Defenders of Wildlife Petitions Interior Department to Stop Aerial Assault on Alaska Wolves

Petition Asks Secretary Norton to Enforce Federal Airborne Hunting Act

Press Release / Defenders of Wildlife / August 3, 2004


WASHINGTON -- Defenders of Wildlife filed an administrative petition asking Interior Secretary Gale Norton to implement and enforce the Federal Airborne Hunting Act (FAHA) in Alaska to stop the state's practice of using airplanes to chase down and kill wolves. The request comes after the Secretary refused, in March, to issue clarifying regulations and insisted that the wolf killing program was permitted by the FAHA.

"It's patently obvious that Alaska is killing wolves to artificially boost game populations for sport hunting, and that's a clear violation of federal law. Alaska's bull-headed insistence on wildlife mismanagement is not only illegal, but ignores not one but two statewide referenda banning airborne hunting. We know it's a novel idea for this administration, but we want Secretary Norton to do a simple thing -- enforce the law," stated Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen.

Currently, Alaska's airborne wolf killing program allows hunters to slaughter wolves and wolf pups from the air by either shooting from above, or by chasing them into deep snow until they are trapped and too exhausted to move. This clearly appears to be intended to increase big game targets for sport hunting, a practice strictly forbidden under the Act.

Since Governor Murkowski and the state legislature overturned a statewide ban on airborne killing, passed twice by Alaska voters, nearly 150 wolves have been killed.

"The numbers of wolves slaughtered from aircraft will only increase unless this gross mismanagement of the state's wildlife resources is kept in check by the Federal Airborne Hunting Act," stated Karen Deatherage, Alaska Program Associate for Defenders of Wildlife. "Already the Alaska Board of Game has tripled the area covered by the aerial killing program in 2005 to a total of 30,000 square miles of land. If not reversed, this decision is a death sentence for nearly 2,500 wolves over the next five years. Slaughter of this magnitude has just one purpose, to radically and illegally alter the ecological balance of large parts of Alaska."

Background:

* Federal Airborne Hunting Act was passed in 1971, in large measure to stop the aerial wolf killing in Alaska.
* In 1996, nearly 60% of Alaskans voted to ban same-day airborne wolf hunting in Alaska.
* In 1998, a state-wide poll indicated that nearly 70% of Alaskan voters opposed any attempt to repeal the 1996 ban.
* In 2000, Alaskans voted to reinstate the ban on same-day airborne or aerial wolf killing by hunters by a margin of 54% to 46%.
* In 2003, Governor Murkowski signed into law Senate Bill 155 to allow airborne hunting.
 
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