Apparently willing to risk the promised boycott from Friends of Animals, Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski signed a bill in June that will allow private citizens to hunt wolves from airplanes.
The law also alters the rules that determine when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game can order a culling of the wolf population. Under the old rules, it could only do so if it found that there was a decline in the population of animals that wolves prey on. Under the new rules, the department can order a cull of wolves when their numbers grow regardless of the impact such growth is having on prey species.
The Department of Fish and Game will likely use the aerial hunts to thin the population of wolves near McGrath, where residents would like to see the moose population expand to provide more hunting and economic opportunities. The department already has a project underway to capture and remove bears from around McGrath.
Friends of Animals, meanwhile, apparently believes there are constitutional issues with the law and are holding off on calling for a boycott hoping that those issues will render the law moot,
FOA believes that there are legal problems with the new statute. Among other things, it appears that this statute violates the Alaska Constitution’s separation of powers rule by invading the legal authority of the Governor and the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. We brought this problem to the attention of the Alaska Attorney General, and we expect that it be addressed before anyone tries to take any action under the statute. Aside from that constitutional infirmity, there are also some serious legal, administrative and fiscal impediments to implementation of the statute. FOA anticipates litigation if the Game Board tries to use this new statute to initiate wolf-killing. If wolf control is implemented, Friends of Animals will call for a tourism boycott of Alaska during the months of November 2003 through January 2004 — when tourists book summer visits to Alaska with tourist agencies. — Priscilla Feral
Murkowski signs aerial wolf control bill. Associated Press, June 19, 2003.
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