Burning of the Chenik Head bear-viewing camp was correctly labeled as "one more skirmish in the ongoing culture war between bear hunters and bear viewers" ("Private bear viewing camp incinerated by state," Jan. 23). The bear hunting issue near McNeil River Falls was settled by compromise several years ago, but hunting interests now want more. They cannot accept that protection of this small number of bears should be a priority interest of the state given the world-class viewing opportunity McNeil provides. Instead, they found support within the Department of Fish and Game to burn the camp.
The culture war also involves the state's current wolf control program that this winter targets up to 580 wolves in five areas totaling 43,000 square miles -- the largest control effort since statehood. Despite proponents' claims, this is not about increasing moose for subsistence hunters. Rather, it's a bold effort to pay back and punish those who successfully blocked most wolf control efforts during the Bill Sheffield, Steve Cowper, Wally Hickel and Tony Knowles administrations. Under Gov. Frank Murkowski they have now found the means to ignore sound science and public opposition expressed in two ballot initiatives banning airplane wolf hunting.
As this wildlife war continues under the present administration, look for more efforts to restrict wildlife viewers whom the hunting interests are committed to defeat at all costs.
Vic Van Ballenberghe / Anchorage
Editor's note: The writer is a former member of the Alaska Board of Game.