ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The debate over Alaska's predator control programs captured attention at this week's Alaska Forum on the Environment.
The forum is getting national attention as well, as a major film star is picking a public fight with Gov. Sarah Palin over the state's practice of killing wolves.
At the Egan Center Thursday morning, state Fish and Game biologists attempted to justify the six current programs aimed at controlling predators.
"The intensive management law, and I would dare say the state subsistence law, requires we do some things to have active management in that arena," said biologist Kim Titus.
Aniak resident Herman Morgan listened and was hoping that more intensive control measures will come to his region.
"If you don't control the amount of predators, they'll eat themselves and us out of house and home and that's what's happening," Morgan said. "We can't provide for our families."
But not everyone in the audience supported the programs.
The Alaska Board of Game continues to expand predator control, covering a large swath of Southcentral Alaska and the Interior.
With more than 500 wolves killed, the group Defenders of Wildlife says the policy shows the Board of Game lacks diverse views.
"Right now, disenfranchisement on the Board of Game is causing severe problems," said Wade Willis with the group Defenders of Wildlife. "We have the most aggressive, unscientifically based predator control programs ever to date coming out of these boards."
The group's political action fund is taking the fight nationwide with film star Ashley Judd putting the crosshairs on Palin.
"When Sarah Palin came on the national scene last summer, you knew that she promotes the brutal aerial killing of wolves," said Judd in a Defenders of Wildlife ad. "Now, back in Alaska, Palin is once again casting aside science and championing the slaughter of wildlife."
In the ad, Judd urges viewers to send a message to the governor to stop killing wolves.
In a press release this week, Palin calls Defenders of Wildlife an extreme fringe group and says the ad distorts the truth. She goes on to say that Alaska's predator control programs are scientific and successful.
Groups like the Alaska Outdoor Council are coming to the governor's defense and call the ad a fundraising ploy.
"The defenders have been spreading lies and raising money on it for a decade on this one issue," said Rod Arno with the Alaska Outdoor Council.
There is no sign that one issue is going anywhere, and when the Board of Game meets later this month, programs to kill wolves and bears could expand once again.
The next Board of Game meeting starts Feb. 27 and runs through March 9 at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center.
Contact Jason Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org