"We've had a number of wolf attacks and I think that is of great concern," said former lawmaker Mary Nelson
If it passes, Ballot Measure Number 2 would bar anyone from shooting wolves, wolverines or bears the same day that they fly in a plane.
The initiative aims to stop one of the most controversial State Department of Fish and Game management tools: aerial predator control.
"The people of Alaska have shown that they don't favor the use of airplanes in predator control," said Nick Jans with the group Alaskans For Wildlife, "This is simply a chance to reaffirm the will of the people after the Legislature overturned it."
Right now, the State Board of Game has the power to call for predator control. This initiative would take that power and restrict it by forcing the state to declare a biological emergency before shooting animals from the air.
"This initiative supports sound game management and it does not prohibit, in any way shape or form, predator control by the Department of Fish and Game. We just want it to be sound science-driven management, rather than political policy that is forwarded by a well-connected few," said Jans.
Others disagree, saying the Department of Fish and Game should be able to manage animal populations as it sees fit.
"We've had a number of wolf attacks and I think that is of great concern," said former lawmaker Mary Nelson, "I think wolves are getting more aggressive, and there is more of. We really need to make sure our Fish and Game managers have the tools they need to control the population."
The way the aerial predator control program works, it is not Fish and Game officials that do the hunts.
It's Alaskan residents.
This is one of the reasons supporters of Ballot Measure 2 say it's needed.
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"All you have to do is take a good look at these guys grinning with their wolves that they've shot from the air to see that they are having a wonderful time and they think it's wonderful sport," said Jans, "It amounts to a de facto sport hunt, that is pretty much sanctioned by the state."
But state biologists say Ballot Measure 2 won't stop predator control. In 1995, the Legislature passed a mandate that the Department of Fish and Game has to manage wildlife primarily for human consumption. That means if predators eat too many moose and caribou, there won't be enough for people to eat-and something will have to be done.
"If predation is a problem, to keep us from managing the harvest levels the board has set, we'll do predator control," said Fish and Game biologist Bruce Bartley, "Whatever forms it will take, for sure, it will be less effective-for sure, it will be less humane-and for sure, it will be a lot more expensive."
"To me, it's between hungry kids and hungry families or wolves," said Nelson, "And in this case, my heart is with the people."
Right now, there are five predator control programs in Alaska, which cover about nine percent of all the land the state manages. Fish and Game officials say there are about a hundred licensed aerial hunters allowed to do predator control.
For More Information:
* Wolf Control in Alaska
* Alaskans for Wildlife
To contact Andrea, call 907-273-3186.