This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
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An Alaska court has again been approached to stop predator control programs, and to nix plans for programs yet to begin, by the Defenders of Wildlife and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.
The groups say that the state's practice of issuing permits to pilot-gunner teams in areas identified as those where moose and caribou populations need a little help fending off predators is a practice that is based on faulty science and violates state law.
State law, these groups claim, requires the board of game to obtain accurate population estimates for caribou and moose to determine how many are available for hunting. State law requires the Board of Game to consider this information before setting new population and harvest objectives and embarking upon any predator control program, the groups state.
They also state that the law requires that any predator control program be part of a comprehensive game management plan. That phrase does not come up in a online search of state statutes. The following does, however:
"The Board of Game shall adopt regulations to provide for intensive management programs to restore the abundance or productivity of identified big game prey populations as necessary to achieve human consumptive use goals of the board in an area where the board has determined that
(1) Consumptive use of the big game prey population is a preferred use;
(2) Depletion of the big game prey population or reduction of the productivity of the big game prey population has occurred and may result in a significant reduction in the allowable human harvest of the population; and
(3) Enhancement of abundance or productivity of the big game prey population is feasibly achievable utilizing recognized and prudent active management techniques."
Peppered with key phrases about the supposed widespread prevalence of the aerial gunning program, "running wolves to exhaustion," and supposed potential of wiping out 75 percent of populations near national park boundaries, the press release reads more like ads we've seen in national campaigns than a reasoned legal debate.
The state law spelling out intensive management law seems much more clear.
At the same time, however, state leaders should take note of the tone and consistent means of attack against these predator control programs and take another look at surveys and studies that should be done, to the extent practical, as the state manages game.
It would be a shame to complete these programs without solid documentation to back up the results and, if the state ultimately doesn't have adequate information, protection groups are making it clear they will just keep swooping in to run the state and its courts to exhaustion.