Legalities, Not Emotion, to Settle Wolf Hunting Case

Jeffery Hope / KTUU / Channel 2 / NBC / December 2, 2003

Anchorage, Alaska,

The state should find out this week whether or not it can proceed with its plans to shoot wolves from airplanes in the McGrath area.

Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason heard testimony Tuesday as wolf advocates try to get the courts to permanently stop a program recently approved by the state Board of Game.

This is a very emotional issue, but the decision on whether or not to allow the aerial predator control program will be strictly based on interpretation of state law.

Wolf hunts have always been an emotional issue, but Judge Gleason made it clear that emotions can't play a role in her decision.

"My role as a judge is not to decide the extent to which there should or should not be aerial shooting of wolves in our state," she said.

Gleason said her job is to decide whether the Board of Game followed the law when it approved the program last month.

Advocates introduced more than half a dozen ideas to try and shoot the program down. They said it's illegal because the board did not base its decision on the correct size of the moose population, a topic they say was never discussed at board meetings.

"It's our position, based on the record, that there wasn't even a finding made under the new statute," said Reeves.
Former board member Victor Van Ballenberghe testified that the board's moose population numbers are wrong, because they don't take into account the correct number of illegal moose harvests.People on both sides of the issue listened intently to the arguments in court Tuesday.

"I don't consider it an assumption that there has been a large unreported harvest in the past," he said. "I consider it to be a fact."

But the attorney for the state says the numbers were accurate, and were discussed.

"It is uncontradicted that the department at length discussed the situation -- I'm talking about the Nov. 4 discussion now, your honor -- and the department at length discussed the current status of populations and harvest, that the department informed the board that the harvest objective was still not being met," said state attorney Kevin Saxby.

The state also argues there is a wealth of case law that shows a board can't be second-guessed when it bases its decisions on reasonable evidence.

Opponents are trying to prove the aerial wolf program has been on a fast track all year long, with little regard for public sentiment. The judge won't decide on that, just on whether or not last month's decision was legal.




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