Alaska has long been known as a state with contentious issues surrounding wildlife management. A 1994 state law, commonly called the Intensive Management Law, dictates that wildlife on state lands must be managed for the highest sustainable yield for human consumption. In contrast, the National Park Service is mandated to preserve natural and healthy wildlife populations and to “...leave them in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” A conflict in management philosophy thus appears in areas of the state where federal park land abuts state land. Denali National Park and Preserve is surrounded by three state-managed Game Management Units. There are active predator control programs for bears and wolves in some of these units.
In 2000, buffer zones were established on state lands adjacent to Denali for the protection of wolves in areas of critical wolf and caribou winter habitat. The buffers made trapping and hunting of wolves illegal in these areas through 2010. The Alaska Board of Game planned to let these buffers lapse this year unless a new buffer proposal was approved. In an unsual political move, the National Park Service requested in early spring that the Board of Game keep and enlarge those buffers. Despite these suggestions and similar requests by the Denali Citizens Council and many Alaska residents, the Board indeed voted to eliminate the buffer zones. The decision was staggering, especially in light of the fact that Denali’s annual wolf survey north of the Alaska Range counted only 59 wolves in April of 2010, the lowest number since detailed counts began around 1980.
Lack of legal protection in Alaska is not unique to Denali’s wolves. This spring four wolves were killed by Alaska Fish and Game agents outside of Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve, including two that were collared and being studied by the National Park Service. The kills were a legal implementation of the Intensive Management Law.
Many park visitors in Denali this year were fortunate to see wolves from the Grant Creek Pack. They denned near the Toklat area once again and had rendezvous sites near the Plains of Murie and Highway Pass along the Park Road. The Mount Margaret Pack, closer to the Park entrance, was six wolves strong in 2009. The pack was decimated over the 2009-2010 winter, begging the question about what the impacts will be of removing the trapping buffer. Denali is one of the best places to view wolves in North America, and the value of its watchable wildlife shouldn’t be discounted.
For more information, or to find out how you can respond to the Board of Game’s decision, please visit the Denali Citizens Council.
Illustrations by William D. Berry and Amanda P. Devine
P.O. Box 67
Denali National Park, AK 99755
The enthusiasm of our staff is often what makes the guest experience so memorable. If you know of someone who would be a good fit for our organization, encourage him or her to view the employment pages of our website, www.campdenali.com. General staff positions are available for the 2013 season, as well as the following professional seasonal positions:
**Registered Nurses are encouraged to apply for any of our positions.
Denali is what America was; it’s the old and new, the real and ideal, the wild earth working itself into us on days stormy and calm, brutal and beautiful, unforgiving and blessed. It’s where we came from, long before agriculture, television and designer coffee, before our goofball ideas of having dominion over all living things, before our modern, paradoxical definitions of progress and prosperity, and too much stuff; it’s the lean, mean, primal place buried in our bones no matter how much we might deny it, no matter how fancy our homes, how busy our routines, how cherished our myths. Denali resides in each of us as the deep quiet, the profound moment, the childhood lost and found again, the open space and rare chance to be observant, truly alive.