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Protest Meets Couric's Wish to Catch an Alaska Salmon

April 28, 2005 | Alaska Boycott

Group wants public refusal to visit until ‘war’ on wildlife is ended

By Doug O’Harra, Anchorage Daily News, Anchorage, Alaska (Published: April 28, 2005)

After “Today” show host Katie Couric exclaimed on air Tuesday morning that she’d love to visit Alaska to catch a salmon, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich issued an official invitation and Tenth & M Seafoods donated two smoked Cook Inlet sockeye fillets to whet her desire.

But a Connecticut-based animal rights group has asked Couric to stay away until Alaska stops killing wolves and bears.

Friends of Animals faxed a letter to Couric on Wednesday, urging her to join a national tourism boycott over the state’s predator control programs and hunting policies, said Susan Russell, the group’s information officer. She e-mailed a copy of the letter to the Daily News.

“We’re trying to make an impact on Gov. (Frank) Murkowski, that his current policy of decimating predators and wolves and grizzlies — to destroy animals so that humans can kill other animals — is going to impact badly on the state,” said Russell, in a phone interview. “The boycott has worked in the past, and we’re going to double our efforts to make sure it works again.”

Neither Couric or “Today” show officials could be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. But reaction in Alaska ranged from incredulity to disdain.

“Friends of Animals doesn’t understand Alaska or Alaskans, and the governor won’t be pressured by any Outside special interest group,” said Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg. “We’ve been hearing threats of boycotts for the last two years and, quite frankly, they haven’t been very successful.”

Tenth & M owner Skip Winfree said the group was trying to turn an “excellent gesture” by Begich into a “rotten apple.”

And Begich said he just wants Couric to know that Anchorage can be the gateway to her Alaska dream.

“We’re a destination. People want to come because there’s no place like it,” he said. “Katie Couric wants to come here. I want to get her here. She wants to go king salmon fishing. I think that’s great. That’s our focus.”

The unlikely collision between Anchorage civic PR and the intractable controversy over Alaska predator management began when Couric and co-host Matt Lauer were chatting about a new segment that aims to take “viewers on an adventure to experience the top 50 things everyone should get to do before they die.”

Included in an online list of potential trips are things like “Feed sharks,” “Visit the oval office” and “Explore the Alaskan wilderness.”

Couric said the Alaska adventure topped her list. “I’d like to go salmon fishing in Alaska, you know at the height of the season when they’re jumping out of the water,” she told Lauer, according to a story posted online by KTUU, the Anchorage television station that carries the show for NBC.

“I have never been to Alaska, and I think that would be beautiful,” she added.

From an Alaska tourism marketing point of view, such a positive statement by a popular TV personality during the peak of morning broadcasting is no trivial banter.

A 30-second commercial on the “Today” show costs $65,000 to $70,000 and reaches almost 6 million viewers, including about 11,000 people in Anchorage, said Nancy Johnson, KTUU marketing director.

That Couric’s comments came spontaneously makes them even more valuable and influential, Johnson added. “Content can’t be bought.”

Now Friends of Animals would like Couric to issue a different statement — that she won’t go to Alaska on a personal visit until Murkowski ends predator control of wolves and bears, Russell said.

“If the “Today” show would like to go and cover what’s happening to Alaska wildlife, the war on Alaska wildlife, then we’d love to talk to them,” she added. “If they want to go to Alaska as part of some travel show, then we don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Begich, ever the diplomat, said that all sides of the controversy are welcome in Anchorage, including staffers from Friends of Animals.

“I appreciate their views from Connecticut, but we have a great city here,” he said. “If they want to come up, I’ll get them out king salmon fishing too.”

Comments

It always amazes me how those who don't live someplace have the best ideas on how we should live and how we should act. How many years has Susan Russell lived in Alaska? Does she realize that we do not live in igloo's, nor do we take dog sleds to work each morning. I am all for Animal rights, I am an avid equestrian, love my horses, my dogs and my cats. I also love and respect the moose that appear in my backyard on a regular basis as well as the occasional bear. The one thing I am certain of is that the people, myself being one of them respect and take care of the wildlife here. Sometimes things need to be done for the better good. Alaskans aren't running around 'shooting up bears and wolves' just for the fun of it. As I said in the beginning it truly amazes me how everyone else knows what's best for Alaska, except for the Alaskans. You tell us what to do in regards to our wildlife, yet you don't live here, if in fact you've ever even been here. Why don't you walk or peddle here with your good friends who are against drilling in ANWR because I'm sure the using of oil/gas is against all that you believe as well. [Blog editors' note: Yes, Karen, we do urge people to reduce dependence on drilling. Humans are not the only residents of Alaska, and the interests of other animals in simply living their lives (as you seem to want to do) should not be so casually dismissed. As far as telling others what to do, well, that's not our thing. We make changes in our own lives before we address what others do in theirs. Alaska, however, happens to be part of our region of the world -- at least that's what most of our passports say.]

How funny that Alaskans reach out to 'outsiders' when they have a big wallet and no ability to speak out against their actions. I bet that if Couric mentioned the realities of animal exploitation/killing in AK, she'd be labeled another 'emotional outsider' who has no understanding of how 'we live up here.' Hypocrisy at its finest! Scott

An email sent to The Today Show: I am a resident of Juneau AK and would like to add my support to the position of the Friends of Animals animal-rights group that Katie Couric publically refuses to visit AK to "catch a salmon" until our war on wildlife has ended. Not all Alaskans are in favor of our state's horrific practice of killing wolves and bears, particularly the aerial killing of wolves. These are inhumane and barabric practices, and I urge Ms. Couric to rethink her position in supporting bringing her and other's tourist dollars to Alaska until this practice is ended. I urge that Ms. Couric make a public statement to counter her support of Alaska tourism in light of these inhumane and barbaric practices. Sincerely, Virginia Mulle

As an Alaskan, I appreciate any efforts any person or group puts forth to bring the cruel slaughter of wolves in our state to an end. The residents of Alaska have twice voted down shooting wolves from airplanes, but the Board of Game refuses to honor the majority's vote. Apparently, there will be very few wolf sitings in the Denali Park as the Toklat family of wolves have been decimated this year. Please keep trying to bring this cruel treatment of wolves to the public's attention as you have done so well with the letter to Katie Couric.

This is RIDICULOUS! honestly people, GROW UP! I'm only 19 years old and I'm disgusted. Katie Couric wants to come fishing in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and my home state. People outside Alaska do NOT understand my state. Trust me - I go to school in Pennsylvania and I am STILL convincing college students that we do not live in igloos. The issues Alaska faces are completely unique...we're practically our own country. I do not agree with all of the hunting practices in our state, but you people need to realize we have a very difficult balance to handle. If predators, such as wolves and bears, rise too high in numbers, they kill off the moose and other creatures. Plus, bears can become a huge threat to people. Ask the man who just got mauled in Soldotna. Alaskans have a wonderful opportunity in that we live in some of the world's most amazing wilderness. But it is a constant battle to try and balance the needs and safety of people while still maintaining our environment. Certainly, it's not easy and our politicians are not perfect, but they do a pretty good job. When we deal with issues of animals, we have to balance the interests of the Alaska Natives and Eskimos, hunters, environmentalists, outdoors enthusiasts, and the general population. If people want to boycott my state because you don't like our policies, go ahead. If you're going to bring your lack of knowledge and predjudiced attitude with you, then maybe we don't want to visit you. But leave poor Katie Couric alone. All the woman wants to do is go fishing! As a lifetime fisherwoman, I echo Begich's invitation - come on up! We'd love to have you enjoy one of the most wonderful places on earth! [Blog editors' note: The concern of some Alaskans for balancing the "interests of the Alaska Natives and Eskimos, hunters, environmentalists, outdoors enthusiasts, and the general population" is duly noted, as is the lack of any consideration, by some, of other animals' interests -- and that's what we're here for. Visitors might wish to note our name: Friends of Animals. That includes the wolves, bears, caribou, and salmon. It also includes humans such as Katie Couric, who, we hope, will consider the way an example is set by public figures.]

I must say after reading the comments and then the editors' notes on two of them you certainly are one sided. I am in no way for the random killing of ANYTHING!! But get real. I have lived in Alaska for over 15 years and haven't seen any blatant cruelty to animals. As both women mentioned sometimes things have to be done for various reasons. The Game officials here are so geared toward the animal life here it's amazing. Just the other day a moose tried to jump a fence and was stuck halfway piercing her in the stomach. Instead of putting the animal down, they tranquilized her, got her off the fence, moved her to a safer area and made sure she was okay and waited until she woke up and went on her merry way. I don't proclaim to be a wolf expert, but I know that there are reasons for what they are doing and that they are not just going out to kill wolves for the fun of it. I'm sure you all are Vegen's and find it horrible that there are those who eat meat, I do and that is my choice and that's one reason I choose to live in these United States. We in Alaska are not hurting you, yes unfortunately some animals may die. That saddens me, however it's not just for sport there are reasons. I don't wear fur coats, I find it horrifying to how seals are clubbed to death. I also find it horrifying how everyday men and women get behind the wheel of a car after drinking and kill innocent people. How children are being taken from there own bedrooms and tortured and killed. How domestic violence even has a name, that says someone you love beats you. This whole thing started because a 'celebrity' Katie Couric wants to go salmon fishing in Alaska. How sad that you have to grab whatever you can to make YOUR point! Alaska is THE most beautiful place on earth. The summers here are incredible and one would be lucky to have the chance to visit. Katie Couric is just a person like you and me and apparently she has excellent taste in vacation spots. Katie we welcome you with open arms. I guarantee that your trip here will be one you won't soon forget. I pray that one day the world will be perfect, but for now I choose to be a Happy Alaskan.

As an Alaskan I say WELCOME to Ms. Couric and I hope you catch a huge salmon and have the time of your life in our lovely state. The beauty of Alaska is beyond words and those who call it home cherish and take care of our home. Alaska has two (2) major industries, one is oil, which we all know ANWR seems to bother people (do the homework). The other is tourism. After reading different areas of this website it seems that you are against ANWR, so against oil drilling here in Alaska. It also appears that you are against tourism as you are also asking those who plan, or may plan to visit Alaska to boycott Alaska because of the killing of wolves. So are you just against Alaska, as you are against both of our major forms of revenue. Bottom line in regards to the original story: WELCOME TO ALASKA KATIE COURIC, THE SALMON ARE WAITING!

Dear contributors from Alaska: It's not a matter of disliking a state. We appreciate Alaska. That's why we remind Alaskans that we are not talking only of political boundaries when we talk of the value of pristine habitat, the importance of tribes of wolves living on their own terms, the health and gladness of birds, caribou, marine and other animals. That's why we warn that oil development and the wiping out of animals impoverishes us all. Visitors are right to say that we also urge respect for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And recently, ecologists and environmentalists have noted that the National Petroleum Reserve, to the west of the wildlife refuge, is valuable habitat, also under threat from oil and gas development. Recall the 19th century Cree Indian saying, "Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught" — and that includes being reduced to livestock for our consumption — will we notice that we cannot eat money. That is what is important here. Even television personalities should take note. Lee Hall
Friends of Animals

Hi, Katie! Come on up!!! We would love to have you and show you that we are not bloodthirsty savages slaugtering innocent little animals for no good reason. Sheldon [Blog editors have duly noted that the bloodthirsty savages only slaughter innocent little animals for a good reason.]

Last time we checked, Alaska is still part of the United States. Denali National Park and Preserve is part of the national park system. Our major parks, including Yellowstone, were preserved at the initiative of "outsiders." The "greater good" of running down and destroying wolves and grizzlies to preserve more moose and caribou for (many "out-of-state") hunters to shoot continues to elude us. As the Economist wrote: "Then again, cars kill some 600 moose in Alaska each year. Time to hunt a few fords?"

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