Governor falls flat on wolf control

Posted: Wednesday, April 19, 2000

On April 10, Gov. Tony Knowles dashed off a ``Dear Alaskan'' letter requesting support for his veto of Senate Bill 267, which would permit same-day-as-airborne wolf hunting.

This divisive dilemma would never have confronted us this session if the governor was doing his job. Instead, he has squandered his administration stonewalling on the issue of predator control. While residents of McGrath and other communities in our state have their subsistence opportunities drastically diminished, the governor has refused to take action.

In his letter, the governor states: ``The Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game already has the option to permit land-and-shoot predator control programs by department staff.'' He's right. Trouble is, the governor has refused to exercise that option - even in areas where wildlife biologists employed by his own administration have stated that predator control was needed. In McGrath and Glennallen he's refused to implement predator control programs deemed necessary by his own department's biologists.

The governor goes on to state: ``In Alaska, we have a policy of `doing it right' - using sound science, and open and responsive public process, and prudent management to make sure we have sustainable resources for generations to come.'' Again, he's right. And again, he's doggedly acted against his very own policy. The Department of Fish and Game has used sound science and an open and responsive public process in twice calling for implementation of a specific wolf-control plan. The governor - ignoring sound science as well as the public process - has put both programs on the shelf.

In his letter, the governor complains the Legislature is ``mocking the process'' by supporting HJR 56, which, if approved, would amend the constitution to remove from the initiative process fish and game decisions best left to sound science and an open responsive public process. Yet it is the governor who has made a mockery of the responsive public process by playing politics with the Board of Game.

The governor also states: ``The voters of Alaska spoke clearly in 1996 that they did not want same-day airborne hunting of wolves.'' Or did they? Rep. Mary Kapsner of Bethel spoke on the House floor in support of predator control, explained that some voters in her district were confused by wording of the initiative which banned same-day-as-airborne wolf hunting in the first place. They thought they were voting for wolf control. The governor, in his letter, further fails to explain that the Alaska Constitution specifically permits the Legislature to overturn a ballot initiative after two years. It's now four.

In 1996 the governor met with folks in McGrath, and those in attendance have told me a promise was made to put in place a predator control program in order to preserve the subsistence meat supply for those who depended on it. There was no follow-through, a matter not addressed in this disingenuous letter.

Both SB 267 and HJR 56 gained bipartisan support in the Legislature. The House approved SB 267 by a vote of 27-11 while the Senate OK'd the measure 14-5, and 16-4 on concurrence. Democratic Sens. Al Adams and Georgianna Lincoln were both co-sponsors.

The governor concludes his letter by urging Alaskans to ``let your voice be heard . . . on SB267 and HJR 56.'' Again, he's right. The phone number for the governor's office is 465-3500.

Jeannette James is a North Pole Republican serving in the state House of Representatives.

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