We hear that the Denali wolves are again in imminent danger. In jeopardy and at the mercy of the same elements that have log besieged their lives: venal and obtuse politicians; a largely indifferent and speciesist public; bought bureaucrats theoretically charged with the protection of ALL animals for the delight of all citizens but responsive only to small malignant minorities (the usual exploiting constituencies, chiefly ranchers and hunters), and an assortment of other factors, including the ever present pressure from the oil and gas industries to set up shop in our remaining pristine wilderness areas, and habitat destruction from an encroaching human population. We ask that you inform yourself about this issue and do something about it.
Back to square one
As reported by Kim Murphy on September 19, 2012 on the LA Times, Alaska game officials rejected the proposed wolf-protection zone around Denali National Park. We reproduce below the paper’s report in toto:
The Alaska Board of Game has refused to consider a request to establish an emergency no-hunting zone for wolves on the edge of Denali National Park, a buffer sought after the park’s best-known pack lost two of its prime breeding females and largely disappeared from public view.
The issue has consequences for tourism — viewing wolves in the wild is one of the premier attractions at the 6-million-acre park — but state officials say a ban on hunting and trapping on the edge of the park is not necessary to protect the substantial numbers of wolves that still roam the park.
“The department did not have any biological concerns regarding the wolves in that area,” Kristy Tibbles, executive director of the Board of Game, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. She said six of the board’s seven members who were reachable elected not to convene an emergency hearing on re-establishing a buffer on the northeast edge of the park.
Two buffers totaling 122 square miles protected wolves just outside the park for about a decade, but the board canceled the zone in 2010 when wildlife advocates sought to expand it. Board members said then they would not revisit the issue before 2016.
A coalition of wildlife groups sought to re-establish a protection zone following the death earlier this year of the two leading females of the Grant Creek pack, one of the park’s signature attractions and visible for years near Denali’s main road.
One of the females was killed by a trapper not far from the park, in the former buffer zone; the other died of natural causes. The pack had no surviving pups this year and has dispersed, with few visitor sightings over the summer.
Conservationists who sought the emergency buffer zone said Denali’s wolves — about 70 in nine packs — are at their lowest population in years.
“It is a shame that a small group of gubernatorial appointees is allowed to determine — behind closed doors and with no public input — the fate of such a treasured national resource,” Tina Brown, president of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said in a statement.
Conservation biologist Richard Steiner, who helped draft the petition, said the board concluded that no “emergency” existed to warrant the re-implementation of a buffer zone.
“In their definition of ‘emergency,’ every last wolf in Denali National Park could be wiped out, and still would not constitute an emergency to the state wolf population,” Steiner said in an email to the Los Angeles Times. “The state’s Neanderthal policy on wildlife management is moving closer and closer toward anyone can kill anything, anywhere, anytime, and with any method they so please.”
The National Wolfwatcher Coalition, which leads wolf-viewing trips in Denali, said in a letter to Gov. Sean Parnell that it has canceled several scheduled wolf-watching expeditions to Denali after being informed it was “highly unlikely” they would see the Grant Creek pack or other packs at the park.
“Several other nonprofit organizations who were interested in partnering with us to provide similar experiences were contacted and made the same decision,” the group’s education and resources director, Diane Bentivegna, said in the letter.
This ebb and flow of “victories” and defeats happens in the struggle to spare all species of animals. The battle against fur coats was deemed won in the 1970s but these days the industry is again booming, mainly thanks to the assistance rendered by stupid celebrities, the endorsement of prominent “fashionistas”, and other varieties of self-indulgent ethical idiots that our breed produces in ghastly abundance.
In 1982 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) finally adopted a long overdue moratorium on the killing of these majestic animals, whose breed had been pushed literally to the edge of extinction. Quite typically, however, money and human self-interest put gaping holes in the agreement—feeble to begin with—and currently too many nations, from Japan to Russia, to Norway, Iceland, etc., still engage in this brutal activity while hiding behind all sorts of transparently dishonest pretexts. What’s more, as it is usually the case with legislated victories favoring animals, little is done to help enforce the protections. Thus the law remains toothless, and the animals’ only protection is the brave action of a handful of activists often subject to heavy governmental interference. The upshot is that to this day, Japan, for example, suffers no commercial penalties for its defiance of the IWC restrictions, nor is there an international armada patrolling the seas to stop such wholesale transgressions. The situation with sharks, killed and exploited in a most brutal way (for shark fin soups, medieval remedies, etc.), is similarly disgusting. (Where’s that huge US Navy when we need it for something ethical that really makes sense?)
I’m afraid this pathetic spectacle will go on indefinitely until the majority of humanity really changes its outlook toward the rest of nature, and learns to treat it if not with the love it deserves, at least with an enlightened form of respect. Unfortunately, a badly distracted humanity is not apt to assign enough attention to this kind of problem, thereby lengthening its hold on our miserable history. People consumed with the daily battle for survival, already hampered by speciesism, have little mindscape left to dedicate to such near impossible causes. Especially in a world wracked by pervasive unemployment, diseases that should have been long extirpated, endless manufactured wars, meddling and invasions, rampant egoism, media pollution, a dying environment, and, of course the heavy weight of religious beliefs that give “man” dominion over just about everything that moves, a veritable carte blanche for our species’ boundless narcissism. The raw dominionism found at the core of most ancient religions—especially the so-called Judeo-Christian matrix— is in fact the earliest form of abject pandering known in history.
As long as humanity is preoccupied with such plethora of pestilential issues, all of them unnecessary in our age, all oozing from the appalling moral backwardness and corruption of our politics, such backwardness itself rooted in a deviously engineered inequality, it won’t have the focus to re-examine its role in the web of life that sustains the planet. In this kind of massive alienation, human tyranny over nature will continue collecting victims, virtually unchallenged.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patrice Greanville is The Greanville Post’s editor in chief. He sees no contradiction between the struggle for social justice and egalitarianism and that of liberation and justice for animals.
ANTECEDENTS TO THE DECISION
Board of Game ponders wolf trapping in Denali buffer zone
by Tim Mowry / email@example.com
[Feb 28, 2010]
Priscilla Feral, president of the animal-rights group Friends of Animals, speaks at the Alaska Board of Game meeting Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010, in Fairbanks, Alaska. Feral was at the meeting to testify in support of expanding a no trapping buffer zone around Denali National Park and Preserve to protect wolves that cross park boundaries. Tim Mowry/News-Miner
FAIRBANKS — Priscilla Feral spent a full day flying to Fairbanks from Connecticut to speak before the Alaska Board of Game for five minutes on Saturday, even though she doesn’t think it will do any good.
It was the least she could do for Gordon Haber.
Feral, president of Friends of Animals, one of the country’s most prolific animal-rights groups and based in Connecticut, showed up Saturday to testify in support of expanding a 122-square-mile buffer zone. The zone sits on state land in the northeast corner of Denali National Park and Preserve, and trapping wolves is prohibited in the buffer zone.
It was Haber, a well-known biologist who studied Denali wolves for more than 40 years with funding from Feral’s group, who originally proposed the buffer zone that the Board of Game adopted in 2000. The board reduced it to its current size in 2004. Haber died in a plane crash while tracking wolves in Denali in October.
“Gordon’s gone, and I don’t know how to fill his footsteps, but I can start by showing up,” Feral said following her testimony.
“What I’m doing is framing what he taught me over 17 years of his work and trying to give it some hope. We want to organize a movement here to keep some decent protection areas for wolves around the Denali area,” she said.
The Denali buffer zone, as it is commonly called, was the hot topic of discussion on the opening day of public testimony Saturday on day two of the game board’s 10-day meeting in Fairbanks. Feral’s presence at the meeting only turned up the heat.
The game board is considering proposals to expand and/or eliminate the buffer zone, which has been a point of contention for trappers since it was created.
Critics argue there is no biological reason for having the buffer zone because there are plenty of wolves — about 70 at last count — to see in Denali Park while advocates say the zone protects wolves near the park road that have become “habituated” and are “tolerant” of humans, which makes them easier to trap.
Out of place
With long blonde hair and wearing a white, long-sleeve shirt, gold necklace, brown pants and black boots that seemed out of place in a crowd dominated by camouflage and Carhartts, Feral sat behind a microphone facing the board and pleaded for protection of Denali wolves.
“At Friends of Animals, we acknowledge the inherent value of wolves,” she said. “Regardless whether we deem them endangered or plentiful, and whether or not we see them and believe they are beautiful, their individual lives and their freedom have meaning to them.”
Feral went on to rehash the importance of Haber’s research, quoting from papers he wrote. She said a few trappers benefit by trapping wolves that cross park boundaries while thousands of summertime tourists potentially lose out on an opportunity to see a wolf.
“These trappers exploit their legal ability to reduce Denali’s wolves to ruffs for the hoods of winter parkas, arguing that such deaths assure more moose and caribou for human hunters,” she said.
After her testimony, Feral admitted she didn’t expect the Board of Game to pass any of the proposals to expand, or even retain, the buffer zone, especially after hearing board chairman Cliff Judkins compare Denali wolves to “mangy dogs walking down the road” during a National Park Service presentation on Friday. She likened the Board of Game meeting to “an NRA meeting.”
“I’ve never spoken before a board in which the chairman made such rude remarks about wolves,” Feral said. “I find it frightening.”
Even so, Feral said she plans to keep up the fight for Denali wolves and plans to attend future Board of Game meetings in Fairbanks.
“I’m devoted to not quitting,” she said.
Coke Wallace of Healy, one of the trappers Feral was referring to in her testimony, urged the board to get rid of the buffer zone during his five-minute testimony.
“We’ve got a park that’s already as large as most of the states on the eastern seaboard,” said Wallace, whose trapping exploits have been publicly targeted by Feral’s group. “These aren’t buffer zones. They’re extensions of the park.”
Alaska Trappers Association president Randy Zarnke also spoke in favor of eliminating the buffer zone. His organization resents the term “park wolves,” he said.
“Those wolves do not belong to the park, it’s employees or the federal government, but rather to the (residents) of the state of Alaska,” Zarnke said. “They should be managed for our greatest benefit.”
That’s precisely why Denali wolves should be protected, said Rick Steiner, a 35-year Alaskan and retired marine scientist from Anchorage.
“If the object is to provide the maximum value of a wildlife resource, in Alaska the highest value of park wolves is to keep them protected for the 400,000 people who visit the park,” said Steiner, who has picked up Haber’s torch. “The viewing opportunities at Denali Park are extraordinary. It’s one of the best places in the world to see wolves.”
Vic Van Ballenberghe, a retired wildlife biologist who has been conducting moose research in the park for 36 years, spoke in favor of the buffer zone. Wolves in Denali Park can offer spectacular viewing opportunities, even if they are habituated, he said.
“I kind of liken Denali to the wolf equivalent of McNeil River Falls,” Van Ballenberghe, a former Board of Game member, said, referring to the popular bear viewing area. “It’s a wonderful viewing opportunity, and I think we need to do whatever it takes to protect it.”
Pete Buist, a trapper and former Board of Game member from Fairbanks, called the buffer zone “ridiculous, politically motivated and completely logic free.”
“The hand-wringers have 6 million acres of park for themselves and the wolves to frolic in with little interference from hunters or trappers,” Buist said. “It is patently unfair to inflict preservationist park philosophy onto public and private lands outside the park boundary. That is precisely why parks have boundaries.”
Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – Board of Game ponders wolf trapping in Denali buffer zone
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