USA. Defenders of Wildlife requests halt of hunting Alaskan bears and wolfs from planes

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

In an attempt to prevent the state from issuing new aerial wolf and bear gunning permits and to ban current permittee-holders from acting under the permits already issued, Defenders of Wildlife filed a request for a preliminary injunction with the State Superior Court. The injunction comes as the Court is considering Defenders' lawsuit, which was filed in August and challenges Alaska's aerial gunning programs that cover more than 40 million acres of Alaska's interior and could result in the killing of more than 75 percent of the wolves in several areas.

"Defenders is trying to make sure that no wolves or bears are killed before the judge rules on the lawsuit," declared Rodger Schlickeisen, President, Defenders of Wildlife. "We think it only fair that all the facts be presented and sorted through by a judge. Until that happens, it makes sense to halt the permitting process."

Under the current predator control programs the Alaska Board of Game has adopted, private individuals may obtain permits to hunt wolves and bears using aircraft. Permittees may chase wolves to exhaustion using airplanes and then land and shoot them, or shoot them from the air. The suit alleges that the Board of Game adopted regulations that are inconsistent with Alaska statutes governing game management.

The Board of Game changed the rules for adoption of predator control programs after the Superior Court shut down the programs last winter. The Board removed restrictions on the programs, such as following the publicly reviewed and adopted "Wolf Management Plan" and requiring the Board to use the best available science in making its decisions. The Board also expanded bear control and is allowing baiting of wolves and bears in some areas.

"Not only is the predator control program itself very controversial, but the state has now drastically reduced the requirements for such programs and made these changes without including the public," said Valerie Brown, an attorney representing Defenders of Wildlife. "We're asking the Court to halt the programs and require the state, at a minimum, to adopt science-based programs in compliance with the law."

The request for a preliminary injunction says that the state changed the regulations without public notice. Alaska law also requires that any predator control program be part of a comprehensive game management plan, which the Board of Game has failed to adopt.

The use of aircraft to kill wolves was banned by Alaskans in statewide ballot measures in 1996 and 2000, but the Alaska Legislature overturned those bans. In the three years since Alaska has begun issuing permits to pilots and gunners to conduct aerial-based wolf killing more than 550 wolves have been killed. In 2006 alone, more than 150 wolves were killed.

The state has 10 days to respond.

Defenders of Wildlife is joined in the lawsuit by the Sierra Club and The Alaska Wildlife Alliance. The plaintiffs are represented by Valerie Brown and Mike Frank with Trustees for Alaska.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 November 2006 )