Of course it seems we take hunting in Alaska for granted; after all, isn’t that why most of us are here? It certainly isn’t the climate, although this year one could make that argument. Taking things for granted is a comfortable place to be, requireslittle effort and things seem to go along just fine…until they don’t and then catching up is not exactly a place of advantage.
While it may not seem so, hunting in Alaska is under constant attack. For years we have taken the high road and not fussed too much when trails we pioneered have been overtaken by other user groups. We just moved on to other areas. If we do not pay attention, though, we may run out of areas. A recent case in point involves the National Park Service (NPS) electing to conduct a public opinion on Facebook in March of this year. The NPS has decided to usurp the Alaska Board of Game (BOG) authority in managing wildlife by restricting regulations on park preserve lands regarding wolf and coyote hunting put in place by the BOG. They asked for public comment and they got plenty. Most of the comments came from people who reside in suburbs or cities east of the Mississippi. It should come as no surprise these folks supported the NPS regulations and further espoused their opinion on the barbaric and bloodthirsty Alaska resident hunters. There were very few comments from hunters in Alaska. A most interesting course the conversation took was the NPS thanking those supporting their opinion and ignoring the few who did not. What is a mortal certainty is the NPS will use those public comments to justify their position, which leaves us looking as if we didn’t have a few moments to voice an opinion.
Now I don’t like this new world of communication via electronics; I grew up with information gleaned from reading the printed word and it is still what I prefer. But…in order to be able to respond in this very fast-paced world of Internet and all the social media that comes with it, I have had to adapt. Once I did, I was astonished to find how much information was out there regarding the outdoor world and a lot of it isn’t bent the direction of favoring the traditions of hunting. Every day there is new propaganda, sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle, put out regarding the hunting lifestyle that we all have pulsing through our veins. In order to glean all of this information there is the distasteful process of having to “like” or “follow” the various organizations who espouse it. If you want to know what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NPS—or take your pick—is doing, you have to connect at some level so notifications are sent your way and you have some opportunity to respond.
We hunters have long held a great deal of comfort in knowing that we “pay the way” for sound wildlife management. We have, but there is a new movement that is making very strong impressions on the non-hunting public. Natural diversity. That’s where we just let nature take its course. All fine in a world where there is no human involvement, not so fine when wildlife is being managed for the renewable natural resource it is. We hunters have long held the support of the vast majority of the non-hunting public. The anti-hunting crowd makes up about 5 percent of the population, hunters 10 percent and non-hunters the rest. The non-hunting population has held the belief that hunters are good stewards of wildlife and generally promote healthy wildlife populations that benefit everyone. The “natural diversity” argument suggests hunters have no place in healthy wildlife populations and it is gaining ground.
The crux of this is if we stand back and allow it because we have “another place to go,” we will pay a very dear price in the near future. The intent of this column is to try and keep Alaska’s hunters abreast of developing situations that demand a response. To inform of events, dates and developments that may affect the Alaska hunting world and to provide avenues to provide responses when they arise. We are at a turning point in our history and it is solely up to us to preserve what we have; I hope you all will join in the effort.