Wolf Hunting Plan Gets National Attention

Ben Deci / KTVA / CBS / Channel 11 / December 28, 2003

The show-down between Governor Frank Murkowski and a nationwide environmental group is intensifying. "Friends of Animals" organized protests of Alaska's aerial wolf hunting program in 31 cities around America. Those protests started today. Governor Murkowski has recently praised the aerial wolf kill as the correct course of action.

31 cities certainly sounds impressive. People in places like New York, Colorado Springs, and Honolulu are all talking about Alaska's aerial wolf hunting policy. But "Friends of Animals" isn't stopping there. They are using those protests as the kick-off to a boycott of Alaska's tourism industry- a boycott they vow to pursue until the wolf kill plan is canceled.

Jack Barber makes his living giving people rides out into the Alaska bush. He says his customers range from hunters who stand to benefit from the wolf kill to wild-life sight seers who want to see wolves during their trips. But now Barber is worried those folks won't want to come to Alaska because of the boycott.

"It's very damaging, and I think it's uncalled for. I don't think they have a true picture of what is at hand here," Barber said.

Turn-out at the "Friends of Animals" rallies was anemic at best. The rally in Lansing, Michigan for instance, only brought-out three protestors and an equally small audience. Still, "Friends of Animals" is saying they expect to do some damage to the State's economy if the State does damage to it's wolf population.
"You can't justify it by science," said Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral of the wolf kill. "We're also saying you can't justify it legally. We're also saying, Friends of Animals as a pressure group with members inside and outside of Alaska... that the ethics aren't there. We think it's an ethical outrage."
As far as Jack Barber is concerned, Alaska's wolf population is Alaska's business, and people from the lower 48 shouldn't be meddling, especially by trying to cut back on the amount of business he can book.

"You have to believe that the people that are working within the system to manage our resources are doing the best that they can, and you need to let them do their job. And that's the bottom line," Barber said.

It was a little over a decade ago that a similar tourism boycott was held to protest an aerial wolf kill plan sponsored by then Governor Hickel. Tourism constitutes the state's second largest industry, and that protest of a decade ago ended up costing 100 million dollars to the state's economy.
The question now is how many people will Friends of Animals be able to mobilize this time around, and how many dollars those people will spend elsewhere.

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