During the weeks that have passed since the recent wildlife management/extreme predator control event and rally, my thoughts have often turned toward the similarities between shooting wolves from helicopters in the 21st century and shooting the American Bison from train cars in 19th century. Both activities satisfy the naked desire of some to kill for the sake of killing, rather than hunting for sustenance. The America Bison, the largest land animal in North America, was driven to near extinction by "hunters" riding the Transcontinental Railroad and indiscriminately shooting bison from railroad cars. Within only 20 years of driving the golden spike at Utah's Promontory Summit in 1869, 40 million American Bison had been reduced to only 500. Today's bison are carefully farmed and live in only a few controlled ranches in the western United States.
What will happen in Alaska with the loss of wolf predation? It is well known that predators help to glean the aged and sick from caribou and moose herds, helping to keep the herds strong and healthy. What impacts will the loss of this important predator have on our fragile ecosystem? Will over-population increase death from starvation across the herds? Will other predators step in to fill the void? Only time will tell.
The biggest question on my mind is, 'Will humans ever learn from their past mistakes?' My fear is that the answer is no. Just 150 years after nearly wiping out all vestiges of the wild American Bison, we are doing the same thing to wolves in Alaska. Just 20 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster and less than a month after the oil catastrophe began in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaskan off-shore drilling has been approved.
Alaska is perched on a precipice. Shall we follow the example of the lower 48, plundering our awesome natural resources and leaving behind a polluted wasteland, or will we wake up and realize that our natural resources, if properly shepherded, will provide for us and our children far into the future? It is up to each of us to take a stand and save the beauty and magnificence that is Alaska!
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