How could Congress have been so myopic? In 1917 and again in 1980, when the boundaries of Denali National Park and Preserve were established then expanded, the legislators of the land should have obtained detailed maps of the wolf-pack territories and drawn the park lines accordingly.
That would have spared today’s Alaska Board of Game no end of difficulty as it tries to decide whether to maintain a no-wolf-hunting buffer zone around the park’s eastern end.
Or rather, the pack-as-park boundaries would have settled things had the wolves at the time also signed agreements to stray nevermore from their reservation.
This scenario is fantasy, of course. But pondering it illustrates the flaw in advocacy of the buffer zone.
The park wasn’t created around the wolves. Its boundaries will never be aligned with their evolving territories. The park boundaries, in fact, do not represent a precise, independent biological unit of any sort. Such a thing doesn’t exist anyway — it’s all connected, as they say.
The park, rather, was created around human values.
People have different values, and they want places that reflect them. Denali Park was created as a place where wolves and other animals would not be hunted, at least not by humans, because some people find that valuable as a concept. And so it is.
Other people value wolves, too, not only for their beauty and biological roles but also for their fur and the income that can be gained from it. Some also value the challenge of hunting them.
Resolving how and where to prioritize these conflicting values requires a political process. Most of us have understood that this process concludes when park boundaries are set in legislation.
Turns out, it isn’t so. The buffer zone advocates have poached, through an administrative process, what was not and never could be gained through the legislative process.
As it meets this week, the game board must decide whether to keep, expand or eliminate the buffer zone.
The board should eliminate it. Trying to manage wildlife outside the park in accordance with the values that hold primacy within the park is an endless quagmire.
The balancing of values was settled simply 30 years ago; the board should respect that settlement and move on.