Cantwell area advisory committee resigns

Posted: Tuesday, February 29, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The entire Denali Fish and Game Advisory Committee in Cantwell has resigned in protest because the state has not enacted a predator control program in the region.

The 13-member committee unanimously voted to resign en masse, saying game management is politically and not biologically, motivated and that their recommendations are ignored by the state Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Board of Game.

''We kind of felt like we were being logical, practical and helpful and nothing was happening,'' said Chairman Marty Caress, who has served on the Denali committee for the last 20 years.

He said the committee was ''phased out in frustration.''

''Until we can get the management system to quit being controlled by Defenders of Wildlife, we're going to keep going downhill,'' he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, referring to a national animal rights group that has targeted wildlife issues in Alaska in recent years.

Caress didn't rule out reviving the committee, however, if some kind of action is taken to address the area's predator problem, which has led to declining moose numbers.

''I think if (the state) made an intensive management decision and got a wolf program together immediately for this unit, that would get our attention,'' Caress said.

The Denali advisory committee is one of 80 such committees statewide. The committees make recommendations to the state regarding the management of wildlife in their respective areas.

Cantwell is in Game Management Unit 13, which is bisected by the Denali Highway and is one of the most heavily hunted areas in the state.

State wildlife biologist Bob Tobey with the Department of Fish and Game in Glennallen is the area management supervisor. Tobey said he has done everything he can to implement a wolf and bear control plan in the area.

Tobey recommended a plan to the Board of Game in Anchorage last month. But Tobey said it was up to Gov. Tony Knowles to approve any kind of predator control program.

Knowles has refused to approve the killing of bears and wolves as a game management tool since taking office in 1994.

The governor in a recent letter to the Game Board said wildlife viewing should be considered on an equal footing with hunting.

Knowles spokesman Bob King said it was unfortunate that the committee would take such a drastic action. Killing wolves is controversial and complex, and Knowles wants to study the issue, King said Monday.

The mass resignation of the Denali Fish and Game Advisory Committee continues to stir the controversial predator control pot, which has been simmering in Alaska for years and has recently come to a boil.

The Game Board approved a wolf control program for the McGrath area last month in efforts to boost a falling moose population. The board also tentatively approved a predator control plan for the Nelchina Basin, but that is pending review at the board's spring meeting which begins Friday in Fairbanks.

Lori Quakenbush, Game Board chairwoman, said board members have not made up their minds on the issue.

''We try very hard to incorporate the opinions of advisory committee members,'' Quakenbush told the Anchorage Daily News. ''It's very disappointing if they feel like they're not being listened to.''

Both programs need the governor's support before they can be implemented.

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