Alaska's wildlife are making tracks to the Nov. 7 general election voting booths, headed specifically for Ballot Measures 1 and 6. With any luck, their trail will be clearer than arguments from both sides of Ballot Measure 1 and the wording of Ballot Measure 6.
Ballot Measure 1, an amendment prohibiting voter initiatives regarding wildlife, says, "This ballot measure would change the Alaska Constitution so that voters could not use the initiative process to make laws that permit, regulate or prohibit taking or transporting wildlife, or prescribe seasons or methods for taking wildlife."
The issue was addressed by the Legislature last April as House Joint Resolution 56. It passed the House 27-to-11. Rep. Gary Davis, R-Soldotna, and Rep. Gail Phillips, R-Homer, supported the resolution; Rep. Hal Smalley, D-Kenai, opposed it. It also passed the Senate, with Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, and Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage, giving their support.
Confusing to the public are claims from all corners supporting wildlife management and opposing influences from outside Alaska.
"Ballot Measure No. 1 is a much needed solution to a serious problem affecting sound wildlife management in Alaska," wrote Rep. Carl Morgan, Jr., R-Aniak, sponsor of HJR56, in a statement he provided to the Peninsula Clarion. "It gives all Alaskans the opportunity to return wildlife management to where it belongs, namely to a public process forum working with trained professionals making sensible solutions based on biological considerations.
"Expensive political campaigns funded by animal rights groups from the Lower 48 designed to win support based solely on public emotion through paid signature gatherers, deceptive media advertising and biased informational material is not how Alaska's wildlife should be managed. The people of Alaska and our wildlife deserve better."
Torgerson added his support to the measure.
"This is a huge issue for rural Alaska," he said. "As long as we have the provision allowing initiatives, you're going to continue to have this. Whoever has the money to buy the ads influences the people in the urban areas. It's been proven over and over again where the money comes from. And it's outside Alaska."
Opposing the measure is "No on 1," a group chaired by former Sen. Vic Fischer of Anchorage. Similarly, it urges voters to consider wildlife and eliminate outside influences.
"If passed, Ballot Measure 1 would amend our Alaska Constitution to prohibit voters from using the initiative process to manage one of our most valuable and plentiful natural resources -- our wildlife," the "No" group's material states. "The initiative process, our constitutional right, is an important part of the critical checks and balances built into Alaska's Constitution. It is a process that favors voters over politicians, bureaucrats and special interests.
In response to charges that they received out-of-state funds, the group's World Wide Web site (www.no-on-1) says, "The NO on 1 campaign has accepted zero dollars from outside animal rights groups."
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Frank Rue issued a press release in April strongly opposing the Legislature's vote.
"This resolution takes away a powerful tool for citizens to enact laws that reflect their values and uses of their wildlife," Rue stated. "To single out wildlife or any other issue from the initiative process, be it transportation, health, education or tourism ... is a dangerous precedent.
"Unlike the sponsors of HJR56, I believe Alaskans are able to weigh information and vote just as intelligently on wildlife issues as they do on other initiative issues," Rue said. "Contrary to their claims, responsible wildlife management is not just a scientific or biological matter. The varying needs and values of Alaskans are also part of the equation for responsible management and conservation of wildlife resources under the sustained yield principle."
Ballot Measure No. 6, an act relating to management of game, states, "Voters are asked to either approve or reject a law allowing hunters to use airplanes to land and shoot wolves on the same day they fly. The law allows any person with a hunting or trapping license to land and shoot in areas established by the Board of Game. No additional permit may be required. The law also allows the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to use agents, as well as employees, to engage in same-day airborne shooting of wolves."
Reading the measure carefully is important, since "yes" rejects the law and "no" approves the law.
"Alaskans for Wildlife," is an organization supporting the measure. Its membership includes former Lt. Governor Lowell Thomas Jr., former Fish and Game Commissioner Jim Brooks, former state Board of Game members Douglas Pope and Joel Bennett and wolf biologist Dr. Paul Joslin.
Bennett's statement in the state's election pamphlet says, in part, that voting "yes" will get "rid of a bad wildlife law while sending a message to the Alaska legislature that voters meant it when they banned same-day airborne land-and-shoot wolf hunting the first time."
Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, urged Alaskans to vote "no" by pointing to the wolf attack on a 6-year-old boy.
"Just two months before this attack we were warned this would happen when representatives from towns throughout our state came to the Legislature for help," Kelly wrote. "They pleaded with the legislature to pass the law the animal rights groups are asking you to appeal. Wolves had decimated the game populations these people rely on for food and were boldly entering their towns killing family pets and threatening people."
Continuing, Kelly said, "The animal rights groups scoffed at their testimony and said this could never happen, but tragically it did. A 'no' vote is your chance to stand with these Alaskans instead of the outside animal rights groups, the same groups who would end the Iditarod."
Peninsula candidates supporting Ballot Measure 1: Ken Lancaster, Drew Scalzi, Mike Szymanski and Jerry Ward.
Peninsula candidates opposing Ballot Measure 1: William Bartee, Amy Bollenbach, James Price, Hal Smalley and Pete Sprague.
Peninsula candidates who could not be contacted: Mike Chenault.
Peninsula candidates supporting Ballot Measure 6: Bartee, Bollenbach, Price, Smalley and Sprague.
Peninsula candidates opposing Ballot Measure 6: Lancaster, Scalzi and Ward.
Peninsula candidates who could not be contacted: Chenault and Szymanski.
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