Fairbanks AK -- Sponsors of an initiative to stop the aerial predator control program vow to try again after failing to collect the required number of signatures to place the measure on the November ballot.
The group, Alaskans for Wildlife, collected just under 30,000 signatures, according to Juneau author Nick Jans, one of three sponsors of the initiative. Sponsors had needed 31,451 signatures of registered voters.
Alaskans for Wildlife will aim for 50,000 signatures to ensure the measure is on the August 2008 primary election ballot, Jans said. Considering that sponsors amassed almost 30,000 signatures in only 70 days, Jans was confident the group would reach that goal.
The initiative would require that any wolves killed with the use of aircraft be shot by state employees rather than private pilot-gunner teams, as is now the case. It also would allow the killing of wolves only in "biological emergencies."
The state currently issues permits to shoot wolves from the air or to land and shoot wolves, a practice that Alaska voters have twice voted down through initiatives. The Alaska Legislature, however, passed a law allowing permits to be issued to private pilot-gunner teams in areas designated for "intensive management" by the state Board of Game.
In the last three years, more than 400 wolves have been killed in five locations identified as areas where wild game is an important food source for residents.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner McKie Campbell was glad to hear that sponsors came up short of signatures. Campbell has said the initiative contained ambiguous language that would lead to costly court battles.
"We have a very full plate and I'm glad that issue is one we're not going to have to be dealing with immediately," the commissioner said.
Supporters of the predator control program also were glad to hear the initiative won't be on the November ballot.
"To have an initiative like this pass would add more and more limitations to the opportunities people have to use wildlife," said Dick Bishop of Fairbanks, an Alaska Outdoor Council board member. "It would have definitely bogged everything down."