Dear Governor Walker and Honorable Members of Alaska Board of Game:
Recently, Alaska decided to assert its right to statehood through Representative Don Young’s bill (H.J.Res. 69) that our “President” turned into law. As you are all well aware, the new law reversed the United States Fish and Wildlife Services’ ban on Alaska’s controversial hunting practices of wolves and bears. More specifically, denning, baiting and aerial hunting. I am writing from the Lower 48 because some day, I am interested in venturing into the Alaska Wildlife Refuges and would like to be able to do so without thinking of wolf pups pulled from their dens to their death or grizzlies shot as they slept in dreams of Springtime. I live in Colorado at altitude, which carries its own brand of mountain lifestyle. Just yesterday, I played crossing guard for a subadult male moose trying to get across the state highway on which I live. I’m well acquainted with wildlife; I’m not writing from a studio in Manhattan.
As you can imagine, the recent passage of H.J. Res. 69 (the Alaskan Kill Bill) caught the attention of millions of Americans across the country, some of which might have been considering a trip to view wolves and bears in the federally owned Alaskan Wildlife Refuge. You may be aware that wildlife watching contributes over $2 Billion to Alaska’s economy.
I would hope that the representations made on the Senate floor recently by Representative Young and other Republicans, that the opposition to the bill was filled with false rhetoric designed to mislead the public, that the statements made were simply false claims no longer true since Alaska became a state, are indeed accurate. I hesitate to ask, in how many instances does denning, bear baiting and aerial wolf hunting actually occur? I have seen footage of pilots tracking a wolf to its death. Just watching motivated me to cancel my plane reservation in 2009.
Notwithstanding the voracity of the statements made on the Senate floor and arguments in the hallways, this letter is more about an appeal to your humanity. This is about a recognition that as morally conscious and intelligent individuals, you might begin to appreciate that the cries of senators and representatives, of wolf advocates and environmental proponents and the hopes of future Alaskan tourists, are those of your fellow man and woman. They are the cries of those who see the beauty in the wilderness, the magic of wolves and bears in their natural surroundings, living in a place profoundly beautiful in its creation. (Mr. Spraker — you’re a biologist – can you not marvel at the complexity of an intact ecosystem, revering it for its beauty?)
The words from congressmen and congresswomen, spoken in opposition to the Alaskan Kill Bill, illuminate the desire of millions of Americans, not simply Alaskans, but spoken through these elected representatives, that Alaska revere and regard wildlife for its intrinsic value, separate and distinct from any economic benefit Mr. Turner may receive through his outfitting service or Mr. Spraker may derive by virtue of his membership in Safari Club International:
Nature made the wilderness and wildlife in Alaska majestic during hundreds of thousands of years…Man…is challenged merely to respect and preserve that natural majesty
(Senator Tsongas, referring to Senator Ted Stevens statement on the Senate Floor in 1980) (Congressional Record)
…It turns out that the American people and tourists around the world would rather see these [wolf] puppies and photograph them rather than shoot them and gas them. (Representative Jared Polis, Colorado) (Congressional Record)
…these `are not game farms managed for a slice of their diversity for the benefit of a few people who would call themselves hunters.’
(Mr. Beyer, quoting recently departed former Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe) (Congressional Record)
In case you weren’t apprised of the testimony offered in opposition to the Alaskan Kill Bill, letters from Alaskan citizens were also sent:
This rule would rightly prohibit controversial and scientifically unjustified killing methods on over 76 million acres of Federal lands in Alaska. “A hunter who cannot comply with humane methods of the trade/sport is simply lazy and undeserving of the right to harvest the flesh of another living thing.
(Elizabeth Figus, from Juneau) (Congressional Record) And another, from Ms. Fran Mauer of Fairbanks:
Over the last 15 years I have watched the state hunting regulations for wolves and bears get progressively more extreme. These methods go far beyond any common sense, are not supported by science, and have no place in our Alaskan National Wildlife Refuges. This is the result of the special interest lobby of extreme pro-hunting groups. . . . I for one, and many other Alaskan hunters, do not want to see the State of Alaska turn our National Wildlife Refuges into game farms. (Congressional Record)
Gentlemen and women, I want to ask you, since it became apparent that the Board of Game was asked “dozens of times to amend its rules to ensure that the FWS statutory mandate was being followed,” (Congressional Record), why then, does Alaska insist on culling predators in the name of false science and at the behest of the hunting groups of which you all may be members? Are there not other interests to be considered – those of the millions of Americans wanting to travel to your state for the rare opportunity to glimpse a wolf or a lynx or a bear – to shoot with a Pentax rather than a rifle?
The above-cited words are the heartfelt expressions of those who see this beauty and understand its fragility. They know the destruction taking place, they understand the value of what has been created by a force greater than ourselves and bow down to it in humility.
If there is anything about man that deserves to be despised, it is lack of humility. If there is anything more profoundly disturbing to the spiritually enlightened and morally conscious, it is lack of reverence for Nature in its awesome splendor, ecosystems intact in all their complexity and dazzling diversity. Humanity needs biodiversity – aggressive predator control for the sake of boosting moose and caribou populations – is no answer to the call for preservation. There is no power to be gained nor joy to be had in destroying that which has been naturally created.
The fight against destruction of God’s creatures is not a fight – it is indeed, an act of love. The voices recently calling out on the Senate floor and people stepping forth against the Alaskan Kill Bill have already tuned into the value of preserving some of God’s finest creations. The language on Capitol Hill and the Senate floor may have been reduced to bipartisan name-calling and petty blame, but from this place, there is nowhere to go but downward – into the aggression and hatred for the views of “others.” And from that place, there is nothing to turn towards, but the violence of which we’ve all grown weary. Haven’t we all just witnessed how easily violence is inflicted, in the form of missiles and chemical weapons, by the emotional outburst of ones not so aware?
Do we really need to add to more aggression on the planet with aggressive predator control practices? Wouldn’t it be amazing if Alaska – through its Governor and Board of Game – embraced ecotourism and conservation instead – putting itself on the forefront of protecting the earth’s natural resources? Can you imagine how many tourists – not just from the Lower 48 – but from the world – would want to come see the work and the practices in play? (To reiterate: Wildlife watchers contribute over $2 billion to the economy of Alaska–five times more than the amount generated in Alaska from hunting activity. (Ms. Jackson Lee, Congressional Record)
At the end of this era – and at the end of this malignantly polarized culture, disquieted by political upheaval and archaic practices, we will be asking ourselves as we look askance on the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge – What is left? How did we let this happen? That these magnificent creatures – and they are so much that – could be destroyed in our most malicious and violent ways? Were we not better than that, that we could not have found a better way, to bolster our lives by revering them – and inviting others to do the same?
Nature, once gone, is gone forever. Like the call of the wolf or the shadow of the bear once walking upon the Alaskan soil, it will exist as a memory of our days and a legacy of our inhumanity.
Thank you for your time.