Ex-tourism head vindicated as Alaska loses suit vs. FoA

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1994:

SEATTLE, Washington– Why
was Connell Murray fired as Director of
Alaska tourism?
“I don’t know and I didn’t ask,”
Murray told ANIMAL PEOPLE on April
11, from his boat in Puget Sound, “because I
didn’t much care. I was retired when I was
appointed by the governor, I said I’d stay for
two years, I was there for two years and
three months, and I’m retired again.”
Murray was dismissed effective
January 1, while on a trip to Asia, shortly
after he testified in a deposition that the
tourism boycott called by Friends of Animals
in November 1992 to protest the Alaska
Board of Game’s plan to kill wolves south-
west of Fairbanks had not demonstrably done
any economic harm. The boycott was lifted
when the wolf-killing plan was suspended in
late December 1992, and not reimposed until
after the Board of Game adopted the current
wolf-killing strategy in late June 1993.

Murray’s testimony discredited
Alaska governor Walter Hickel’s attempt to
sue FoA for alleged libel in connection with
anti-wolf killing advertisements. Because the
state couldn’t prove damages, Anchorage
Superior Court judge John Reese threw the
suit out at an April 15 pretrial hearing.
Murray acknowledged having heard
Hickel fired him in anger over his testimony.
“But you can’t have it both ways,” he said.
“We had figures that showed excellent
increases in tourism across the board. We
did have some concerns related to the Friends
of Animals boycott. I got 12,000 letters,
cards, and faxes of protest. But we didn’t see
any actual impact from the boycott last sum-
mer,” since it wasn’t in effect during most of
the booking season.
“I’m sure a lot of people in Alaska
were upset at my attitude,” Murray contin-
ued. “I’m not putting myself in the camp of
the animal rights activists, but my job was to
make sure the interests of the tourism indus-
try were considered, and my belief from day
one was that before any decisions were made
by any part of the state government that
might affect tourism, tourism should have a
seat at the table. I felt that this was not hap-
pening on predator control, and I said so. In
fact, there were very few elements in tourism
that were supportive of predator control,”
Murray continued, “including the profession-
al hunting guides, because a lot of them are
doing a lot more photo and nature safaris now
than actual hunting escort.”
However, Murray said, the rest of
the tourism industry fell silent when the wolf-
killing plan was revived, “because last year
when the industry faced down predator con-
trol, they had their state promotion budget
seized and held hostage. It appeared for a
while as if there would be no tourism budget.
The industry was brought reluctantly to its
knees. They decided to sit it out and keep
their mouths shut. I didn’t feel that compunc-
tion, and I didn’t keep my mouth shut.”
Added Murray, “What they were
trying to do was solve a problem with preda-
tors that wasn’t there. “Their conjectures on
the wolves were suspect from the beginning.
But my position was not pro or con. My
position was to tell them to get their act
together with tourism. I don’t regret a bit that
I did. Tell Friends of Animals,” he conclud-
ed, “that I wish them well.”
––M.C.
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