"...everyone is bored,and devotes himself to cultivating habits..these habits are not peculiar to our town.." Albert Camus "The Plague"

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Gov. Sarah Palin vs Animal Advocates

Many organizations and groups were calling for rejection of Gov. Sarah Palin as Republican nominee for Vice President citing her positions on predator control via aerial shooting. While this is a very serious matter for animal advocates it is primarily a matter to be settled by Alaska's citizens and their legislature. It is possible, however, that the practice could be addressed on the federal level when McCain and Palin take office. Aerial hunting is prohibited under The Airborne Hunting Act of 1972 and only continues in Alaska via a loophole in the law. (see below)

I am not a single issue voter and I support Sarah Palin for numerous reasons above and beyond the single issue of Alaska's Fish and Game laws. However, I would certainly wish to confront the McCain/Palin administration on this issue when they take office. Some of the history of the controversy I discuss below.

The question of predator control involving aerial shooting of wolves and other animals is a contentious one in Alaska and, indeed, in the lower 48. Animal rights organizations are furious with Governor Sarah Palin for her support of Alaska bill HB 256/SB 176 the intent of which was "Clarify, Clean UP Statutes, Encourages Abundance-Based Management". The Defender of Wild Life Action Fund states:

"Governor Palin is an active promoter of Alaska's aerial hunting program whereby wolves and bears are shot from the air or chased by airplanes to the point of exhaustion before the pilot lands the plane and a gunner shoots the animals point blank."
Before Alaska statehood in 1959, shooting wolves from airplanes was common. Aerial sport hunting was banned in 1972, but the law allowed aerial shooting for predator control.

In 1996 and 2000, voters rejected using aircraft to help track and kill wolves. The Legislature, in both cases, caved in to special interest groups and overturned the measures.

Nick Jans, co-sponsor of Ballot Measure 2, expects victory again in the Aug. 26 primary election. Alaskans for Wildlife collected nearly 57,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. Defenders of Wildlife, a national wildlife conservation group, is one of its principal supporters.

"This is an issue that has been addressed and addressed again. It is a clear matter. The will of the people has already been known and we are just reasserting it here," Jans said. "We are both puzzled and enraged that we are back at this point again." Source

Unfortunately, this years measure did not pass; it was rejected by the voters 56%-44%. Ultimately this is an issue that will have to be settled by the citizens of the state through interaction with their legislators. Governor Palin has had to consider all of the competing interests and come down on the side of what is best for her state in the long run. In May 2007 Palin

" introduced a bill in the State House and Senate that will simplify and clarify Alaska’s intensive management law for big game and the state's "same day airborne hunting" law. “I have said many times that my administration is committed to management of game for abundance, and to a proactive, science-based predator management program where appropriate,” said the Governor. “The bill I am introducing will give the Board of Game and state wildlife managers the tools they need to actively manage important game herds and help thousands of Alaskan families put food on their tables"

Aerial hunting is illegal under federal law (the Airborne Hunting Act of 1972) but Alaska has managed to circumvent the ban by a loophole.

"For more than 30 years, the state of Alaska has attempted to circumvent the intent of the Airborne Hunting Act by exploiting a loophole in the law allowing states to “administer” wildlife using aircraft. Under the guise of wildlife management, Alaska contends its current aerial hunting program is not hunting at all but constitutes legitimate wildlife management that artificially boosts wild moose and caribou populations."

The loophole allows:

...for predator control, permitting state employees or licensed individuals to shoot from an aircraft for the sake of protecting "land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life, or crops." Source

Tags: sarah palin,alaska aerial shooting,aerial predator control,wolf shooting,wolf hunting,alaska ballot question 2,alaska legislature

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