Wolf Song of Alaska News

Predator Management Portrayals on Ballot Measure 2 are Way Off Base

My Turn / Juneau Empire / August 15, 2008

Recent opinion pieces by Nick Jans and Alex Simon and campaign literature of Alaskans for Wildlife on Ballot Measure 2 are inaccurate and deceitful. Predator management programs that now occur on just 9 percent of Alaska's land area are designed either to make more moose available for resident hunters in both rural and urban areas to provide the option for resident Alaskans to harvest wild food from wild lands. None are designed to make more moose available for "outside trophy hunters to hang on their walls."

It is easy for people such as Nick Jans and Alex Simon who live in Juneau to view all predator management programs as extreme. Jans has experience only in Northwest Alaska, which is home to about 400,000 caribou, and in Juneau with the great deer hunting that wolf-free Admiralty Island has to offer. People who live along the Yukon, Koyukuk and Kuskokwim Rivers or along the road system are not so lucky. They must compete for their moose with wolves and bears that kill most calves born each year. Existing predator management programs that rely primarily on public aerial control of wolves have been established by the Board of Game and the Department of Fish and Game as part of a long-term de-facto compromise between various Alaska interest groups.

The Department of Fish and Game and the attorney general have determined that Ballot Measure 2 will destroy this compromise by shutting down all existing predator management programs. The reason the Alaska Legislature has been compelled to step in and modify previous similar ballot initiatives on wolf management is because legislators feel compelled to follow the state's constitution to protect, maintain and enhance wildlife resources for the benefit of users and to fairly allocate state resources for their constituents. If Measure 2 passes, the Legislature will be compelled to step in again in two years and try to re-establish the existing compromises on predator management. Having no predator management programs is simply not a viable option.

As intended in the Alaska Constitution, it is much better for the Legislature to allocate resources through the Board of Game process than through emotional Ballot Measures such as Measure 2. The Board of Game process is not perfect and some people will always feel left out, but Alaska's system of wildlife management and resource allocation is a model for rest of the nation.

Recent criticism of the Alaska Outdoor Council by Jans and others has also been inaccurate. AOC does not "receive heavy financial backing from Outside organizations." The AOC generates its own funding from within Alaska and is supported by its 3,000 individual members and the members of about 50 other Alaska outdoor groups. The group's main goals are to maintain outdoor access opportunities for all users of public lands, protect wildlife habitat, support science-based wildlife management and sustainable use of wildlife and fisheries resources. These are goals that a majority of Alaskans clearly support.

* Patrick Valkenburg worked as a caribou research and management biologist and research supervisor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He is a member of the board of directors of the Alaska Outdoor Council and lives in Fairbanks.

Patrick Valkenburg / Fairbanks AK

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