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Governor discounts Alaskans' opinions when it comes to predator control

Myths drive wolf decision

Posted: Tuesday, April 01, 2003

A recent statewide poll of Alaskans by independent pollster David Dittman revealed that 75 percent of Alaskans were not in favor of killing wolves to boost moose numbers.

Significantly, 60 percent of hunters polled felt the same way. Also, rural percentages were similar to urban.

Alaskans get it!

It is clearly a minority that cling to the long disproved notion that if we can just kill enough predators, an eternal hunters paradise will be created. This misconception has been thoroughly tested in the Lower 48 with disastrous results. Entire ecosystems have been thrown so badly out of balance they will likely never recover.

Another recurring myth that plagues the wolf debate is that if we do not kill wolves they will take over and nothing but wolves will be left alive. An examination of the remaining wilderness areas where man leaves the predator-prey balance up to nature provides conclusive repudiation of this mythical nonsense.

Hunter response to the Dittman poll indicates that a majority of Alaska's hunters acknowledge the benefit of functioning biological systems.

In 1994 and 1995, moose hunting near the McGrath area was less productive than normal. A moose count in 1996 indicated low bull moose numbers due to overhunting. The next and last count in 2000 showed improved numbers, at or near the habitat carrying capacity. In 2003, the governor's one-trick pony Board of Game decided that a100 percent wolf kill in a 520 square mile area near there would fix things up. Note that hunter success in the McGrath area remains the state's highest at 50 percent.

Why are Alaskans faced with this extremist assault on our wildlife? The answer appears to be the governor's political payback to the Alaska Outdoor Council, a radical and powerful hunting organization who supported his creative campaign. All current appointees to the Board of Game are hunters, and all but one are Alaska Outdoor Council members. That one has strong council ties.

More than 75 percent of Alaskans are not hunters and are given no representation on the Board of Game.

A majority of Alaska's hunters are ethical and responsible and believe in fair chase and healthy ecosystems. My belief is that they also regard the nonconsumptive wildlife viewers, photographers and ecotourists as deserving of consideration in the management of our wildlife.

For the governor's Board of Game, the proposed McGrath airborne wolf slaughter is just the beginning.

Two other areas have been given the board's approval for airborne wolf kill. One of these involves a 26,000 square mile chunk of our state, and more mischief is in the pipeline.

In 1996, voters banned same day airborne hunting of wolves. After the Legislature reinstated it, the voters again in 2000 said no. Not understanding no, Senate Bill 155 recently was introduced in the state Senate and now a House version appeared.

This coordination between the Legislature and the Board of Game is a transparent effort to again violate the will of the voters.

Predictably, Kenai Peninsula brown bears found their way to the Board of Game's hit list. Low populations caused the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to designate them a "Species of Special Concern," limiting the kill to 14 per year. No problem, the new Board of Game raised the kill number to 20.

The governor, Legislature and Board of Game have a contrived solution to a non-existent problem which is guaranteed to produce a tourism boycott that will cost thousands of Alaska's families much of their annual income. Sadly, neither modern science nor voter sentiment is about to influence them as they respond to a powerful special interest group.

John Toppenberg is a retired law enforcement detective who moved to Alaska seven years ago with his wife, Peggy Conway. He works with the counseling program at the Kenai Alternative High School, owns Reflections Alaska Photography and is a one-third owner of Alaska Photo Tours.



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