The Alaska Board of Game heard much over the weekend about the buffer zone that
was supposedly put in place to protect a couple of highly visible wolf packs
near Denali National Park and Preserve.
subject has been raised in this column before, and the
message here remains the same. There is no biological or
scientific need for a buffer zone to extend a park and
preserve that already covers 6 million acres that is off
limits to all but subsistence hunting and trapping allowed
in the preserve.
Much has been made of the status of the Sanctuary and Toklat packs. As they
originally pushed for the buffer zone, wildlife protection groups suddenly
proclaimed the packs "world famous" in their publications and on their Web sites. This newspaper
has been reporting on Denali National Park for decades and most folks around
here had never heard of these packs until the buffer zone was proposed. Drop
the phrases in Anytown, U.S.A., and you likely won't get past discussing what "Toklat" is.
The brown bears of McNeil River or Brooks Falls, now those are world-famous
bears and locations. But it's not the individual bear families that are protected;
it's an area where bears tend to congregate. The wolf packs of Denali? There
are many, they come and go, and the habitat within Denali National Park and
Preserve already is set aside for them.
Part of the mystique of wolves is their reclusive nature. They are rarely
seen, even by people who spend a great deal of time in Alaska's wilds. More
often, we hear them howling. It's a beautiful sound ... unless it's a little
too close to your sled dog lot. Wolves are rarely seen. That's the way it's
supposed to be.
Seeing a wolf that is habituated to buses and likes to nose around campgrounds
holds all the excitement of seeing a grizzly bear digging for scraps at a
Visitors come to see Alaska, and Alaska is a place where there are vast national
parks, but there also are vast areas where wolf and bear populations are
so healthy that it is one of the few places in the world where regular hunting
and trapping seasons are allowed. It's a place where people live close to
the land and still trap, and wear wolf fur. The people are part of the mystique
of the place as well. The wolves are wild and the people who trap them and
view them venture into the wilds to find them.
state does not need to create buffer zones around our millions
of acres of national park lands to snuff out the Alaska
way of life so visitors stand a chance of seeing wolves
that have lost their wildness.