Boycott Plans Don't Pan Out


Tim Mowry, Staff Writer / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / December 28, 2003


While animal-rights activists are frothing at the idea of killing wolves in Alaska to produce more moose for hunters, they are not howling nearly as much they did in a similar situation 11 years ago when the state announced it was going to shoot wolves from helicopters.

As of last week, the state had received only about 15,000 e-mails and 1,000 letters from people complaining about the state's plan to kill 40 wolves in the McGrath area.

That compares with more than 100,000 letters and postcards of opposition in 1992 when the state announced it planned to kill approximately 300 wolves in three parts of the eastern Interior.
"So far it hasn't been anywhere near the same level of interest," said Division of Wildlife Conservation deputy director Wayne Regelin in Juneau, who also served as deputy director in 1992. "That may just be because they haven't got organized that well Outside."
"They" are animal-rights groups like Friends of Animals, the Connecticut-based group that organized a tourism boycott against Alaska in 1992 and is doing so again. Friends of Animals was organizing two dozen demonstrations in cities across the U.S. this weekend to urge people to boycott Alaska's $2 million tourism industry, according to president Priscilla Feral.

In 1992, the state Department of Fish and Game received more than 100,000 letters, postcards and faxes from people opposed to the state's wolf-control plan.

Death threats were left on department answering machines and employees were trained to handle mail that could contain explosives. At one point, there was an Alaska State Trooper patrolling Fish and Game headquarters in Juneau.

"For three months, the entire staff was on the phone; we couldn't get anything done," said receptionist Martha Krueger, who worked at Fish and Game in 1992 as the secretary for then-wildlife director Dave Kelleyhouse. "Now we've got e-mail. We can ignore e-mail until it's our convenience."

Even with e-mail, the reaction to the state's plan to kill wolves this time around doesn't seem to have inspired the same kind of fever it did in 1992, when full-page ads appeared in newspapers like USA Today, the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

"I think part of it is that it's old news again," said Regelin. "People realize we have the same problems and they're paying a little more attention as to why it's necessary. I think people are tired of it."

The Alaska Travel Industry Association in Anchorage has received only about 75 inquiries from people concerning the state's wolf-control plans, according to president and chief operating officer Ron Peck.

"A lot of those I would portray as being from activists," said Peck.

Judging from what he has heard from tour companies, bookings for next summer are currently holding steady or increasing over last year, Peck said. He said it's too early to tell what kind of effect a tourism boycott would have.

"Frankly, our belief is the less that's said about it, the better," he said. "We're not excited about spreading the word to the Denvers, New York Cities and Los Angeleses of the world."

According to spokesman John Manly with Gov. Frank Murkowski's office, the state has received a little more than 14,000 e-mails and almost 1,000 letters regarding the state's wolf-control plans. Most of those were received after the state Board of Game last month announced a plan to let hunters selected by the state shoot approximately 40 wolves from planes in the McGrath area. The state has received about 150 e-mails and letters in support of killing wolves.

As was the case in 1992, most of the letters and e-mails the state has received are copies of form letters prepared by animal-rights groups and signed by residents of the Lower 48.

"They say, 'Dear Gov. Murkowski. I'm a resident of Alaska and I don't like what you're doing' and it's signed by somebody from Iowa," said Manly.
Murkowski has said repeatedly that the state will not back down on the plan to kill wolves in Alaska using private citizens, some of whom live in the area, to do the job.

"We think we addressed this in a responsible manner," said Murkowski. "We have a state to manage and game populations to manage, and we're not going to do it on emotion.

"I'm sure there will be more to this than we've got now, but we'll deal with it as it comes along," the governor said.

Reporter Tim Mowry can be reached via e-mail at tmowry@newsminer.com or at 459-7587


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