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Notice mistake delays action regarding wolves

Posted: Friday, November 07, 2003

ANCHORAGE The state Board of Game did not properly notify the public of its meetings in Anchorage this month, but the error will not hold up a program to kill some wolves near McGrath that will begin shortly after the snow flies.

The error does, however, mean that plans for a wolf control program west of Glennallen will be delayed but only by a few weeks.

The McGrath plan for boosting the moose population already was on the books. But any new regulatory actions adopted by the board at the November meetings are not binding because of the error in notification, said Diana Cote, director of the department's board support section.

''We didn't mail it out to our complete mailing list only about half,'' Cote said.

About 900 people were notified of the meetings and another 1,000 were not, she said.

''The inadvertent error in public notice is regrettable,'' Cote said. ''We are taking immediate action to prevent the notification error from occurring in the future.''

Cote said the department will issue notice of the 25 regulatory proposals considered by the board and take additional written testimony. The board will review all new testimony and reconsider the proposals during a teleconference meeting Dec. 15, Cote said.

Wildlife advocates had hoped the error would provide a delay in wolf killing, allowing Alaskans to vent their displeasure over the board's decision.

''From our perspective, clearly we're disappointed,'' said Paul Joslin of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. ''We had hoped this would be an opportunity to give Alaska voters a chance to weigh in.''

He said wolf control probably is the most controversial topic the board could take up, but it was buried under an obscure section of the group's agenda.

Joslin and others opposed to the board action cite ballot measures in 1996 and 2000 in which Alaska voters essentially banned aircraft-assisted land-and-shoot wolf hunting. However, regulations allowed state biologists to shoot wolves from the air for predator control. And under a law adopted by the Legislature this year, the state can authorize private citizens in their own aircraft to shoot wolves in some areas.

Under plans adopted by the board this week, about 40 wolves would be shot from planes in hunting unit 19D East, near McGrath, over a 1,700-square mile area. The McGrath area effort will begin when there's enough snow cover to see animals from the air. All moose hunting by people is banned in the area.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance contends that moose numbers were holding steady or even slightly increasing in the area in the last five years. The board's decision was politically driven, Joslin said.

Even if he agreed with predator control, Joslin said, he would disagree with the method picked by the board. Department biologists recommend it be done hovering from a helicopter, not taking potshots from a fixed-wing aircraft, he said.

''You're going to have wounding and maiming,'' Joslin said.

Others have pledged a tourism boycott if the wolf control program proceeds.

In unit 13, the Nelchina region west of Glennallen, wolves will be shot from the ground after being spotted by planes. Between 100 and 130 wolves are targeted in the 7,800-square-mile region.

That effort was to begin by January. If the board takes action Dec. 15, it's likely to be delayed until mid-January.



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