ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Wildlife conservation groups are accusing the state of trying to influence voters with what they call propaganda opposing a 2008 aerial wolf hunting initiative.
But the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said it's nothing more than a plan to educate the public.
The election with a ballot initiative opposing aerial wolf hunting is still nine months away.
But this week, two conservation groups took a pre-emptive strike, Alaskans for Wildlife which is sponsoring the initiative, and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.
Director of the AWA John Toppenberg, said the campaign is by Alaskan's, for Alaskans.
"In essence it's the same initiative Alaskans approved of in 1996 that would ban the use of aircraft in aerial wolf killing unless it was a biological emergency," Toppenberg said.
Toppenberg said a similar initiative was approved by voters again in 2000.
Both times the legislature re-instated aerial wolf hunting.
Now, Toppenberg says, the state is using public money, $400,000, to fund a campaign to try and defeat the upcoming initiative.
"The state's money should not be used for propaganda purposes to attempt to defeat an initiative brought by the people that simply supports what Alaskans have already said," Toppenberg said.
But Assistant Director of the Division of Wildlife Ron Clarke disputes those claims.
"The legislature appropriated $400,000 to the Division of Board Support within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to help the public understand predator management in the state of Alaska and all its ramifications," Clarke said.
Clarke said how and when that money will be spent is still being determined.
He said it's illegal to use state funds to influence how people vote. Still, the department will be putting out new information on predator control.
"Anything we say or do is going to be scrutinized very closely, and we understand that. We are going to be extremely careful to present things that we know to be true and we can back up with scientific data," Clarke said.
Whatever the state puts out, Toppenberg and other conservationists will be watching and reading carefully.
Nearly 500 wolves have been shot by permitees in private aircraft over the past two years.
The state said the program is intended to boost rural moose and caribou numbers.
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