Wolf Song of Alaska News

Aerial Hunt Clash Goes Underground

Ads from conservation group back proposed federal prohibition

Erica Bolstad / Anchorage Daily News / January 23, 2008

CHUCK KENNEDY / McClatchy-Tribune Services

The Defenders of Wildlife's ad campaign at the Capitol South Metro Station supports a proposal by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., that would end aerial hunt possibilities not only in Alaska, but Idaho and Wyoming, where wolf populations may be removed from the endangered species list.

WASHINGTON -- For the next week, Alaska wolves are the stars of an underground advertising campaign in the Washington, D.C., subway. The $4,500 campaign promotes federal legislation that would end aerial hunting of wolves, a practice that has been used in Alaska to help improve populations of moose and caribou.

The ads are sponsored by the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, which has used its political-action arm to run commercials in Alaska targeting Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young for his record on environmental and renewable energy issues.

For its subway campaign, Defenders picked the Capitol South Metro Station, a strategic location that sees an average of 6,000 commuters each day -- and not just Capitol Hill staffers. Many tourists pass through the stop on their way to visit the Capitol and congressional offices.

"Alaskans voted twice to ban aerial hunting, and the vote has been overturned twice," said Jessica Brand, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife. "The only way to end this once and for all is to close the loophole in federal legislation."

The ads feature some photos of cuddly wolves as well as a gruesome image of a wolf carcass hanging on the wing of an airplane. They urge support for the federal legislation, sponsored by longtime Young adversary, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.

Miller and Defenders of Wildlife have decried aerial hunting as an inhumane practice that violates the concept of fair chase. A renewed effort to pass a statewide ban in Alaska will come before the state's voters again this fall.

Defenders also wants the national legislation to stave off potential aerial hunts in Idaho and Wyoming, where wolf populations that were formerly threatened are now being considered for removal from the endangered species list.

Young opposes the national legislation, saying that it infringes on the ability of individual states to control wildlife populations. Some predator control is necessary to keep the Alaska wolf population in check so they don't devour the moose and caribou available to Native villagers who depend on game for survival, Young has said.

In Alaska, with reports this winter of family pets being torn apart by wolves and sightings of wolf packs roaming alarmingly close to urban areas, many Alaskans have a different take on wolves than Defenders of Wildlife does, said Young's spokeswoman, Meredith Kenny. One Native village will even ask this week for permission from the state Fish and Game Department to kill wolf pups in their dens to help control the population.

Since Miller introduced his bill, Young has sent out several "Dear Colleague" letters to fellow House members -- often accompanied by photos of animal corpses torn apart by wolves. A recent e-mail missive included a photo of a dead family dog.

In his most recent letter, Young urged fellow House members to oppose what he termed the "Wolves Are Cute" act. The Defenders of Wildlife campaign will do "whatever it can do to put a cute face on a dollar amount to raise money for their cause," Kenny said.

Kenny said that Young's message to his California colleague is "basically, if you're so concerned, Mr. Miller, take 'em," she said. "Bring 'em to San Francisco and let them deal with them."

As for Miller, he called both the ads and the "Dear Colleague" letter "helpful" in attracting 110 bipartisan co-sponsors for the legislation. A spokesman for his office said that Miller has attracted a new co-sponsor each day since Young's most recent letter to House members went out last week.

Find Erika Bolstad online at adn.com/contact/ebolstad or call her in Washington, D.C., at 202-383-6104.

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