Wolf Song of Alaska News

Ads Connect Predator Control, Corruption

Jason Moore / KTUU-TV / NBC / March 11, 2008


ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The scandal-ridden VECO Corp. had little to do with the state's predator control policies.   

But one wouldn't know that watching an ad now airing by the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.   

The group is attempting to pressure lawmakers into rejecting a pair of bills that would strengthen the predator control laws.

The ad highlights the ongoing corruption scandal, including bribes and politicians who find themselves in jail concerning the Legislature's oil tax debates in 2006.

But the group is attempting to stop predator control by drawing a correlation to the corruption probe.

"56,000 Alaskans signed a petition saying we want an opportunity to weigh in on these important wildlife issues for our state and the Legislature is pushing bills that could remove their ability to do that and we think the public needs to know about it," said Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund spokesman William Lutz.

Defenders of Wildlife was active in gathering signatures for the ballot measure that would outlaw aerial wolf killing.   

It argues bills under consideration would limit what game issues are decided by ballot initiative. But lawmakers don't like the group's tactics.

"Many of those of us from rural Alaska who have had nothing to do with VECO or Bill Allen or Rick Smith have been strong proponents of aerial wolf kill and predator control," said Rep. Mary Nelson, D-Bethel. "I am deeply offended by that intimation that those are somehow those are connected."

"I was not impressed," said Rep. Lindsey Holmes, D-Anchorage. "I thought that drawing the parallel between those two was inappropriate."

Backers of wolf control programs called the ad disingenuous.

"If you want to say that folks that would support legislation like that are corrupt then you might as well call all bush Alaskans corrupt as well by association," said Orutsararmiut Native Council Co-Chairman Greg Roczicka.

"It's about the trust people place in their representatives to represent their point of view," Lutz said. "Whether it's corruption and kickbacks or removing the public's ability to vote on issues that they said they want an opportunity to vote on -- it's all about the public trust in their representatives."

The VECO scandal had a backlash that hurt the oil industry in the form of higher taxes.   

Defenders of Wildlife hopes the Legislature's credibility is shaken enough for a similar backlash against predator control.

One of the bills at issue is House Bill 348 authored by Wasilla Rep. Wes Keller.

His office says the bill would change the wording in state law to make it clear game is an asset that can only be allocated by the Legislature, not a citizens' initiative.

Keller says the bill will not affect the aerial wolf killing initiative on the ballot this year.

Contact Jason Moore at jmoore@ktuu.com

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