Wolves a vital part of a healthy Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

As the final credits of Ken Burns' "National Parks" rolled by, I thought how fitting it was the final episode dealt so much with Alaska and wolves. Both are the quintessential symbols of wilderness throughout the nation and world.

I was reminded of Adolph Murie's lesson, more than 60 years ago, that the wolf is a vital part of a healthy wilderness.

Sadly, then, I thought of what Alaska has become in the past eight years under Governors Frank Murkowski, Sarah Palin and now Sean Parnell - a game farm of the Alaska Outdoors Council and its trophy hunters.

What a contrast! Within Denali National Park, airplanes do not gun down wolves. Snares are not set for bears. Sows and cubs are not trapped and shot. Wolf pups are not gassed to death in their dens. There are numerous predators. And there are even more numerous moose, caribou and sheep.

But outside the park, where the AOC effectively controls the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, we see hunts for moose cows and calves made necessary because the natural predators were decimated. We see trophy hunters being brought in from Outside and the AOC's Rod Arno crowing about how once again we can sell our wildlife to Outsiders. Outside the park, we tell the world we know how to manage our wildlife, but in truth it is the AOC that does so now, and poorly. Under the group's political influence, Fish and Game has become the Department of Death.

The AOC will tell you it does all this to protect subsistence hunters, rural Alaskans without access to grocery stores. But the same AOC will turn around and tell politicians and the Board of Game (whose membership is almost entirely AOC) to not give the Bush any special preference. Let rural Alaskans compete against millionaires from the Lower 48 for a winter moose. Let them hunt by foot while the Outsiders fly or boat in and shoot what they want. But let them be the ones we blame for our need to gun down more wolves and bears, gas more pups, and trap more cubs and sows.

Adolph Murie knew the truth 60 years ago. Today, the truth is buried a little deeper each year under the rhetoric of the AOC, which would have us believe that moose and caribou would soon be exterminated by wolves and bears without extreme measures such as aerial hunting.

Meanwhile, Denali Park wolves, bears, moose and caribou go about their natural ways as they have done for thousands of years, safe from the AOC, and proving them wrong every day.

Art Greenwalt

Hunter and board member of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance


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