Officials Decline to Attend Wolf-Control Forum

PREDATORS: No government advocates of the programs accepted offers to defend them

Joel Gay / Anchorage Daily News / March 29, 2004

Well-known opponents of predator control will offer their perspective at a forum tonight, but unless audience members are willing to take the microphone, wolf-control advocates won't be represented.

Moderator Rick Steiner rounded up Priscilla Feral, president of the Connecticut-based Friends of Animals and organizer of a nationwide boycott of Alaska tourism, and Gordon Haber, a longtime wildlife scientist and critic of past state predator control efforts, for the Alaska Resource Issues Forum at the Anchorage Museum.

But Steiner couldn't find anyone to stand up for the state's wolf-control programs. His offer to take the stage alongside Feral and Haber was turned down by officials from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, members of the Alaska Board of Game, representatives of the Alaska Outdoor Council, and Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, he said.

"I'm very disappointed," especially in the state and Game Board officials, said Steiner, a University of Alaska professor who highlights natural resources issues through the forum.

"I understand why they're hesitant to come in front of citizens and explain their position. But that's the whole purpose," he said. "Government should be able to stand up in front of its citizens and be able to explain and defend its policy, even if it's a controversial one."

Steiner had better luck in December, when he brought together three people on each side of the predator-control debate into an Anchorage television station and made an hourlong videotape.

Since then, private pilots participating in state-sponsored programs have killed more than 100 wolves in the Nelchina area and another dozen near McGrath, and the Game Board has approved additional wolf-kill programs in other areas of the state. It also approved a new management plan that would allow brown bears to be killed to help boost stocks of moose and caribou.

At tonight's forum, which runs from 7 to 9 p.m. in the museum auditorium, Haber will give a 30-minute slide show on his work studying the social structure of wolves in Denali National Park.

Steiner will play the devil's advocate with Haber and Feral, asking pointed questions about their opposition to predator control. But Steiner hopes audience members will stand up for predator control, providing a thorough discussion about the merits of the programs and what they mean for Alaska.

"We're encouraging people who have something to say to come and say it," he said. "We're expecting people to be civil. But this is a forum for people to say what they want to say, whatever it is."

The forum is free, and free parking is available in the museum's garage.

Daily News reporter Joel Gay can be reached at or at 257-4310.

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