Voices of Alaska: Clarifying control issue

More study not needed to implement sound predator programs

Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The basis of ADFG's predator control programs is to rebuild moose and caribou populations that have declined significantly, not to repeat research projects. ADFG has done intensive research on predator-prey relationships in several areas of Alaska over the past 30 years. We are now using that knowledge to conduct predator management programs in five areas of Alaska. These five predator management programs, occurring on less than six percent of the state's total land mass, are based on solid science.

I want to emphasize that our predator control program is an applied management program, not a research project. There are distinct differences between the two. It is not necessary, nor is it appropriate, to conduct intensive research in each area where we conduct a predator management program. In all disciplines, it is a commonly accepted practice to conduct research and then apply it to similar situations. It is not good science to learn the same thing over and over again.

A detailed study plan is a vital part of any research project, but is less relevant to a management program. ADFG's management programs: (1) have defined goals; (2) use general methods to achieve objectives; and (3) measure results to evaluate whether goals have been achieved. Each of the current predator management programs has a general management plan developed by ADFG staff and incorporated into findings by the Board of Game in authorizing the removal of predators.

It is both desirable and important to incorporate information and lessons learned into ADFG's programs, which is part of the adaptive approach that ADFG and the Board of Game have taken. It is also important to measure the effects of the predator control programs that are implemented. However, as manager of wild resources over vast areas, ADFG cannot make each project subject to intensive research standards. It is neither effective nor efficient to do so.

Moving forward, rather than accepting conclusions drawn from another's misinterpretation of the NRC report, I would encourage members of the public to draw their own conclusions after reading the report, as well as the Board of Game findings made for each predator control project implemented under the state's regulatory structure and public process. Upon review, I believe that you will also conclude that ADFG's practices parallel the direction recommended in the NRC report.

In closing, it is one thing to employ science in shaping our management programs and quite another to postpone action in science's name by endlessly gathering data. ADFG must fulfill its statutory obligation to manage the state's ungulate herds and to provide hunting opportunity, and through intelligent use of the information gathered already — and that to be collected as part of our management programs — that is what we intend to do.

Wayne Regelin is Acting Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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