Alaska Supreme Court upholds predator program

Posted: Monday, August 09, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Supreme Court has upheld the state's predator control programs, ruling they mesh with the state constitution's mandate to manage wildlife for sustained yield.

Defenders of Wildlife and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance sued the state four years ago. They said the control of wolves and bears violates the constitution.

The court ruled on Friday that the state game board has both a constitutional and statutory duty to apply the principels of sustained yield to both predators and prey. But Justice Morgan Christen, writing on behalf of the court, said the constitution permits the state to give preference to moose and caribou over wolves and bears.

Crucial to the decision was a clause in the constitution stipulating that "wildlife ... shall be utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses."

Christen wrote that the "subject to preferences" qualifier "suggests that the Legislature and the (state game) board have some discretion to establish management priorities for Alaska's wildlife."

At the same time, the court rejected the state Board of Game argument that applying the sustained-yield principle to wolf and bear populations in predator-control areas is discretionary and simply a matter of state policy.

"It is the board's constitutional and statutory duty to apply principles of sustained yield when it adopts predator control plans," Christen wrote. "This is not a policy question subject to the board's discretion."

Gov. Sean Parnell welcomed the ruling.

"This is an important ruling," Parnell said. "The court's ruling upholds the state's predator control programs as consistent with both the constitution and the law."

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