Protesters and Wolves

Opinion / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / December 17, 2003

Protesters outside the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Anchorage on Monday showed their displeasure at the state's wolf control program, donning wolf masks to make their point. Inside that same building, the Board of Game reaffirmed its decision on killing some wolves near McGrath and expanded the state's control effort to the Nelchina Basin near Glennallen.

The board is correct in authorizing the two programs.

The need clearly exists in both areas. Residents say moose and caribou are not present in sufficient number to meet subsistence demands and that the killing of some wolves will help. And wolf control by the use of aircraft and, in the case of the Nelchina program, the aid of snowmachines makes for a quick and humane method of killing.

The wolf programs have been sought for years, but politics ended up trumping the science that supported it. Although the programs had Board of Game approval in the 1990s, then-Gov. Tony Knowles refused to implement them and kept them at bay for his entire eight years in office.

That is changing under Gov. Frank Murkowski, but there may still be impediments to overcome.

One of those is image. No wolves have been killed yet in the McGrath effort, and the Nelchina program will not begin until early next year. But when those programs do begin eliminating wolves, and when the corresponding media accounts surface, Alaska can expect more protests like the one Monday in Anchorage.

Alaskans should wonder who's behind it all. There's a fair chance people--whether in Alaska or in the Lower 48--are drawing inspiration from the Outside group Friends of Animals, which has launched a boycott of Alaska's tourism industry and is planning a series of major-city protests out of dissatisfaction with Board of Game and state court decisions. It can't get its way, so it will try to bully the state.

This is a well-organized bunch that knows what it's doing. On its Web site, for example, the group offers instruction on how to hold a protest and goes so far as to encourage protesters to "dress neatly" so as to avoid stereotypes and thereby increase the chance the message against wolf control will get through.

Part of that message is this: that people in the Lower 48 know what's best for Alaska.

They don't.

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