-- A controversial wolf protection area on state land near
Denali National Park and Preserve will be retained, the Alaska
Board of Game has ruled.
a split vote, the board opted to keep in place the Denali
Buffer Zone to make killing wolves elsewhere more palatable
to the public. The 130-square-mile area has been closed to
the hunting and trapping of wolves to protect two highly visible
packs for viewing by Denali visitors.
whole being said to get rid of this, but the caveat I ended
up dealing with is that I can sacrifice that buffer zone for
all the other wolf plans we have coming up," Fairbanks
board member Sharon McLeod-Everette said of the decision late
Monday. "I think kicking the buffer zone out would give
(animal-rights groups) an opportunity to scream and yell and
cry and put it in the news again and I don't want it there."
board voted Tuesday to eliminate a sliver of land east of
the Parks Highway near Healy, but the buffer zone created
four years ago and expanded in 2002 remains mostly intact.
board also put a six-year moratorium on new proposals dealing
with buffer zones.
buffer zone has been a point of contention since it was created
by a previous Game Board appointed by former Gov. Tony Knowles.
The two wolf packs sometime roam outside park boundaries onto
state land around Healy.
buffer zone was expected to expire after Gov. Frank Murkowski
took office more than a year ago and appointed a more hunter-
and trapper-friendly board.
panel's 4-3 vote to continue protection wasn't based on saving
wolves as much as winning public support for predator control
programs. The state recently began aerial wolf hunts in McGrath
and in the Nelchina Basin and is considering several others.
think removing the buffer would lose us some support,"
said board chairman Mike Fleagle of McGrath.
along with Fleagle, Ben Grussendorf of Sitka and Ted Spraker
of Kenai voted to retain the buffer zone while Fairbanks'
Pete Buist, Ron Somerville of Juneau and Cliff Judkins of
Wasilla voted against it.
former head of the state's game division, said advocates of
the buffer zone "have an insatiable appetite" and
will never be satisfied with the size of the area.
isn't about wildlife viewing," Somerville said. "This
about a group of people being opposed to any kind of hunting
an estimated 10,000 wolves in 1,500 packs roaming the state,
proponents of the buffer zone say the least the state can
do is offer protection to the state's two most-viewed wolf
packs. They also contend the buffer zone needs to be larger.
the current buffer zone is "better than nothing,"
said Paul Joslin of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, a preservationist
group that has fought for a larger buffer zone for several
years, he was disappointed with the board's reasoning behind
would have failed if there was not concern about the backlash
from (eliminating) it," he said. "(The buffer zone)
is regarded as an enormous gift to the non-consumptive interests."