Hunting and trapping are an important part of Alaska's heritage. While there are organizations and individuals who would dispute the value of these activities, they are distinctly Alaskan and undeniably worthy of defense as both a rural lifestyle choice and a recreational endeavor.
That said, a Superior Court ruling earlier this week that scuttled the state's wolf-control program is to be applauded. To dismiss the decision, as some have, as evidence of some larger conspiracy to take away hunters' rights is to miss the larger point - that the people of Alaska have twice registered their unequivocal opposition to the un-sporting practice of aerial wolf hunting.
We appreciate having a moose in the freezer and understand the desire of hunters and folks in the Bush who live off the land to increase moose and caribou populations. But we also understand the cycles of nature.
For countless centuries, the rhythms of the natural world have maintained the delicate balance between species. When there are too many predators, food supplies become scarce and predator numbers decrease. In turn, species preyed upon begin to flourish again.
Basic biology and the folly of this sort of predator control aside, the larger issue is fundamental to democracy. In two separate ballot initiatives in recent years, voters of this state have rejected by a wide margin this manner of killing wolves, only to have their will quickly overturned by a legislature catering to a minority special interest group.
As is usually the case, money, in the form of campaign contributions, carries more weight than constituent concerns. It is not hard to understand, then, why lawmakers don't seem to get the message about aerial wolf hunting.
So here we are again. After being dragged into court, on the taxpayers' dime, the state was forced to attempt to defend a practice that a majority of its residents are opposed to. Worse yet, the court based its decision largely on the negligence of the Board of Game, which was so eager to exterminate wolves that it apparently couldn't even be bothered to follow its own program guidelines.
This, too, could have been avoided with another simple concession to principles of democracy. Despite its statutory charge "to conserve and develop" Alaska's wildlife resources for all state residents, the board is comprised exclusively of hunters, as if the state's game resources were their sole province.
No matter that, according to 2004 Department of Fish and Game statistics, a mere 14 percent of Alaska residents are licensed hunters. When it comes to Board of Game membership, no one with camera need apply.
It is long past time for sanity, fairness and respect for the resource to rule the day. Instead of the administrative fix that state officials are seeking in order to reinstate the unpopular predator-control program, perhaps they should listen to the people they are supposed to represent and put it out of its misery completely.
Time to scrap unpopular wolf extermination