Activists are howling in protest — quite seriously — as Alaska’s officials recklessly continue to endanger other living beings throughout their territory. Regarding the government’s acceleration of predator control schemes, one Alaska newspaper recently declared:
Predator control — the killing of predators to allow game populations to flourish — has blossomed since Gov. Frank Murkowski was elected in 2002. He stocked the Game Board with advocates of predator control. He also let stand a controversial bill sponsored by Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, that allows private pilots to shoot wolves from the air or shortly after landing if they participate in state sponsored predator control.
Since November of 2003, private pilots and their passengers have received killing permits from the Alaska Board of Game and the state’s Department of Fish and Game. One by one, with the assistance of low, slow-flying aircraft, airborne hunters have traced, tracked, chased, and killed at least 144 wolves to date. This method of killing wolves has not been used since the late 1980s and is normally illegal in Alaska. And although Alaska’s voters have twice opted to end same-day use of aircraft for public hunting and trapping of wolves, the new killing permits have the governor’s approval.
The state now intends to eradicate wolves from a 3,300-square-mile designated kill-zone. Success, to a permit-holder, means a high body count.
Early in November of 2004, word got out that one of the flying teams had killed at least nine wolves outside the state-designated kill-zone. According to court documents, the team “wanted to be known as a successful participant in the aerial wolf hunt.” Frustrated by their inability to track wolves in the permitted area, two pilots reportedly went 80 miles beyond the legal area to find targets — and then falsified records in a ploy to avoid being caught.
Advocates Take Action
To intervene in the aerial assault on Alaska’s wolves, Friends of Animals has organized a boycott of the state’s $2 billion-a-year tourism industry. In 2003-2004, the first year of Alaska’s state-sponsored aerial wolf-killing scheme, over 200,000 people pledged to boycott travel to Alaska. Friends of Animals worked with more than 100 organizations and dedicated activists across North America, and in Germany, Japan and Great Britain, to host 159 “Howl-In” protests.
As announced in previous issues of ActionLine, the protests have resumed. To impact the summer 2005 season, Friends of Animals members and supporters arranged 16 Howl-Ins for November’s first weekend. The protests spanned the continent from California to New York. And they’ll continue through April 2005, or until Frank Murkowski calls off the state-sanctioned killers.
Howl-Ins can happen anywhere: at sanctuaries, workplaces, community events, shopping centers, universities, and restaurants. Organizers display posters announcing that “Alaska is planning a heart-stopping wildlife spectacle” and showing a wolf in a rifle’s crosshairs. Using compact disks and cassettes, activists accompany their vigils with the sound of howling wolves. This year, for the first time, advocates can show a video or DVD recording of a riveting public service announcement that takes the viewer along the desperate path of a wolf pursued through the snow by pilots. Although it is artistically presented and suitable for all ages, it is both spectacular and heartrending.
Will It Work?
According to the Alaska Travel Industry Association, Alaska had an estimated 1.4 million summer visitors in 2004, up 100,000 to 150,000 from the previous summer. The Murkowski administration claims, therefore, that the travel boycott has not been effective.
Tourism has rebounded in part due to an unprecedented $50 million public relations effort that the U.S. Department of Commerce has recently undertaken, in concert with the State Department and the Office of Homeland Security, to promote U.S. tourism. This initiative is, according to Adweek, a direct response to the United States’ loss of market share after it tightened restrictions on travel in late 2001.
Thus, Alaska has benefited from substantial federal advertising. We plan to counteract that effect, to the extent we can, by educating people all over the world about the state government’s attitudes. We continue to receive word from numerous supporters who have cancelled plans to travel to Alaska in the coming year.
We ask you, our members, to support the interests of free-living animals in one of the few places left in the U.S. where freedom is — or should be — possible. The state of Alaska intends to kill hundreds of wolves this winter. The four aerial wolf-killing schemes now in place are expected to run for at least five years. Without unremitting protest, the assault on the wolves of Alaska will continue, and it will pave the way for maltreatment of other animals in the future.
To support Friends of Animals’ interventions for Alaska’s wolves, avoid travel to Alaska and ask the people you know to do the same. For information on holding a Howl-In, send a message by e-mail to email@example.com, or call our office and let us know of your interest (203-656-1522 for our headquarters; 212-247-8120 for our New York office).
Please also write to Frank Murkowski with a pledge to boycott travel to Alaska until the state stops its anti-wolf campaign (and send us a copy of your letter if you can).
Gov. Frank Murkowski
PO Box 110001
Juneau, AK 99811