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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting

Alaska's Game Board Stacked with People Intent on Killing Wolves

Rudy Wittshirk / Compass / Anchorage Daily News / February 19, 2009

Anchorage is the most successful game management unit in Alaska -- there are more moose and bears than up here in the hunted-out, trapped-out wastelands of Hatcher Pass. Despite the traffic and human density wildlife thrives in Anchorage because animals are not being pursued by off-road vehicles and shot.

I challenge the state to designate an area of Hatcher Pass wilderness for a true scientific study -- with a moratorium on hunting and trapping -- just to see if wildlife could conceivably make a comeback without the operational myth that killing animals is the only way to save them. Of course that will never happen. Our game management system -- like any other resource extraction bureaucracy -- is politically influenced by business interests.

Alaskans need to face reality and stop thinking of state game management and the Game Board as scientific stewards of our wildlife heritage. Alaskans need to realize that these offices are politicized by business interests much like any other resource development agencies. Worse, some game management officials, including the governor, actually seem to believe it is still possible to live off the land even after decades of motorized slaughter have reduced the great moose herds to shadow populations. They have even posited these emotional fantasies as scientific management principles in order to justify their endless infatuation with killing wild predators.

I'm not against hunting -- I'm against overhunting. I'm not even against shooting wolves from aircraft in response to dire natural emergencies. I am, however, against slaughtering predators simply to subsidize the unnatural practice of industrial overharvesting.
The latest proposal is for another 8,000-square-mile wolf control area near Anvik/Holy Cross -- and a new buzzword: "proactive." Meaning that the moose haven't declined yet but they might, so let's blow away 170 wolves without any wolf surveys at all -- just extrapolation from a wolf density estimate at McGrath 150 miles away. This isn't science. It's a killing-fever.
The melancholy trade of trapping has cleared the landscape of exotic predators. Nevertheless the Game Board would allow wolverine trapping from a wild population of fewer than two dozen surviving animals in Chugach State Park -- biologists' warnings and public opinion be damned. This illustrates the Game Board's ongoing policy of keeping animal populations barely surviving on the ragged edge of existence -- just enough to make it through one more harvesting season.

The state's production quotas for hunting and trapping are reminiscent of government-subsidized industrial agriculture -- with wildlife being handed out as state subsidies. Managing animals for the benefit of private business interests has caused our wildlife to decline drastically. Just as America's economy crashed because it is politically dominated by banking and financial interests, so too have Alaska's wildlife populations crashed under the political influence of the wildlife killing interests.

Just as "bad intelligence" was used to frighten America into the business-based decisions to invade Afghanistan (pipeline route) and Iraq (oil) -- so too was the Alaska public fooled during the recent vote on predator control by claims that wolves were unholy terrorists; that Alaskan families depended upon subsistence for their very lives; and that the state would use scientific principles to bring abundant game so these mythical subsistence users could survive.

Well, the promises of science and subsistence are not so loudly proclaimed anymore. There is no need -- the bait-and-switch worked. We hear little about science and even less about subsistence now because these buzzwords were successfully used as political propaganda to sway some Alaska voters into finally caving in to the wildlife extraction interests and approving the predator control that was already happening despite previous votes against it.

With the governor's latest appointment the Game Board is now completely stacked with exterminators pledged to killing wolves and bears in hopes of creating a few more moose for their true constituency -- motorized recreational hunters and the lucrative wildlife-killing trade that feeds off them. There is now zero representation on the Game Board for those Alaskans who appreciate their wildlife alive -- undigested, unstuffed and not hung from the wing struts of a Super Cub.

Rudy Wittshirk lives in Willow.

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