Prop 1 is environmentally sound

My turn

Posted: Monday, October 30, 2000

As a lifelong conservation activist I've fought hard to safeguard Alaska's wildlands and conserve critical fish and wildlife habitat. I'm proud that those efforts have directly resulted in the protection of tens of thousands of acres of quality lands, securing many valuable places for the public's use and enjoyment. When it comes to environmental issues, I know I've paid my dues, and then some.

On Nov. 7, I'll be voting YES on Ballot Measure 1. If you care about having a careful, science-based wildlife management system, a YES on 1, is without question the best way to go. It's the environmentally responsible thing to do.

Ballot measure one would remove wildlife from the list of issues that can be dealt with through voter initiatives - a process which when applied to wildlife, becomes so wacky that the truth means nothing, and innocent people get hurt. It's an outrage that traditional Natives, and their families have had to suffer through big dollar TV commercials and ads that make them look like barbarians. In the future you can expect more of the same as outside animal rights groups continue to pour money through various channels into the ballot initiative process. It's no wonder the Alaska Federation of Natives overwhelmingly approved a resolution in favor of YES on Ballot Measure 1.

It's easy to make the case why YES on 1 is fair and just for people; but why is it the environmentally responsible thing to do for wildlife? First, Alaska boasts a wildlife conservation management system that is science based, and has more checks and balances than any other in the country. Close to 100 citizens advisory councils, with nearly a thousand members meet in all areas of the state, scrutinizing new management proposals. Alaskans from all walks of life, volunteer their time and knowledge to ensure that the best ground truthed conservation information is on the table. The Department of Fish and Game works closely with these committees in a fair and open public process. All final regulations are debated in open public meetings.

Rather then face the scrutiny of a science-citizens-based system, animal rights interests have chosen to end run this careful deliberative process. They prefer the route of paid signature gathers, slick ads, and TV sound bites, with no truth in advertising required.

While some YES on 1 proponents have questioned the opposition's finances, I think it's more important to point out that if you want to find hard-core animal rights activists in the works, you sure don't have to look very hard. I spent nearly four years working for a large Alaska-based environmental organization. There's some really good work being done, but through a lack of leadership in Anchorage, at least on wildlife issues, the show has really gone downhill.

Take the largest "general fund" donor to the No on 1 campaign, the Alaska Conservation Alliance (ACA), with its branch, the ACV. Their publications typically give plenty of space to the radical animal rights group Alaska Wildlife Alliance. Amazingly, the chair of the ACV's influential Wildlife Committee is the head of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.

Who is the Wildlife Alliance? In recent times we've seen press on one director who forged a hunter's letter to the Anchorage paper. We've seen asinine protests over the Alaska Science Institute's request for a lethal take permit for 10 radio tagged otters because there was a remote possibility that they might do one in when they removed the scientific tracking devices.

Defenders of Wildlife is yet another member of ACA. Animal rights-protection activity has driven away Natives and sportsmen, two strong traditional advocates of habitat conservation. It's badly hurting environmental efforts, and that's inexcusable. Should you still support Anchorage-area environmental groups? Yes. Should you demand that they clean up their act and stop being so cozy with animal rights activists? Yes. But most of all, stop the ballot box biology. Our wildlife deserves better, our people deserve better.

Greg Petrich of Juneau is the former wildlife conservation director of the Alaska Rainforest Campaign. He has also worked as a nature guide, and a boat officer for the Alaska State Troopers Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection.

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