Extreme Behavior

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / December 8, 2003

The president of the lead group opposed to Alaska's latest wolf-control plan exhibited typical behavior Friday when she engaged in a bit of extremism following a sound court ruling that allows the program to proceed.

She said she hoped the state would not "rush out and annihilate the wolves."

That, of course, is not the state's plan. About three to four dozen wolves in a small portion of the state near McGrath will be killed, with the aim of improving a moose population whose numbers have consistently remained too low for that community's subsistence needs. A few dozen wolves likely will remain in the area.

And, in another moment of extremism, the group's leader is said to be considering whether her group, Connecticut-based Friends of Animals, will initiate a boycott of the Alaska tourism industry should the wolf killing begin.

Boycotts are extreme acts perpetrated by groups in extreme distress because they have not been able to achieve their aim through the avenues of government or the courts.

Alaska and its tourism industry should expect a tourism boycott to materialize. Friends of Animals and its legion of Outside members applied pressure in the early 1990s, using a boycott and series of demonstrations in major Lower 48 cities to force then-Gov. Walter Hickel to relent and place a moratorium on wolf control efforts.

When Friends of Animals began its 1990s boycott, the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council estimated that 6 percent of tourists would cancel trips to Alaska. The idea of losing that amount of tourists today, especially after several years of relatively flat business, is not pleasant. That is why the state might need to help industry associations counter a boycott with a substantial and immediate marketing campaign. This is the time of year, after all, when visitors make their summer reservations.

Despite the risk, Alaska--its governor, its legislators, its Game Board, its tourism businesses, its public--must hold firm. Gov. Frank Murkowski noted in his favorable response to the judge's ruling that the state-authorized program has the support of the community it aims to serve and that those residents will be carrying out the wolf killing.

The governor's comment brings out this truth: Wolf control on state land is Alaska's business, not the business of Outside organizations that perhaps view opposition to the wolf-control program as a convenient fund-raising item. Those groups likely do not tell their members that wolves are not a threatened or endangered species anywhere in Alaska.

Just before the court's ruling, the governor's spokesman restated the long-standing belief that Alaska's wildlife policies seem to draw much more scrutiny than those of other states. It's frustrating, being viewed as the national zoo. What non-Alaskans passing judgment on Alaska policies should realize is that Alaskans view moose and caribou as livestock. "We are just trying to protect our livestock like any other state," the spokesman said.

Alaskans at various levels have decided that this latest wolf-control program is called for to preserve some of that livestock. An Alaska judge has declared the program legally sound. Therefore, Alaskans should be united against the meddling and threats from an Outside group and in favor of measures to combat it.


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