Feral of the animal-rights group Friends of Animals, led the
first of a series of protests of Alaska's state-sponsored aerial
wolf-shooting program in New York City on Dec. 27. The "howl-ins"
will continue through April 30, when Alaska's predator-control
program ends, but seem to be having little effect on tourism.
Facing a new Alaska program to hunt wolves from airplanes, the
animal-rights group Friends of Animals is trying to revive its
successful pressure tactic of a decade ago and persuade vacationers
to boycott the state this summer. But tourism officials say
this time the plea seems to be falling mostly on deaf ears.
seems for once Outsiders don't care how we do it in Alaska,"
said Eric Downey, vice president of marketing for Denali Lodges.
tourism officials with the state's largest trade groups say they've
received hundreds of e-mail messages and letters from people who
say they're canceling plans for Alaska vacations, they say there
is little evidence of the protest in summer bookings.
boycott has had no effect on his midsize company, Downey said.
Denali Lodges expects more than 10,000 visitors this summer at
its lodge inside Denali National Park and in cabins just outside
have not had one cancellation or call of concern or complaint,"
Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals called for the boycott
in December to protest Alaska's aerial wolf-control program. Under
the program, 180 wolves were to be killed this winter in two areas
where residents complain wolves and bears are eating too many
moose, leaving humans with too few for food.
140 wolves have been killed under the program, which ends April
30. It will resume next winter.
in Alaska are not a threatened or endangered species. Population
estimates range from 8,000 to 11,000. About 1,500 wolves are killed
in Alaska every year, mostly by trappers.
resumed aerial wolf hunts last year after a decade-long ban. Gov.
Frank Murkowski has said he will not bend to the threatened boycott
because the state has an obligation to manage its resources to
benefit Alaskans. Murkowski did not respond to repeated requests
for additional comment.
950-member Alaska Travel Industry Association in the past several
months has received about 100 phone calls and 200 e-mails, mostly
from individuals saying they won't be visiting Alaska, spokesman
Mark Morones said. But he said it's unknown how many of those
people actually canceled reservations.
year, Alaska had 1.3 million summer visitors, more than half by
cruise ship. The Northwest Cruise Ship Association expects even
more cruise visitors this summer, with the first ship arriving
in Ketchikan on May 4.
adventure-travel companies do see some impact, though their reports
Gore, executive director of the 275-member Alaska Wilderness Recreation
and Tourism Association, said her group receives two or three
strongly worded e-mail messages or calls a day from travelers
saying they're boycotting Alaska.
association of small and midsize businesses responds with a letter
that says AWRTA and the people of Alaska "share your concern
for the wolves. ... Unfortunately, our state leaders have ignored
our wishes and gone ahead with their personal agenda."
asks that visitors consider showing support for the wolves and
Alaska's wild places by patronizing AWRTA businesses.
the 1993 tourism boycott, "the only companies negatively
affected ... were the small to mid-size businesses represented
by AWRTA. For some of the smaller, family-owned companies, the
financial losses resulting from the boycott were devastating,
nearly putting them out of business," the letter says.
French, general manager of Alaska Discovery, a small adventure
travel company in Juneau, said bookings for March were perhaps
the worst the company has seen in its 33 years. There also were
a lot of cancellations, he said.
nobody said they were canceling because of the wolves, French
suspects that could be the case. Alaska Discovery clients tend
to be educated and well-read on conservation issues, he said,
and it's likely some of them heard about the wolf-control program
and decided to skip Alaska this summer.
only people this seems to be affecting are little companies like
ours that support conservation," he said. "It is so
frustrating to have an imperial decree ... and kick sand in the
face of small, conservation-minded adventure travel companies."
and Kenneth Mason were prepared to spend several thousand dollars
on a two-week cruise to Southeast Alaska this summer. The retired
couple from Sunset, Maine, also wanted to buy Eskimo art to add
to their collection. But after hearing that wolves were being
shot, the Masons told Lindblad Expeditions in New York to refund
are magnificent animals, and they are really at the mercy of politics
in Alaska, depending on who is governor and who is on the Board
of Game," Cherie Mason said. "We will just stay home
and hope we can go next year if things change."
Gerry Sanger said his Sound Eco Adventures in Whittier has been
untouched by the boycott. He has more than 40 bookings this summer
from clients wanting to take whale-watching cruises and glacier
hikes, and sea kayakers and deer hunters needing transportation
to remote destinations.
impression is it hasn't made a ripple," Sanger said of the
boycott. "My business is up 20 percent over last year."
of Animals kicked off its tourism boycott campaign on Dec. 27
with a "howl-in" at Rockefeller Center in New York.
The campaign is scheduled to end April 30, at the same time the
wolf-control program ends for the season. By that time, 152 howl-ins
will have been held in cities across the United States, and in
Japan, Germany, Great Britain and Canada, said Priscilla Feral,
president of the 200,000-member group.
said she's disappointed that Murkowski has not responded the way
then-Gov. Wally Hickel did a decade ago. It took 53 howl-ins in
51 cities before Hickel ordered a moratorium on the wolf program.
time, the campaign may have to last as long as Murkowski is in
office, Feral said.
just find that this current regime is really destructive beyond
what anybody remembers in prior administrations," she said.
"All of this, more than shaming Alaska, shames the country
as a whole, and that is why we aren't going to go away."