly trained and experienced people doing the analysis? Was there an unbiased peer reviewed design used for moose population assessment? Is it being done every year? What is being done elsewhere whether in Europe, Canada, or other parts of the US (and Alaska)? How do we know that the moose population is declining? If an informed decision is to be made then the population dynamics of the wolves and bears must be understood as well. How do we know the wolves and bears are an important cause of a change in moose population? What is the contribution from habitat destruction, vehicle collisions, and poaching? Not anecdote, but what are the numbers, and the margins of error? My searching with Ms. Google, my favorite librarian, does not come up with much that is timely or relevant. In fact, nothing. We cannot manage what we have not measured and continue to measure. And of course, we need a Board of Game with a scientific background who truly represents all Alaskan citizens and makes decisions based on the best set of facts that can be delivered and are prepared to change their minds when new information appears. And most of all, they should be the ones who are setting the example of insisting that the Feds and the State collect the best data possible and make it available for all of us to see.

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