Gov. Palin, please stop wasting my money.
One thousand, five-hundred dollars per carcass is too much to pay to kill wolves in order to try to boost the size of the Fortymile caribou herd.
Normally, I don't complain about state spending. As one of the beneficiaries of the most socialist government north of Venezuela, it seems a bit silly to whine too much about where all the oil money goes. Maybe if I was a shareholder in Exxon or BP and the dollars that provide for state services were coming out of my pocket, it would be different. But I'm a little too green to own oil stocks.
My problem with the Fortymile wolf killing, however, is not green. I was largely trained in the disciplines of biology and ecology before stumbling into journalism. So I have some idea of the war zone in which wolves live.
We kill them; they kill each other. What difference does it make? A lot of wolves are destined to die every year.
My objection to the Fortymile wolf shooting has little to do with their deaths. My objection is about money and politics.
I've been buying hunting and fishing licenses in Alaska for more than 30 years now. I figure that means I've contributed enough cash to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that I ought to at least get a voice in how and where the agency spends my money, and the Fortymile isn't my choice.
More than this, though, I simply don't like the Nanny State behavior you've encouraged in the Fortymile country.
Whatever happened to the good, old days when individual Alaskans took care of predator problems on their own?
Now we need the government to do it for us? We need state bureaucrats in helicopters to take out some wolves?
The prospectors and trappers of old would be embarrassed. I'm embarrassed.
Color me red-state conservative, but there's something wrong with this equation.
If hunters and trappers in the Interior are unable or unwilling to defend their food from the competition, they don't deserve to eat. I realize that statement is sure to offend some on both sides of the issue. More than a few biologists I know at Fish and Game have long been incensed at the "abundance-based management" scheme their agency has endorsed since people like you and Frank Murkowski took over the big, white manse in Juneau. They don't like the idea of reducing predators to increase prey. I don't have a huge problem with it.
I like the idea of there being lots of moose and caribou in Alaska, even if it's totally unrealistic to think there will ever be enough for everyone who wants to shoot one.
That just ain't gonna happen. We can kill every wolf, bear, coyote and wolverine in the state -- something I know you would never sanction -- and we still couldn't grow enough moose and caribou for everyone who wants to kill one.
For one thing, we are cursed with these winters with the snow piling up antler high. Moose can't survive in those conditions. All their browse gets buried, and when there is nothing to eat, they starve to death.
And while our caribou tend to inhabit windswept or low-snow areas where this is not such a problem, these areas tend to be a long way from where people live. We have plenty of caribou in the Western Arctic, for instance, but most of us who would like to eat caribou can't afford to fly there to shoot one.
It's significantly cheaper to go to the supermarket and buy bison burger, although I guess the state could offer a $1,500 per hunter caribou-shooting stipend for travel.
In fact, if we're going to march to the good, old, liberal tune that government exists to take care of the things people are too cheap or lazy to take care of themselves, I'd opt for the hunting stipend over the $1,500 per head cost to kill wolves.
But I've got an idea better than either of those that doesn't cost one government dime -- a good, sound conservative idea that not only helps with the predator problem but might also solve Alaska's long-running subsistence dispute, at least in the road-accessible parts of the state.
As you well know, in many places the state now doles out subsistence hunting permits on the basis of a point system that has little, if any, relationship to who needs or deserves subsistence. I know you've obtained these "subsistence'' permits for Nelchina caribou before, and I don't think you really needed to kill a caribou to survive, did you?
And your mom and dad get these permits most every year. Do a couple of elderly, retired people really need to shoot two Nelchina caribou every fall when most of the Alaskan families who would like to shoot just one Nelchina caribou can't even get a permit to go hunt?
My plan would end the permit giveaway and provide everyone an equal chance of earning a permit. Given what I know about your dad's past hunting activities, he'd be pretty much guaranteed a permit under this new law too. So don't worry about that.
Here's the Medred plan:
Tie state hunting permits to predator kills in any area where the Alaska Board of Game decides wolf or bear numbers need to be reduced.
Make it a requirement that to qualify for a Nelchina subsistence caribou permit, or a Fortymile registration caribou permit, or a Yentna drainage subsistence moose permit, or any of the other subsistence or registration permits handed out in areas where excess predation is deemed a problem, a hunter has to document that he or she killed a wolf or bear or maybe both in that area in the 12 months previous.
Yes, I know, this would cause a lot of grumbling from some of those existing Tier II subsistence permits holders in Anchorage who think they are owed a Nelchina caribou because they've lived here a long time and have earned a longevity-bonus right to drive their four-wheeler into position to shoot one somewhere back off the Denali or Glenn highways. Then load it up to drive back to their RV to drive home.
I'm sure they'd object to being required to engage in the work necessary to kill a wolf or bear in Game Management Unit 13, but as our last conservative president used to note, many things are "hard work."
And when it comes to hunting, that is the way it should be.
The experience is measured in the effort and the time spent engaged with nature, or it ought to be. For those people to whom hunting is only about shooting things, well, they can go to the rifle range and shoot things.
A predator control system that ties subsistence permits to the field time needed to kill a bear or wolf -- a task usually more difficult than potting a caribou along the Denali Highway -- would likely cost lazy people their permits, but it would reward the people who are out there often enough to at least understand the meaning of the term "subsistence lifestyle."
More than that, though, a program that requires people to earn permits by killing predators could help get rid of costly state predator control programs and put an end to this liberal nonsense that we need government to fix every problem.
I don't think that's necessary. Do you?
OK, maybe you and the legislature could boost the oil taxes a bit more to raise some money to subsidize ammunition for people willing to earn their moose or caribou permits under the Medred plan.
But if that's too mavericky to get done, well hell, I'll buy my own ammo.
Find Craig Medred online at adn.com/contact/cmedred or call 257-4588.