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Game Board rejects Denali wolves buffer zone

Associated Press Modified: September 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm •  Published: September 19, 2012
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Wolves that roam onto state land from Denali National Park and Preserve will not be protected from trappers, the Alaska Board of Game has decided.

Board members confirmed Wednesday they have rejected a petition calling for an emergency order to ban wolf trapping and hunting east of the park. Six board members rejected the petition; one was not available.

Board member Teresa Sager Albaugh of Tok noted state policy that says emergency findings must be held to a minimum. An emergency is an unforeseen, unexpected event that threatens a game resource.

"I think it's safe to say that the petition was rejected because it failed to meet the emergency standards set forth in regulation," she said by email.

The petition submitted two weeks ago by the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, the Alaska Center for the Environment, Defenders of Wildlife, National Parks Conservation Association and six individuals said killing of wolves outside park boundaries is harming the visitor experience inside the park.

The pack most frequently viewed lost a breeding female to a trapper outside the park in April, according to the groups. Without new pups, the pack may have dispersed, they said.

Alaska Wildlife Alliance President Tina Brown said it's a shame that a small group of gubernatorial appointees is allowed to determine the fate of a treasured national resource.

"The chances of seeing wolves in Denali National Park have decreased, and in the future, without protection, it seems that they will continue to decrease," Brown said. "The Board of Game is not recognizing this, or if they are recognizing this, they're disregarding the over 400,000 visitors that go to Denali National Park annually, and this includes Alaskans."

Board member Nick Yurko of Juneau agreed with Sager Albaugh that the petition did not address an emergency.

"You have 19 different packs in the park," he said, adding that targeting one would not be appropriate. Neither would be managing for one group, Yurko said.

"We have to look at everybody in the state of Alaska when we look at things for the Game Board," he said. "We can't just look at one particular group. I hate to say, but your environmentalists would shut down the whole state if they had their choice."

The Game Board in recent years has authorized the killing of hundreds of wolves, plus black bears and even grizzly bears, as part of its "intensive management" policy to increase number of game animals consumed by humans — moose and caribou.

The National Park Service in 2010 asked the board to expand a no-trapping zone for wolves on the northeast boundary of Denali parklands. The board not only rejected the 77-square-mile proposed expansion, it voted 4-3 to eliminate the buffer that had existed on 122 square miles of state land. The board also approved an eight- to 10-year moratorium on Denali buffer proposals from the public.

Petition advocate Rick Steiner that by the Game Board's logic over the lack of an emergency, the entire population of Denali Park wolves could be wiped out because it would not affect the regional population.

"That's a pretty archaic definition of what constitutes a biological emergency," he said.