Wolf Song of Alaska News

We Need State Parks Officials to Defy Game Board Bullies

COMPASS: Points of view from the community

Bill Sherwonit / Compass / Anchorage Daily News / September 19, 2007


It's time for officials in Alaska's Division of Parks to show some guts -- and leadership -- by standing up to the Board of Game, which has shown, once again, that it cares more about increased hunting and trapping opportunities than conserving Alaska's wildlife.

Back in April, after the Board of Game voted to open Chugach State Park to wolverine trapping (based on what turned out to be a false premise and against the advice of local wildlife manager Rick Sinnott), park Superintendent Tom Harrison said he was hesitant to protest the board's actions because he didn't want to step on any toes.

He shouldn't worry about that any longer.

After the March meeting, board member Ted Spraker in particular insisted that the board wouldn't have allowed the trapping of Chugach wolverines if only the park's superintendent and advisory board had expressed their opposition.

Well, in a June petition to reconsider the action, Chugach's advisory board and state Parks Director James King made their opposition abundantly clear.

So what happened?

In an August teleconference, the Board of Game voted 6-0 to not reconsider its bad decision. In essence, board members thumbed their noses at Alaska's Division of Parks, the best wildlife science available and the community of people -- Anchorage's residents -- who have the most interest in Chugach State Park's wildlife populations.

If Gov. Sarah Palin is so concerned about out-of-control state boards (as she demonstrated when the Matanuska Maid dairy snafu came to a head this year), maybe she should have a meeting with the Game Board, which continues to represent a narrow but politically connected slice of Alaskans who care about our state's wildlife. I doubt she'll do anything though, because Palin is philosophically and politically aligned with both the Game Board and the Alaska Outdoor Council, whose interests the board primarily serves.

Given the Board of Game's arrogant and shameful actions, I ask the leaders of Alaska's state parks: What are you going to do to protect Chugach's wolverines, a species that hasn't been harvested in the park since 1973, a species whose population is known to be small and may be part of an area-wide population already overharvested.

King and Harrison should do whatever it takes to protect Chugach's small and now threatened population of wolverines. If that means banning certain types of traps, then do it. If it means closing the park to all sorts of trapping, do it.

It's time to stand up to the bullies on the Board of Game. If those who manage Alaska's wildlife won't do their job, then Alaska's state parks officials have the absolute obligation to do what's best for the animals that inhabit the parks. In the process, perhaps they will prove capable of listening to local constituents.

Nature writer Bill Sherwonit is a longtime resident of Anchorage who travels frequently in Chugach State Park.

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