Three weeks before an election in which Alaskans are to vote on an initiative to cut back the state wolf control program, the state Board of Game has sent out a pamphlet that tells how well the program is working.
At another time, for another reason, the pamphlet might have been OK.
But the state should not have used public money to educate Alaskans just in advance of a vote on a highly controversial ballot initiative.
How can it not look like the state is trying to influence the outcome of the election? It can't.
The initiative, Measure 2 on the Aug. 26 statewide ballot, tightens up the conditions under which the state can conduct same-day airborne control programs, to kill grizzly bears or wolves.
It says moose or caribou population in any particular area must be in irreversible decline first. And it says Fish and Game personnel must do the shooting.
Initiative supporters say the state predator control program is out of control, and used too often.
Opponents say the program is working well.
The pamphlet, "Understanding Intensive Management and Predator Control in Alaska," was created by the Fish and Game Department late last year and had been available online (google Alaska Wildlife Conservation Division) and in Fish and Game offices.
The Board of Game decided to insert the pamphlet into newspapers around the state, to reach tens of thousands of people in the weeks preceding the election.
The timing is not intended to influence the outcome of the election, said Jim Marcotte, director of support for the Board of Game.
But the issue is in front of people now, he said. "Now is when there's public interest. A lot of people have been calling and saying, 'What's this about,' " he said.
The pamphlet concludes that the existing program is working. The pamphlet says the state is "seeing positive trends," i.e., growing moose populations.
The Fish and Game Department feels that "the information presented ... is very neutral," said Marcotte.
True, the pamphlet isn't blatantly for or against the initiative.
But it isn't neutral, either. Not coming out when it did.
To be fair, this "public education campaign" was the Legislature's idea and did not come from the Department of Fish and Game or the Board of Game.
The Legislature in 2007 approved a $400,000 appropriation for the Board of Game to conduct a "public education campaign."
It's a complicated issue, and one that many people have strong feelings about. The whole point of the initiative is that some people believe the state is not doing a good job with its present program.
The state did Alaskans a disservice by using public money to promote the opposite view.
BOTTOM LINE: The timing of the state's propaganda on wolf control was terrible.