Wolf Advocates Snarl, as Predator-Control Plan Upheld

Jeffrey Hope / KTUU / Channel 2 / NBC / December 5, 2003

Anchorage, Alaska, Dec. 5 - There were both outrage and relief Friday after a decision from a Superior Court judge in Anchorage. Judge Sharon Gleason says the state's aerial wolf control program is legal.

      The judge released a 14-page decision on the issue early Friday afternoon.
      Before she heard arguments, Judge Gleason said her decision would not be based on emotion but strictly on whether or not the Board of Game followed the law when it approved a wolf predator-control program for the McGrath area.
      In her written decision, the judge agreed that's exactly what happened.
      Gleason wrote that the Board of Game acted within the framework of legislation amended earlier this year, when it decided to begin an aerial wolf shooting program in McGrath.
      Supporters of the program say this is good news for Alaska and the people of McGrath, who want a bigger moose population.
      "I've very glad that the judge has ruled in the way that she has," said Brett Huber of the Alaska Outdoor Council. "I think, clearly she looked at the facts of the case, the merits of the case. The state did their homework, biologists did their homework, the public process was served well, the Board of Game did their job. And I think this ruling just holds that true and lets this effort go forward."
      But Paul Joslin of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance was one of the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the state, and he says the fight is not over. "Clearly, we're disappointed," he said, after the ruling. "We had hoped that Judge Gleason would have been able to do an injunction at this time. We sincerely hope that the state won't now rush out and start killing these wolves, that it will understand that the legal proceedings, the court proceedings, continue."
      Priscilla Feral, of Friends of Animals, said her group plans to meet with their lawyer to talk about an appeal. Joslin said he believes there is room for appeal on some of the specifics of how the board made its decision.
      We're hoping this weekend the state doesn't rush out and annihilate all the wolves in McGrath before the court system has resolved the case."
      Feral is one of the plaintiffs who filed against the state.
      Paul Joslin with the Alaska Wildlife Alliance says he believes there is room for appeal on some of the specifics of how the board made its decision.
      For now, the plaintiffs say there will not be a tourism boycott of Alaska.     
      State officials say they're convinced they've crossed their T's and dotted their I's. They say the case is over, and the program can begin soon. One permittee has permission to start shooting wolves immediately. Two others are also in the program, and all they have to do is fly to McGrath to pick up their permits.      Board of Game Chairman Mike Fleagle says pilots may be out as early as Saturday, depending on the weather. But he said February tends to be a more productive month for hunting wolves, since it's easier to track them and there's more sunlight.

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