Former governor Tony Knowles on Alaska's predator policies

 

During his 1994 to 2002 tenure, former Democratic Alaska governor Tony Knowles implemented non-lethal — albeit expensive — ways to control predator populations in Alaska: Instead of shooting wolves from helicopters, for example, he relocated and sterilized packs that preyed on the caribou herds Alaskans relied on for food. 

Since he’s left office, though, the state’s predator control efforts have grown increasingly lethal. Knowles continues to push for a more moderate approach, chairing the National Parks Advisory Board and testifying against bear snaring. He spoke with High Country News this week about a new National Park Service proposal that will curtail predator control on federal lands. The following is edited for length and clarity.

tonyknowles-jpg
Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles testifies in opposition to bear snaring before the Alaska Board of Game in 2012.
AP Photo/Dan Joling


High Country News How has Alaska’s approach to wildlife management changed in the 12 years since you left office? 

Tony Knowles The most disappointing thing is that the balance of views on the Board of Game has just disappeared. I tried to work with a balanced board that reflected subsistence hunters, sport hunters, guides and conservationists, but now the Board is made up of people who want to make hunting ungulates the priority for wildlife management. There’s been a focused effort to dramatically reduce populations of wolves, coyotes and bears, and the methods and means they’ve used are both unscientific and unethical.

HCN Like what? 

TK Bears. Even though bears are a predator both of moose and caribou, snaring them or killing sows with cubs in their dens to somehow, hopefully increase moose and caribou numbers just doesn’t work. Grizzly bears have one of the slowest reproduction rates of all mammals. It’s so easy to over-harvest them, and that’s just never been part of the Alaska history. When the Board of Game proposed allowing snaring across Alaska, there was a group of wildlife biologists, scientists and researchers that protested snaring as unscientific because you can’t target or differentiate between sows with cubs and male bears. And it’s incredibly inhumane.

HCN Do you think the changes in state policy reflect an overall shift in the attitude toward wildlife in Alaska?

TK I think the vast majority of Alaskans have a respect for all wildlife and certainly the ethics of harvesting. I can remember Jay Hammond, one of the great Alaska governors, when he was a homesteader out in Lake Clark. There was a bounty on wolves, and he was the top bounty collector. But when he was governor, he appointed the first non-consumptive representatives to the Board of Game. People here have always respected that different views can help come to the best solutions on very complex issues.

HCN What would you change right now, if you could?

TK I think we can certainly return to the cooperation between state and federal agencies that worked for a generation. We can recognize that the state currently has predator control laws that are legal and apply to state lands, and that that the national parks system has its own statutes and regulations that protect the diversity of all species. Just because they’re different doesn’t mean we can’t have collaboration.

HCN How will the new proposed rule by the National Park Service change things?

TK Sixty percent of America’s national park land is in Alaska. I think most Americans would be in favor of prohibiting lethal predator control on national preserves, because it favors people who want to hunt caribou and moose over people who just want to enjoy the park in its natural diversity. I think most Americans would be surprised to learn that Alaska has tried to permit killing wolves and coyotes and their pups at a time of year when there’s absolutely no value to the pelts. They’d be surprised that you can kill bear in their dens with artificial light, and bait grizzly bears with donuts and bacon grease, which has never been allowed anywhere. This proposed rule ends that.

Next year, when we’ll be celebrating the centennial of the national park system, I think this rule will serve as a reaffirmation of the values that are so important to our big landscapes and national parks here in Alaska.

Return to:

Sweeping new rule for Alaska’s predator control
High Country News Classifieds
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Deschutes Land Trust, based in Bend, Oregon, seeks a collaborative and strategic Executive Director to lead us in pursuing our mission: to conserve and care...
  • DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
    Job Title: Development Manager Supervisor: Senior Director of Development Effective Date: May 17, 2021 Job Status: Full-time (40 hours/week), exempt Location: Within the Colorado Plateau...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    - The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region - The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Executive Director Reports To: Board of Directors Compensation: $75,000 to $80,000, plus generous benefits and paid leave. Funding for relocation expenses available. Classification:...
  • WATER DIRECTOR
    Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Application review will begin on April 2, 2021 and will continue until the position has been filled....
  • CLIMATE JUSTICE FELLOW
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks applicants for a climate justice fellowship. The fellowship...
  • VIRGINIA SPENCER DAVIS FELLOWSHIP
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is offering a fellowship for early-career journalists interested in...
  • COLORADO WILD PUBLIC LANDS VIDEO CONTEST
    Please submit your video of 30 seconds or less, taken on public lands, to [email protected] by May 15th for a chance to win in one...
  • WMAN NETWORK COORDINATOR
    WESTERN MINING ACTION NETWORK (WMAN) CONTRACT OPPORTUNITY CLOSING DATE: Feb. 19, 2021 WMAN is seeking a team member to coordinate the various network activities to...
  • FRIENDS OF THE INYO IS HIRING TRAIL AMBASSADORS FOR THE SUMMER OF 2021
    Friends of the Inyo's Trail Ambassadors (TAs) support the Inyo, Sierra, & Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests and other partners by providing positive public service, outreach, interpretation,...
  • LAND & CABIN ON CO/ UT LINE
    18 ac w/small solar ready cabin. Off grid, no well. Great RV location. Surrounded by state wildlife area and nat'l parks.
  • MANAGER PERMACULTURE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR
    Permaculture / Landscape Company Manager / Site Lead Red Ant Works, Inc. - 20+ year landscape construction and horticultural care company seeks manager and site...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau with lodge, river trip and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is looking for a passionate, dynamic, organized, and technology-savvy communications professional to help grow our membership and presence in the Four...
  • ENERGY AND CLIMATE PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    San Juan Citizens Alliance seeks an Energy and Climate Program Associate to focus on public outreach, education and organizing to advance campaigns to mitigate climate...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    This position provides professional real estate services and is responsible for managing and completing real estate projects utilizing a project management database that is designed...
  • WILDFIRE MITIGATION SPECIALIST
    The Wildfire Mitigation Specialist is responsible for delivering wildfire risk mitigation information, recommendations and programmatic resources to wildland urban interface homeowners, community members and partners....
  • DEVELOPMENT POSITIONS
    Thorne Nature Experience is hiring for a Development Director and Senior Individual Giving Manager. Individuals will work collaboratively with Thorne's Executive Director to develop and...
  • SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION & ENERGY
    The National Parks Conservation Association, a 100-year-old nonprofit advocacy organization and the nation's leading voice for national parks seeks a Senior Program Manager, Landscape Conservation...
  • BACKCOUNTRY AND FRONTCOUNTRY STEWARDSHIP CREW MEMBERS
    The San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) is hiring a crew of ambassadors to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to educate visitors on...