Congressional leaders ask Babbit, Espy to halt Alaska wolf massacre

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1993:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Convinced that Alaska’s Board of Game wouldn’t yield
to reasonable requests for a humane wolf policy, 30 Congressional leaders on September
22 urged the Clinton administration to intervene and suspend same-day wolf hunts on
public lands. Letters condemning the wolf-killing, set to start October 1, were sent to
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit and Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.
Babbitt alone could effectively halt the same-day hunting, since the Department
of the Interior oversees 90 million acres of Alaska under the Bureau of Land Management,
77 million acres under the Fish and Wildlife Service, and 54 million acres under the
National Park Service. The Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction of 23 million
acres.

“All of us are enormously disturbed by Alaska’s unwillingness or inability to do
the right thing and admit this mistake,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D.-Oregon), the author
of a pending bill that would tighten restrictions on airborne hunting. “We believe there is
no choice but to appeal straight to Babbitt and Espy to put a stop to this needless and
unsportsmanlike slaughter,” he continued. “If that offends Alaska’s leaders, well, they
have only themselves to blame. I, for one, would applaud more credible efforts by
Alaska to govern its resources wisely.”
Earlier this year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game backed off a plan to
gun down 475 wolves from aircraft because of a boycott threat by tourists and hunters.
However, on June 28, the Board of Game gave the go-ahead for hunters operating under
$15 trapping permits to kill 75% of the total wolf population in a 4,000-square-mile range
just south of Fairbanks.
“The decision from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game violates the leg-
islative intent of the Federal Airborne Hunting Act of 1971,” the Congressional letter
said. “Land-and-shoot hunting in any disguised form is inconsistent with the recognized
principles of sound wildlife management.” The letter urged Babbitt and Espy to “affirm
the right and responsibility of the federal government to preserve the delicate ecological
balance of our public land.”
DeFazio said the illogic of the Board of Game’s decision bewilders him.
Statewide, Alaska boasts one million moose and caribou. In fact, the size of Alaska’s
caribou population has tripled in the last 15 years. By contrast, only 6,000 wolves survive
in the state.
“I am puzzled as to why Alaska would bring down this rain of public criticism
on itself,” he added, “when its image specialists are working around the clock to portray
it as a trustworthy guardian of wildlife and natural resources,” in an ongoing effort to
loosen federal controls. “Wolf kills are a crude attempt to manipulate moose and caribou
populations for a few tourists and pickup truck hunters from Anchorage and Fairbanks,
who are interested in big game but don’t want to fly to the bush. If this is Governor
Hickel’s idea of scientifically sound game management, then the concept of resource
management by Alaska, for Alaskans, is in serious trouble.”
The letter to Babbitt and Espy, written by DeFazio, was co-signed by Elizabeth
Furse of Oregon; Jolene Unsoeld of Washington; George Brown, Ron Dellums, Tom
Lantos, Robert Matsui, Pete Stark, and Lynn Woolsey of California; Pat Schroeder of
Colorado; James Traficant of Ohio; Andy Jacobs of Indiana; Bill Clay of Missouri;
Lane Evans of Illinois; William Lipinski, Mel Reynolds, and Sid Yates of Illinois;
Christopher Shays of Connecticut; Barney Frank of Massachusetts; Ron Machtley of
Rhode Island; Dick Swett of New Hampshire; Carolyn Maloney, Major Owens, and
Edolphus Towns of New York; Robert Torricelli of New Jersey; Jim Moran of Virginia;
Charlie Rose of North Carolina; Arthur Ravenel of South Carolina; and Jim Bacchus and
Harry Johnston of Florida.
––Susan Lindauer
[Press secretary to Rep. Peter DeFazio]
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