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Letter to The Honorable George Miller
Protect America's Wildlife (PAW) Act
Dorothy & Leo Keeler / October 6, 2007
The Honorable George Miller United States Congressman 2205 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515-0507
Dear Representative Miller,
As Alaska residents for almost three decades, we applaud you for introducing the Protect America's Wildlife (PAW) Act, and want to provide you with information no one else can offer. This letter has details on the following items that can support the passage of your bill:
1. 2004 video footage of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Regional Supervisor stating the Department could not support or justify predator control, and the Board of Game approving it anyway.
2. 2004 video footage of a Board of Game member saying the Governor required sound science to justify predator control, and that they did not have it.
3. Studies conducted for the McGrath Adaptive Management Team proving over hunting was the reason for the alleged lack of moose in McGrath, Alaska, not wolves, but that data was buried and wolf control was implemented.
4. Detailed descriptions of how the McGrath Adaptive Management team calculated the harvest needs for area residents, only to have ADF&G and the Board of Game ignore those facts and set goals at historic, artificially high numbers.
5. Harvest records showing that predator control benefits urban hunters more than rural hunters because, by law, in Alaska every hunter, even doctors and lawyers in Anchorage, are considered "Subsistence Hunters".
6. Evidence that the Intensive Management Law that Governor Palin cites was pushed through the Legislature in order to establish historically high harvest goals.
7. 2003 video footage of an Alaska Native and former Board of Game member saying that some Alaska Natives feel morally compelled to literally kill everything in sight. "You're well aware of some of the traditional beliefs. If an animal offers itself, you don't insult the creator by not taking it."
8. Although less than 15% of Alaska residents hold a hunting license, the official newsletter of the Board of Game is called "All You Can Eat."
Who are we and why should you believe us? My husband and I are wildlife photographers who have lived in Alaska since 1981 and 1976, respectively, and bought a home in Montana in 2005. For the last two decades we have been actively involved in Alaska's bear and wolf management issues. Click here.
We have appeared on the CBS Evening News four times as a result of our efforts to protect the McNeil River bears and the Toklat wolves of Denali National Park. Click here.
My husband, Leo, a lifelong hunter, was appointed to the Board of Game by former Governor Tony Knowles in 2000 and to the six-member McGrath Adaptive Management Team to study the need for predator control.
We know the "federalism" issue will be pushed strongly by Governor Palin, Congressman Young, and other predator control advocates. We know you can counter that by pointing out the Federal Government was required under ANCSA and ANILCA to take wildlife management of fish and game from the State. The re-taking of management occurred because the State was not, and still is not able to assure preference for harvesting by those truly in need. Few people will recall or acknowledge that the National Research Council and many scientists and biologists have told the State their management practices are not based on sound science. To assure you have the most recent position statement, we have posted a September 25, 2007 letter signed by 172 wildlife professionals that was sent to Governor Palin to our web site.
If there is anything else we can provide, in addition to the detailed information below, please let us know.
In 2000, Governor Tony Knowles formed the McGrath Adaptive Management Team to determine the cause and solution for an "alleged" lack of moose around McGrath. My husband, Leo, was appointed to that six-member team. The team directed Fish & Game to conduct numerous studies. Those studies established the McGrath area as having the most and best science on which to base management decisions.
The studies found that there were plenty of moose to meet the needs of local residents, but over hunting had reduced the ratio of bulls to cows to as low as 6/100. (As you may know, a target rate of 25-30 bulls per 100 cows is normal within a hunted population.) In addition to the low number of bulls to harvest, the antler size was extremely low as compared to those on adjacent lands with normal hunting pressure. (An average of 30" versus 42" in an adjacent area hunters did not use as much) Accurate surveys showed that instead of the alleged 869 moose in the area, there were 3,660.
Subsistence calculations showed that needs could be met with a moose population of approximately 3,000. These reports demonstrated there was no need to consider or begin predator control. Though these results were published in a State Fish and Game Memorandum; dated Nov. 2, 2001 (click here) followed by a Press Release dated Nov. 6th they later buried and ignored.
After receiving these reports, the Adaptive Management team stopped meeting. The draft predator control plan they had been working on was unjustified and support for it vanished. Everyone began to look to the Board of Game to better regulate hunting pressure, the true cause for the lack of Bull Moose. However, in 2001, one, and only one thing changed. Pro-Wolf Control advocate Frank Murkowski was elected Governor. He appointed five radical fellow wolf control advocates as new members to the seven-member Board of Game. The Board and ADF&G buried the McGrath information calling for regulation of hunters. They then adopted the incomplete plan the McGrath Adaptive Management Team had been developing, and rushed into implementing predator control.
It is rare to have proof of a government body actively hiding evidence and misleading the public, however, we do. Two years after the Adaptive Management team stopped meeting, we were contacted by Joel Gay, an Anchorage Daily News reporter, who found the pre-Memorandum draft predator control plan was posted on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's web site and portrayed as their findings. Luckily, we still had a copy of the Memorandum, so since ADF&G refused to post it on their web site, we posted it on ours. Click here. (Also see a copy of the E-mail exchange between Anchorage Daily News reporter Joel Gay who alerted us of this, and our letter to the Commissioner of Alaska Department of Fish and Game Kevin Duffy. Click here.
The Memorandum and Press Release prove that the basis for the current aerial wolf control plan is bogus. It took our hint of a lawsuit for slander to get the Department to post the Memorandum on their web site, which happened a full two years after it was completed. If such prominent documents can be buried, how many other studies and findings have been cherry-picked, distorted, or ignored to support this Board's agenda?
I am working on a book project, and since I find it difficult to listen carefully and take notes, I have attended and filmed many of the Board of Game meetings with a broadcast quality video camera since 2002 and have over 200 hours of footage concerning ungulate, wolf, and bear issues. During the March, 2004, Board of Game meeting, I filmed both Jeff Hughes, then Regional Supervisor for Fish & Game, and Ben Grussendorf, former Alaska Senator and current Board of Game member, stating the Department of Fish & Game could not justify predator control. (I am currently making a video including that footage and will forward it to you as soon as it's finished.) This Board voted to begin predator control anyway, claiming, in part, it necessary to act preemptively. What other fiascoes have been created when actions are done on a preemptive basis?
Governor Palin suggests that predator control is necessary to keep food on people's tables. She ignores the fact that in some areas where predator control has been implemented, 73% of the moose harvested were taken by urban hunters from areas such as Anchorage or Fairbanks, and out-of-state or international trophy hunters. In fact, based on the 2005 harvest records, the majority of successful hunters (73%, 59%, and 51%) in 3 of the 5 active wolf control areas are urban and non-resident recreational hunters. Click here. and here.
Urban hunters developed and lobbied for the passage of Alaska's Intensive Management Act to benefit urban hunters and international trophy hunters, not those most in need of filling their freezers. To meet the requirements of the Intensive Management Act, the Board of Game conducted a special process to establish harvest objectives. We sat through meeting after meeting watching the Board of Game establish artificially high harvest objectives, based on hunter requests and recollections of populations that existed after decades of poisoning and aerial predator control, rather than on science.
The Department of Fish and Game repeatedly stated, and still state they did not have or plan to do studies that showed the carrying capacity of lands. They have no scientifically sound support for the goals established. Even during the McGrath studies, the Department could not counter presentations that questioned carrying capacity; they offered only their own biased opinions. Click here..
During the McGrath Adaptive Management Team meetings, specialists in rural community needs and subsistence resource specialists were brought before the team. Using their expertise, the Team determined that 3,000 to 3,500 moose in a normally hunted population would meet the community's needs. That number was presented to the Board of Game and they reduced the population goals from 6-8,000 down to 3,500. After discovering over hunting was the problem, and with a new radical Board of Game in place, the goal was again raised to 6-8,000. This new goal is based on increasing numbers until enough bulls can be harvested, even at 6 bulls per 100 cows, rather than on sound science.
Every resident hunter in Alaska is considered a subsistence hunter regardless of their dependence on natural resources. Alaskans have voted twice to stop aerial wolf control because they realize the major benefits are going to urban hunters. The percent of moose harvested by urban hunters, at the expense of rural hunters, in areas where predator control has been implemented ranges up to 73% going to urban or out-of-state hunters. Click here. Urban hunters have more options to go to grocery stores than rural hunters do. However, not harvesting a moose does not mean that rural hunters starve; it only means they have to purchase meat or use other sources for protein. Purchasing meat may mean less money for other options and a different lifestyle, but most people do not believe that justifies predator control.
The depth of Alaska's political corruption is now receiving national headlines. Click here and here. Is it unreasonable to assume that it doesn't end with votes for oil interests? Why else would the Legislature defy two successful ballot initiatives banning aerial wolf control and reinstate it two years later, the moment it was legal for them to do so? And now Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has just blessed a $400,000 state-funded campaign to "educate Alaskans about wolf killing."
Why? Governor Palin and her political cronies in the state legislature are afraid that Alaskans will vote to end the aerial gunning program for the third time in an upcoming ballot initiative. What else could explain why they would spend $400,000 to benefit hunters when less than 15% of all Alaskans hold a hunting license, hunting is down 24% statewide since 2001, wildlife viewing has increased 22% since 2001, and wildlife watchers, most of which abhor wolf control, contribute almost twice as much to the state's economy as hunters?
Hunters who support wolf control argue that Alaska's wildlife should be managed for them, as their hunting license fees and Pitman/Robertson taxes pay for wildlife management. Therefore, according to their logic, the state should kill predators so there is more game for them to shoot. That's wrong. Hunting license fees pay for the privilege of taking a public resource and putting it in your freezer.
Sport and trophy hunters have no inherent right to Alaska's wildlife, just as oil companies have no inherent right to Alaska's oil. Each pays a fee for taking a public resource for a private benefit. Hunting privileges are just that, privileges, and Alaska has been abusing those privileges for decades. We are delighted that your PAW Act will end some of the abuse on a Federal level, but we feel that it doesn't go far enough. We encourage you to consider adding a ban on the use of snow machines, as well as aircraft, to your PAW bill. Running a wolf down and shooting it from the back of a snow machine is equally barbaric and unjustified.
Representative Miller, my husband and I applaud the PAW Act. We would be honored to provide you with tools to convince your colleagues of the need to pass it. We hope to complete a special video including the excerpts we listed within the next few weeks. We will send you the video for your use, and make it known on the Internet.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke
Sir, thank you for acting to correct a grave error and injustice.
Dorothy & Leo Keeler
Wilderness Inspirations P.O. Box 433 Emigrant, Montana 59027 (406) 333-4366
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