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Don't Lose Your Voice on Wildlife


Letters / Art Greenwalt / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / December 19, 2005


Dave Kelleyhouse's recent show of arrogance (Daily News-Miner, Dec. 10) is surpassed only by his low opinion of his fellow Alaskans. Like others in the Alaska Outdoor Council with similar views, he apparently feels Alaska voters are dumber than stumps when it comes to voting on wildlife issues. He flaunts his years of hunting experience as a credential, then ignores Alaskans with many more years in the field. To Kelleyhouse, even the greenest biologist is superior to an Alaskan who may have been hunting for decades. His zeal to label anyone disagreeing as an "animal rights activist" is similar to that of then-Rep. Pete Kelly, who in 1996 while criticizing an initiative to ban aerial wolf hunting, was told one of its sponsors was Jay Hammond. He thought a moment, then said he must be an animal rights activist, too. It's a convenient "hot button" to push in Alaska, for it bypasses rational thought and goes straight to blind emotion.

Presently, we have more cow moose in the Tanana Flats than hunters can kill. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game fears a catastrophic population crash should they exceed the range capacity. This is Kelleyhouse's "intensive management" at work. Pushing for unrealistic, unsustainable numbers, it ignores other variables to single out predators for decimation. Had those wolves not been hammered by trappers over the years, cow moose numbers would probably be closer to normal. Due to intensive management, we face a potentially disastrous situation of our own making. Fish and Game testified before the Legislature against intensive management at its inception. If the moose numbers crash, Kelleyhouse will call for the eradication of more wolves as the destructive cycle continues.

Kelleyhouse says science is not ignored by the Board of Game. Yet, this past March, when Fish and Game testified wolf predation in Game Management Unit 9 was not causing a drop in wildlife populations, the board still voted for aerial hunting. Additionally, though scientific surveys showed wolves weren't the chief predators in the Unit 19D East, the McGrath area, the board still instituted a program of wolf eradication. This is mature spruce/birch forest providing little forage for moose. Even with total elimination of predators, it is poor moose habitat, yet the board continues to work on eliminating wolves there.

In 1997, the National Research Council (which included Dave Klein, an internationally recognized expert in wildlife management at the University of Alaska Fairbanks) recommended numerous standards and guidelines that the board has steadfastly ignored. The board has also ignored testimony from experienced, knowledgeable sources such as Joel Bennett, hunter and former board member, as well as professional wildlife biologists such as Vic Van Ballenberghe. Most of all, they continue to ignore the will of the rightful owners of the wildlife, you and I, in allowing this mismanagement.

Intensive management sets goals that are unrealistic that if attained can prove disastrous and lead to unsustainable expectations that simply result in cycles of predator destruction, moose or caribou overpopulation, crashes and more unwarranted predator control. The Alaska Outdoor Council and Kelleyhouse support it for it produces a short-term abundance in game that is useful to them. That long term it is inevitably devastating does not seem to concern them.

Though their attitude--as evidenced in recent pieces by Wayne Heimer and Dick Bishop, and by Kelleyhouse--suggests they believe otherwise, the Alaska Outdoor Council (which is not even a majority of Alaska hunters) or the Board of Game do not own our wildlife a little more than the rest of us. All Alaskans have the same right to weigh in on what happens to this resource. Kelleyhouse and the Alaska Outdoor Council oppose this. In their view, we Alaskans are naive and uninformed, incapable of thinking for ourselves or studying the issues; they seem to feel that if we're allowed to vote via the initiative that Alaskans for Wildlife is circulating, we'll wind up with a major wildlife catastrophe. You know, a catastrophe like the possible moose population crash that, due to intensive management, now looms over the Tanana Flats.


Art Greenwalt is a 36-year resident of Fairbanks and has served as president of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. He is presently a member of the organization's board of directors.

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