Murkowski goes soft on wolf control plan What others say

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2003

What happened to the best science'' approach for implementing a predator control program around McGrath?

Gov. Frank Murkowski had promised to make a decision based on science, not emotion. But the governor's decision ... to not use helicopters or state employees in killing wolves appears to do what the governor said he would not do: worry about a tourism boycott launched by opponents of wolf control.

The governor has gone soft, saying that he strongly supports the concept of fair chase when pursuing wolves and that any effort to reduce their numbers should be carried out only by local hunters and trappers with an extra effort by state biologists to provide those locals with the latest sightings of wolf activity and moose kills.

But people on both sides of the wolf control debate agree that shooting wolves from helicopters is the most efficient and humane method available for the terrain around McGrath.

The governor's action, in short, is not predator control.

Just last year, in the midst of his campaign, Gov. Murkowski preached a philosophy now at odds with his latest pronouncement. He lambasted the inaction of state managers, saying they had allowed Alaska's wildlife to decline significantly. Under the influence of radical environmental groups,'' he said, they have abandoned good wildlife management practices based on science.''

Earlier this year the Board of Game, having been remade with six appointees of Gov. Murkowski, recommended using state employees and helicopters as its preferred choice in reducing the wolf population to increase moose numbers near McGrath.

In rejecting their recommendation, Gov. Murkowski himself must now be under the influence of those same radical environmentalists.

The governor's own Fish and Game commissioner, in a recent column, even indicated that it is acceptable to use aircraft to kill wolves to increase moose numbers, as called for under the state's intensive game management law. Techniques must be chosen, he said, based on effectiveness and efficiency, not whether they are sporting or fair chase.''

The governor, while hunting for votes last year, criticized the administration of Gov. Tony Knowles for failing to act and allowing some moose and caribou populations to fall to deplorably low levels.'' He promised to have an active wildlife policy governed by science and having the goal of managing for abundance.

Now it appears that an effective wolf control program, abandoned by Gov. Walter Hickel in 1992 under the threat of a nationwide tourism boycott and prohibited by Knowles when he took office in 1994, will likely have to wait until another governor comes along.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

April 4

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