My Turn: Wolves and the will of the people

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2008

On Tuesday, Alaskans will have a chance to vote to limit aerial wolf shooting to only the most serious biological situations. Such controls have been voted on twice before, but state authorities refuse to listen. As a result, a majority of citizens have seen their will frustrated and public state money wasted in an effort to fight the same battle over and over again.

Recent news that state Department of Fish and Game employees withheld information from the public regarding the elimination of 14 wolf pups at a den site is the most graphic example of why Alaska's wolf killing program needs to be reined in.

From records I obtained under the state's Freedom of Information Act, it is clear that in December of 2007 Fish and Game knew that pups would likely be involved in the newly authorized Alaska Peninsula wolf control effort, but no mention was made of the pros and cons of killing newborn pups at the March Game Board meeting. I think this outright deception by omission withheld important facts, facts that would have enraged the general public and jeopardized the state's chances of stopping Ballot Measure 2, so they kept it under wraps hoping that no one would think to ask about what happened out there.

One must now wonder what else the state has kept from the public through five years of aerial wolf control over more than 60,000 square miles, under an overly permissive law that offers few controls and restrictions.

As this sordid incident has been playing out, Fish and Game has continued to mail out expensive brochures, funded with $400,000 in taxpayer money, selectively outlining many other one-sided program details about wolf control. The clear intent is to convince Alaska voters that any limitations like those imposed in Ballot Measure 2 would be a bad thing. That the state can argue that this was never intended to influence the outcome of the election (prohibited under state law) is patently ridiculous, considering the timing of the mailings.

In the end, no state program can succeed unless it enjoys broad public acceptance. A close reading of proposition 2 will show that it provides appropriate accountability for state actions and limits aerial predator control methods to extreme cases.

There will be a day when mechanical means such as aircraft will no longer be able to run roughshod over valued public resources like wolves and bears.

There also will be a day when the life of a defenseless animal like a wolf pup will be respected and treated with common decency.

That day will start with a yes vote on Ballot Measure 2.

• Joel Bennett is a Juneau resident.



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