Statement by Jim Stratton, Senior Regional Director for Alaska, National Parks Conservation Association
“The Board of Game’s decision to continue its moratorium against even talking about reinstating the wolf buffer zone surrounding Denali National Park is just the latest blow from an agency that has forgotten that watching wildlife is every bit as important to Alaskans as killing it.”
“The Board of Game’s decision comes on the heels of the agency denying multiple emergency requests by the National Parks Conservation Association and a host of other concerned Alaska citizens last summer and fall, urging to reinstate the buffer zone. We raised the alarm upon reviewing initial data from the National Park Service, showing a sixty-six percent decline in the chances of seeing wolves on Denali Park Road since the buffer zone was eliminated in 2010. Park service researchers also counted the lowest population of wolves in 25 years, last October: only 57 wolves, down from a high of 143 wolves in 2007. Viewing wolves in Denali National Park not only provides visitors unforgettable memories; there are serious economic benefits associated with visitors traveling to Alaska with the sole purpose of seeing – not killing – wolves and other wildlife.”
Background: At its spring 2010 meeting, the Alaska Board of Game eliminated the Stampede and Nenana Canyon buffer zones, located along the north and eastern boundary of Denali National Park, despite public proposals to either retain or expand the existing buffer. The two zones covered approximately 122 square miles and were in place for nearly a decade before their elimination. The Board of Game also established a moratorium on future consideration of Denali buffer proposals from the public for 8-10 years.
- Since 2000 , the National Parks Conservation Association has documented more than 50 times where the state has rejected reasonable requests and adopted hunting regulations that conflict with the NPS wildlife management mandate, which provides for natural and healthy wildlife populations on Park Service lands.
- June, 2012 : The National Parks Conservation Association submitted a letter to Governor Parnell, requesting action on this issue. The letter was ignored.
- September 6, 2012 : The National Parks Conservation Association, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Alaska Center for the Environment, Conservation Biologist Rick Steiner, and others filed a petition, requesting the Alaska Board of Game to adopt emergency regulations that would reinstate the buffer zone before wolf trapping season opens on November 1. That petition was denied.
- October 10, 2012 : Following the preliminary information received from the park service, the petition was rewritten and resubmitted, arguing that emergency regulations could be established because the sharp decline in wolf-sightings by visitors to the national park was not anticipated when the buffers were removed in 2010, causing unanticipated economic impacts to Alaska’s tourism industry. This petition was also denied.
- January 10, 2013 : Alaska Board of Game unanimously votes against lifting its moratorium on considering Denali National Park wolf buffer proposals.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.