Hurray for the court decision striking down the state's aerial wolf-hunting program, but how disappointing that the Board of Game trivialized it by quickly reworking its wrongheaded local wolf extermination program without public input ("State acts to resume aerial wolf kills," Jan. 26).
Wolves are a keystone predator necessary for healthy ecosystems. Where wolves and other large predators have been removed, prey species can go awry. Deer overrun Eastern states. In Yellowstone, browsing elk may have contributed to the loss of willows, aspen and cottonwoods along rivers, perhaps because wolves were not present to reduce numbers and keep them moving. Some experts believe the wolves' return to Yellowstone National Park demonstrates the important role apex predators have in maintaining habitats. Some believe wolves have forced elk to leave sensitive areas, particularly wetlands, allowing willow and cottonwoods to stabilize riverbanks and provide improved habitat for fish and beaver. Beaver then improved the wetlands for waterfowl and other species. Wolves and bears benefit scavengers with their kills and maintain prey species by natural culling of mainly old, sick and very young animals.
Instead of trying to eliminate wolves, we should learn the lesson that Alaska needs wolves and careful management of hunting to keep populations in check. Alaska should not repeat the mistakes of wildlife mismanagement in the Lower 48. The court was right on this issue and reaffirmed Alaskans' two votes to stop aerial wolf hunting.
---- Nina Faust / Homer