Alaska editorial: Animal campaign pits state vs. state

Posted: Monday, March 20, 2006

This editorial appeared in The Ketchikan Daily News:

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Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Those are wise words; good words to live by.

They come to mind when we hear about one part of the country telling another geographical area how to live, as is being done by Connecticut in regard to Alaska.

Connecticut, like other parts of the nation, seems hell bent on limiting Alaskans. It likely isn't most of the state. It is the Connecticut-based Friends of Animals in particular. But it should be a concern to all of Connecticut.

The Friends of Animals has launched a campaign against Alaska's aerial wolf control program. It opposes the program, probably for emotional rather than factual reasons. But whatever motivates the group, it bought an advertisement in USA Today to convey its feelings.

The campaign is riddled with flaws. First, it pits one state against another, driving a wedge between the two that could last longer than the folks waging it. Second, it spreads erroneous impressions of Alaska; we're not tracking down wolves from aircraft and then diving in and shooting them minutes later. The campaign makes it sound like a senseless slaughter. It is a management tool. There are rules within the program to protect wolves, too.

It appears that Connecticut, a former colony that, along with other colonists, went to war with England rather than submit to the Mother Country's directives, would like to mother Alaska. Alaska is a state of equal stature with Connecticut. The people of Alaska are capable of making decisions to manage the state's natural resources, including its animals and in particular its wolves. No one here wants to wipe out the wolves. At the same time, we don't want the wolves decimating other resources. It's a fine balance, and Alaska is experienced in achieving that balance. Certainly, Alaska with its thousands of wolves is more experienced at it than Connecticut.

Third, the tactics Friends of Animals uses against Alaska could bite Connecticut. Alaska might not use the same methods when it disagrees with Connecticut on a different issue, but the tactic is one that others will employ against Connecticut if they believe it to be necessary.

The Friends of Animals assume that Alaska isn't treating its animals appropriately and that it must intervene, launching a campaign to discourage tourists from traveling to the Last Frontier. The group figures by getting tourists to bypass Alaska, that Alaskans will be pressured to change their wolf control program.

It's not likely. Alaskans wouldn't employ aerial wolf control if it weren't the best way to handle the situation.

There are five wolf control programs under way in 6 percent of Alaska. The programs involve a permit system, which allows aerial or same day airborne methods to hunt wolves. The wolves' numbers are reduced; they aren't eliminated.

Additionally, people who want to see Alaska are curious. They will come to see what Alaska is all about and learn how Alaska manages its resources.

Connecticut is a state of about 3.5 million people. It has a $4 billion tourist industry. The tourists visit the 250-mile Long Island Sound shoreline, the Litchfield Hills and the Connecticut River Valley. They also enjoy boating and fishing there.

Connecticut wouldn't like a group of Alaskans telling it how to protect its waters or limit its boat traffic. Neither would they like another state or special interest group threatening their tourism industry.

Animals are well protected in Alaska as they are throughout the United States. But they must be managed for their sustainability as well as that of other animals and Alaska Natives who depend on wolves' prey - moose, deer, caribou and other wildlife - for food. Wolves and other predators kill more than 80 percent of the moose and caribou that die each year. Humans kill 10 percent. Friends of Animals ruins its credibility when it attempts to interfere with those programs and threatens Alaskans. And neither that group nor Connecticut where it is based would like to be treated in such a manner.

Friends of Animals should be able to understand that even if they can't understand the aerial wolf control program.

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