The recent unanimous Alaska Board of Game vote to adopt emergency regulations to reinstitute wolf control programs in five areas of the state should be of serious concern to Alaskans.
This was the board's response to a Superior Court ruling that it had failed to follow its own rules before adopting wolf control programs.
The finding of an emergency in a hastily convened teleconference allowed the wolf-killing program to begin immediately, without waiting for the usual 60-day public meeting process that follows most board regulations. This does not serve the public well, as information from other biologists and informed people is excluded in a process that has always sought to be inclusive and broad-based in scope. The fact that wolf control by aerial means is controversial is well established, and all the more reason for the state to allow all interested parties a chance to be heard.
The law requires that an emergency regulation can only be used if it is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety or general welfare. State policy states that emergencies are rarely held to exist.
To have to stop the wolf control program for two months to allow the board to meet the deficiencies identified by the court in a regular Game Board meeting with full public participation is not going to create an emergency in a program that has a five-year life. The board's emergency decision looks like another end run around the rules.
Of equal concern is the observation that during the eight-hour meeting there was no critical discussion about whether the finding of an emergency met the immediacy test under existing law, as well as an utter lack of dissent about any aspect of the adoption of the regulations. Most Game Board meetings in the past involve some differences of opinion, split voting and minority view. When members demonstrate a diversity of views, the process is more representative of the general public. This has always been a hallmark of board membership, but it seems sorely lacking now.
What seems obvious is that the present Board of Game is so lacking in diversity and representation that there is no dissenting voice on controversial issues and any alternative public view is being shut out.
Until this board becomes more representative of the broad public view, the main agenda of excessive predator control will continue to be the order of the day. The public will just have to sit on the sidelines and watch, with its only alternative being another ballot measure vote in 2008 to once again reinstitute a ban on aerial wolf shooting.
Joel Bennett was a member of the Alaska Board of Game from 1977-1989. He lives in Juneau.