Recently, I testified before the House Resources Committee of the Alaska legislature on a bill that would further erode sound science and public involvement in wildlife management decisions.
House Bill 256 revisits an issue that Alaskans have long since made up their minds on - the use of airplanes in killing wolves. Two state ballot measures in 1996 and 2000 gave Alaska voters a chance to voice their opinion on this practice. Twice, Alaskans have voted to stop the use of aerial gunning.
But this has not stopped our own state representatives from considering expanding the use of this controversial method. House Bill 256 runs counter to the voter-enacted restrictions on the use of airplanes to kill predators. To add further insult, this legislation also adds brown bears to the list of species that can be hunted by aerial gunners under a predator control program - a step too far for many outdoor enthusiasts.
House Bill 256 even goes as far as to remove science from the equation altogether. By eliminating the requirement that the Board of Game base its predator control programs on scientific information, the bill would insulate the board from the reasoned, science-based arguments made by hundreds of scientists and wildlife management experts, including those within the Department of Fish and Game, whose data clearly draw into question the credibility of the predator control programs.
House Bill 256 threatens the basic, fundamental right of Alaska citizens to legitimately participate in the legislative process. More than 56,000 Alaskans signed on to a petition in support of a third ballot measure regarding the use of airplanes to kill predators. Most voters don't realize that if this bill passes, it may strip Alaska voters of their right to make their voices heard on the ballot measure this August. Clearly, the bill is an ill-disguised attack intended to derail the August vote on this ballot measure.
Those who crafted this legislation are not only again ignoring the twice-expressed will of Alaska voters to end aerial shooting of wildlife, but they are now trying to deny voters their voice in August. We cannot allow this to happen.
Alaska needs sound wildlife management laws that ensure sustainable wildlife populations for generations to come. But more importantly, Alaska needs legislators who will respect our constitutional right to vote on the ballot measure and who will listen to the decision we make. The bill threatens both of these standards and should not pass.
Alaska representative, Defenders of Wildlife