Land-and-shoot critics launch referendum drive

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Opponents of land-and-shoot wolf hunting say they've filed a referendum petition with the lieutenant governor's office seeking to repeal the law the Legislature just passed permitting such hunting again.

Joel Bennett, a former Alaska Board of Game member, said he believes the public is fed up with the Legislature's efforts to manage wildlife.

Alaska voters approved a ballot initiative in 1996 making it illegal for hunters to shoot wolves the same day the hunters had been airborne. It allowed the State Department of Fish and Game to conduct aerial wolf control in response to a biological emergency, such as a crash in moose populations.

But the Legislature this session passed a bill largely overturning those restrictions. It makes it legal for any hunter to find wolves with an aircraft, and then land and shoot them in areas where the Board of Game has declared a need for predator control.

Backers of the legislation said it was necessary because Gov. Tony Knowles had blocked the board's call for wolf control in some areas.

Knowles vetoed the bill but the Legislature overrode his veto.

Bennett was a sponsor of the 1996 initiative. His co-sponsors this time include former Lt. Gov. Lowell Thomas Jr. and Jim Thompson, an emergency room physician, Bennett said.

The petition was filed Monday, he said. Sponsors will have to gather signatures from 10 percent of the state's registered voters to get the question on the ballot.

Bennett said he was confident that the public remains as opposed to land-and-shoot wolf hunting now as it was in 1996.

''We did not want to do this,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News. ''Now we are taking it back to the people.''

Voters would face two wildlife questions if the referendum makes it to the general election ballot in November.

The Legislature has put forward a constitutional amendment that would ban all wildlife management ballot initiatives.

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