A presentation on predator control programs by Board of Game Vice Chair Ted Spraker will begin at 7 p.m. today at the Aspen Hotel in Soldotna.
Kenai Peninsula residents looking for an overview on the state's predator control program may be interested in what Board of Game Vice Chair Ted Spraker has to say.
Spraker will address the legal requirements and social issues of the predator control program and look at the biology of the five areas that are currently under predator control management. This presentation, entitled "Intensive Management and Predator Control Programs in Alaska," comes about three months before Alaskans will vote on a ballot initiative that will change the way the state carries out its predator control program. It will focus on the facts behind the issue, Spraker said, allowing residents to vote from a position of knowledge, not emotions.
"(The issue has) really been driven by emotions for many years, and I'm not an emotional person," he said. "I want to know what the facts are."
Because the issue is so controversial, the Legislature appropriated the money to allow members from the Board of Game to deliver the state's predator control plan to the public, said Larry Lewis, wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The presentation is sponsored by the Safari Club and will begin at 7 p.m. today at the Aspen Hotel in Soldotna.
The state's predator control program was instituted in 1994 to address declining moose populations and set a standard for Fish and Game to respond, Spraker said. If the moose and caribou populations in a particular area are in trouble, the game board and Fish and Game first determine if hunting is a problem and will either restrict or close hunting seasons. If the moose population is still in decline, Fish and Game looks at changing the habitat. If hunting and habitat aren't an issue and predators are a problem, predator control is implemented.
"It's an exhaustive process," Spraker said. "We go through every step and if all those fail to reduce the decline the last thing we would implement would be a predator control program."
Since the issue is controversial, and the public may vote to alter it in August, Spraker said Gov. Sarah Palin is very concerned about the public being informed. Game board members have strict requirements to not campaign for or against the initiative, he said, and they intend to present information gathered from the results and research of the five predator control areas that currently exist.
"The governor is not intending to campaign," Spraker said. "What she is intending to do and wants to do is to provide a lot of information that was approved by the Department of Fish and Game."
The predator control program has currently been implemented near Tok, Glennallen, Tyonek, Aniak and McGrath. Spraker said the moose population had declined sharply over the last eight to 10 years in those areas to the point where the state closed the area to nonresident hunters and either restricted or closed the area to hunting entirely. A couple of areas are only open to federal subsistence hunters, he said, and another area is completely closed.
"We've taken all those steps and they've gone through habitat enhancement questions and habitat is not a problem in these areas," he said. "It was Fish and Game that made the determination and presented information to the Board of Game and the board authorized predator control."
Tom Banks, Alaska representative for the Defenders of Wildlife, said his organization supports the initiative, which seeks to restrict the aerial gunning of wolves to biologists from Fish and Game only. The initiative would also require predator control when there's a biological emergency and when the management technique has been approved by the Fish and Game commissioner. Even though he hadn't seen the presentation board members are giving to the public, he said his colleagues have seen it, and he's seen the Power Point.
"I think it's an inappropriate use of state money to spend $400,000 to travel the state as Ted Spraker and his colleagues are doing," Banks said. "The people of Alaska had voted twice on this issue already and they've made up their minds it's not in keeping with their sense of good wildlife management and proper stewardship. I think the legislators and the Board of Game ought to heed the voice of the people on this."
Predator control is probably one of the issues that Alaskans are most informed about, Banks said. The program has been around for a long time, he said, and people understand the way it's practiced.
"It's not sporting and has a high dollar cost," Banks said. "The program costs a million dollars a year and the major beneficiaries are urban and out of state hunters, not rural residents."
Jeff Selinger, area biologist for the Department of Fish and Game, said anyone who's interested in the subject should attend today's presentation.
"The way Ted is going to be presenting this doesn't say you should be on board with this and it doesn't say you should be against it," he said. "It's not to sell predator control at all and it's not to lobby against it, it's just to present the facts."
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