Wolf Song of Alaska News

Wildlife Board Would Even the Scales in Alaska

Bob Gengler / Compass / Anchorage Daily News / November 10, 2006

Well, it is that time of year again when four brave men venture into the wilderness of Powerline Pass, the most heavily used trail in the state park system, with trusty muskets in hand, to save Anchorage from the evil menace that stalks our city.

In a week that has seen five shootings, forgive me if I do not consider moose to be a scourge on our city as it teeters on the edge of completely losing its Alaska character. Please do not forget that this experimental Hillside hunt is designed to prove that hunting in our local parks can be done effectively, so that one day moose may be hunted in Kincaid and Bicentennial parks.

Let's review what the Board of Game, the Alaska Outdoor Council, the Alaska Moose Federation and others have been able to push through in the past few years.

They have vastly expanded aerial wolf hunting, allowed some food baiting of grizzly bears, opened the door to same-day aerial grizzly bear hunting, legalized the sale of selected grizzly bear parts from certain game management units and authorized hunting of world-famous McNeil River brown bears, and they are pushing for increased hunting of Southeast's Pack Creek bears, not to mention the Hillside moose hunt and state funding for airlifting sedated moose to the Bush.

The feds recently put their foot down and derailed the Board of Game's plans by stopping the proposed Skilak Lake hunt.

Hunting is big business in Alaska, bringing in millions of dollars and providing food for Alaska residents. These two statements are a given and will not change. However, a third statement is equally hard to refute. Wildlife viewing and nonconsumptive uses also bring millions into the state each year.

Bear viewing alone brings in millions of dollars for Alaska businesses, thus indirectly providing food for Alaskans. It seems that both consumptive and nonconsumptive uses are a boon to our economy.

Hunting, by its very nature, consumes a renewable resource . Once this resource is harvested, it is not available for nonconsumptive uses and will not provide the state with further income. That again is a given, but the intensive increase in aerial hunting has tipped the balance far toward the consumptive side of the scale.

I will not speak on the data that have been used to justify these actions, other than to say that data can usually be manipulated to fit the need of anyone or any cause. Data is collected by humans, and many variables, both human and environmental, can affect its collection and interpretation.

Lack of resistance to Board of Game actions is often viewed as support or apathy, but in reality, it is almost futile to fight an administration that is bent upon its course. The majority of Alaskans do not hunt, but almost all Alaskans enjoy wildlife to some degree. It is these nonconsumptive users -- and I am not talking about anti-hunters -- who care about the current situation but have full lives of their own, jobs and families, and cannot attend Board of Game meetings to express their concerns.

It does appear that the aerial hunting initiative will be on the ballot again in 2008, so that is a start, and hopefully with an administration change will come less pressure by special-interest hunting groups to influence and change wildlife management policies in this state. The formation of a Board of Wildlife would do much toward moderating the actions taken. It would allow Alaska to manage wildlife in a way that is acceptable to all of its residents, giving a more representative voice to those Alaskans who are nonconsumptive users while giving consumptive users an equal voice.

This state is blessed with amazing wildlife and intact ecosystems that are far too valuable to be managed with only one special-interest goal in mind. Please ask your elected officials where they stand on a Board of Wildlife replacing the current Board of Game and do make this an issue with them.

Bob Gengler lives in Eagle River, where he runs a small photography business.

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