I am writing in regard to the Alaska Board of Game's approval to open 95,000 acres of state lands in the Kamishak special-use area (Douglas River to Kamishak River), which lies between McNeil River State Game Sanctuary/Refuge and Katmai National Park.
I would urge the board to reconsider this decision. I have visited McNeil in 1989 and 2002 and can testify to the extraordinary experience of viewing and photographing the bears of McNeil River. It is an Alaska crown jewel that can be easily lost if tampered with, especially with an already declining brown bear population.
The board's decision subverts the protections given to brown bears by the State of Alaska and the National Park Service.
Furthermore, I take issue with Rod Arno's (Alaska Outdoor Council) claim in Sunday's Anchorage Daily News that these bears become "leery" once they cross the sanctuary and refuge boundaries. Since when does any species of wildlife recognize human boundaries? What scientific and factual evidence does he have to demonstrate this claim? This is nothing more than fictional rhetoric to justify the targeting of habituated bears that have far more value alive than dead.
I do agree with Bobby Fithian of the Alaska Professional Hunters Association (also in Sunday's Anchorage Daily News) opinion that opening these lands will result in bad publicity for hunters. I believe this bad publicity will generate an increased desire to erode the opportunities of hunters in the future, whether it is in Alaska and/or elsewhere.
Lastly, I would ask the Board of Game to resist the political influence of extremist hunting groups, such as the Alaska Outdoor Council, which would open lands to bear hunting that have been closed for the past 20 years. These groups would subvert the protections of the state and federal governments and target habituated bears who do not recognize human boundaries. They cast a black cloud of negative publicity over all hunters.
Any decision to open these lands to target the McNeil and Katmai bears would fly in the face of the majority of Alaskans who desire these bears be protected. Wildlife belongs to all, not just the elitist few.
Bill Watkins / Anchorage