As many of us throughout rural Alaska are aware, since the 1996 and 2000 ballot initiatives limiting aerial predator management were passed, moose populations have declined 75-80 percent in many areas, largely due to inadequate predator management. This situation resulted in many subsistence hunts being severely restricted or closed entirely. More recently, reinstated predator management programs have helped rebuild our moose populations. However, these programs are again in danger of being shut down by Ballot Measure 2.
I am voting no on ballot measure 2 not because I am a "trophy hunter," not because I support the "good old boy network," nor because I represent the last "vestige of redneck Alaska," as one initiative sponsor suggests. I am certainly not a "redneck" or a "good old boy," and I don't think I even know any trophy hunters.
I believe Alaskans deserve the opportunity to continue the subsistence lifestyle we have pursued for centuries, and that directed predator control to help bolster moose and caribou populations is vital to the survival of people in small towns across Alaska.
This measure, sponsored by Alaskans for Wildlife and funded by Defenders of Wildlife, would have the practical effect of shutting down current predator management programs under the misleading statement that it is to stop aerial hunting. In fact, the aerial hunting law is not affected by this measure. It is already illegal and will remain so regardless of the outcome of Ballot Measure 2.
Ballot Measure 2 would burden predator control management by requiring a "biological emergency." This flies directly in the face of Alaska's constitutional mandate to manage for sustained yield or preferred beneficial use of resources. Subsistence use has been determined to be a priority in Alaska, not just to be supported on an emergency basis. Imagine what the response of urban residents would be if grocery store shelves were stocked only in an emergency or the fishermen responded to managing salmon runs for minimum returns.
Most people living in rural Alaska could not afford meat in the local store even if we wanted to. So we find ourselves reliant on moose and caribou just as we always have been.
In the village of Kipnuk for instance, if they happen to have it in stock, a sirloin would be $15 per pound. Even in the regional hub of Bethel, steak runs upwards of $8 per pound. As game populations face occasional difficulties, effective predator control can mean the difference whether a family eats meat or not.
Given the frequent call to bridge the rural/urban divide in Alaska, I would urge my friends in the urban areas to take notice that for eight consecutive years the Alaska Federation of Natives has passed resolutions in support of predator management at their annual conventions and specifically opposes ballot initiatives such as Ballot Measure 2.
When the Legislature moved to reinstate predator control programs at the first opportunity following the 1996 and 2000 initiatives, they did so with strong bipartisan leadership and support from both rural and urban legislators alike. Legislators did not "defy the will of the people" as has been repeatedly stated by the sponsors of Ballot Measure 2. We responded to the pleas from the people we are elected to represent to aid subsistence hunting opportunities. The bills were even passed with such a level of support that would have prevented an administrative veto of their actions.
Current predator control efforts are reasonable. Of 69 game management units and sub-units, and more than 65 separately identified moose populations, there are only five predator management programs on less than 10 percent of the state lands. These programs are limited to specific geographic areas, specific numbers of animals to be taken, specifically limited number of participants, held to rigorous oversight and reporting standards, and are immediately stopped if target harvest levels are reached.
Wildlife managers do not allow mass slaughter of predators across Alaska as sponsors of Ballot Measure 2 would lead us to believe.
A yes vote on Ballot Measure 2 serves only to shut aerial predator management down, while making it extremely expensive, complicated and difficult to utilize it in the future. It will take food directly off the plates of families and children throughout Alaska, only to satisfy those with a philosophical aversion to certain management techniques. I urge everyone to support the state's ability to provide adequate and effective wildlife management for reasonable subsistence harvest opportunity, and vote no on Ballot Measure 2 in the Tuesday primary election.
* Rep. Mary Nelson is a Bethel Democrat. She is not running for re-election.