Monday, August 15, 2016

Alaskans Petition Governor To Rein In Predator Control



Press Release: For Immediate Release

Monday August 15, 2016

Contacts:
  • Rick Steiner: (Biologist) richard.g.steiner@gmail.com;907-360-4503
  • Marybeth Holleman: (Writer) marybeth.holleman@gmail.com; 907-360-4512
  • Jim Kowalsky, (Chair, Alaskans For Wildlife); jimkowalsky@yahoo.com; 907-488-2434
  • Vic Van Ballenberghe (Wildlife Scientist; former Board of Game member); vicvanb@alaskan.com; 907-351-0371

Today, 150 Alaska citizens from 28 communities across Alaska submitted a joint letter to Governor Bill Walker asking him to rein in the state’s predator control / "Intensive Management" (IM) program. This is the first such citizen petition submitted to the Governor on the issue.

The petition cites public concern regarding the significant expansion of lethal predator control efforts by the State of Alaska since 2003, conducted somewhat secretively and out-of-sight of the public.

Signatories to the letter include several former Alaska Board of Game members, a former Fish & Game commissioner, a former gubernatorial Chief of Staff, scientists, writers, photographers, doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, teachers, hunters, business owners, etc., from across the state. Under the state constitution all Alaskans have equal rights to Alaska’s wildlife, but many Alaskans feel their voices are ignored by state wildlife managers.

While the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have recently restricted lethal predator control on national parks, preserves, and refuges in Alaska, most of Alaska remains open to this controversial wildlife management practice.

The citizen’s petition issues a blistering rebuke of the state's rationale for predator control, stating in part:

“Alaska’s lethal predator control/IM program, as currently practiced, is unscientific, unnecessary, ineffective, costly, unethical, inhumane, and controversial. “

Accordingly, the petition asks for three significant adjustments to the current predator control/Intensive Management (IM) regime in Alaska:

1. Replace lethal predator control methods with non-lethal methods;
2. Terminate the “collaring for later control,” or “Judas wolf” program;
3. Prohibit all IM within 5 miles of federal conservation units.

These reasonable adjustments are all within the discretionary authority of the administration -- governor and Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADFG) commissioner -- and would dramatically reduce the unnecessary killing of Alaska's wolves and bears.

Contrary to claims by state wildlife managers (ADFG and Board of Game) that they are required by statute to conduct these lethal control programs, the petition points out that statute and regulation actually allow the administration considerable discretion as to how, with what methods, or even whether, to implement predator control programs.

The petition notes the fact that the administration of former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles (1994-2002) did not employ lethal predator control or “Judas wolf” collaring, yet sustained healthy ungulate (caribou, moose, deer) populations for human use.

Alaska nature writer and co-author of Among Wolves Marybeth Holleman said: “These draconian measures have to stop. One look at that map shows how predator control has grown like a cancer, unchecked and unrealized and unwanted by most Alaskans. And the methods are worse than pre-statehood. Even though he promised to represent all Alaskans and bring about positive change, Governor Walker has so far simply continued this war on Alaska's wildlife started by the Murkowski administration. It's way past time for the Governor to live up to his promises and right this ship.”

Jim Kowalsky, Chair of Alaskans For Wildlife based in Fairbanks, said: "Keystone predators have a critical role maintaining healthy wildland ecosystems. Predator removal is turning Alaska's famous wildlands into moose and caribou farms."

Rick Steiner, conservation biologist and former Univ. of Alaska professor, said: "These adjustments to the Alaska predator control program will protect food security for Alaskans, restore responsible wildlife management, and begin to rebuild Alaska's reputation around the world. The petition tapped into an enormous reservoir of discontent, even outrage, regarding the state's unethical predator control practices across Alaska. We are anxious to hear the governor's response."

The petition also asks the Governor to convene an Intensive Management Working Group, to review all predator control efforts by the state. Alaska citizens are eagerly awaiting a positive response from Governor Walker.

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