Bound and determined to open one worm can after another, aren't you, Mike?
Alaska's constitution, Article 8, §4:
Fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands, and all other replenishable resources belonging to the State shall be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses.
Like any constitutional language, it's clear as glacial runoff. But it answers two extreme questions: 1) Should we just let nature run its course? 2) Can't we just maximize the population of the critters people want most to use?
The answer to both questions is no.
Our constitution requires some management to ease the 'peaks and valleys' of naturally occurring population swings. Just as we're talking about 'predator control' in some GMUs, game managers are using cow permits and a (dangerous) derby-style 'any bull' hunt in Gustavus to keep the booming moose population from overbrowsing the area and crashing through the floor when a hard winter hits.
The debate comes in the middle. How low a population level is less than 'sustainable'--Should we start 'predator control' because hunting is tougher than it used to be? How high is more than 'sustainable'--Ought there be a cow moose hunt on the Tanana flats?
I don't pretend to have those answers. But we can't get them with the pittance this state spends on wildlife science. It's reprehensible that we don't have the science to win in court when one scientist working against predator control testifies that our surveys are inadequate. Some would say what’s reprehensible is going forward with the program with thin science…
I’m not a predator control fan. I think it ought to be a last resort, and executed by state employees (who don’t take pelts home with them) in helicopters. The notion of pilot-gunner teams ‘hunting’ wolves gives hunters a bad name with those non-hunters we most need to talk to: the vast majority who aren’t against hunting, but don’t themselves partake.
More science is expensive. No question there. But without adequate science our harvests will always be managed to err on the side of lower take, and efforts to respond to population emergencies (real or perceived) will be thrown out in court. We will also lose in the court of public opinion. I submit it’s more than worth the added costs to pay for science. (As an aside, we ought to pay our biologists more, too. We’re losing our best to the feds and the biotech world at a frightening rate…)
I also think there have been some good ideas on this forum about lowering nonresident tag fees in certain GMUs for predator species so hunters actually hunt the predators in question. If that means there's a little less in the Fish & Game fund, we'll need to supplement with general funds. But we ought to do that anyway.