By Courtney Kratz, Contributor
When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher asked my class to find footage of our favorite animals on YouTube for a presentation. I remember searching for videos of wolves and instead finding footage of aerial hunting. To this day, it is some of the most shocking and inhumane footage I have ever witnessed. Wolves are hunted down by plane, shot upwards of 15 times and pursued over the snow as they bleed and run themselves to death. It is not quick. It is not painless.
I sent quite a few letters to the Alaskan government and my own representatives in shaky, fifth-grade handwriting in the hopes of explaining that wolves were my favorite animal so please don’t kill them all. In August of 2016, Obama’s administration banned aerial hunting and other inhumane practices in Alaskan refuges. That was a remarkable day for me, seeing legislation I had been following since the fifth grade finally passed.
But my relief was short lived, because a month ago, the House of Representatives approved a resolution that would repeal the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule, overturning the hard work of Obama’s administration and my impassioned fifth-grade letters. The truth of the matter is that under President Trump, the GOP sees an opportunity for a massive attack on environmental conservation laws. As citizens, we need to look more closely at what the Republican Congress is trying to push through in the midst of all the controversy over our current president.
This resolution, now on its way to the Senate, would give Alaska exclusive authority over what its representatives call “intensive predator management.” This is not in accordance with federal laws, which protect against inhumane hunting methods such as the use of baiting, trapping, aerial shooting, targeting wolf pups and bear cubs in their dens or targeting mother bears with cubs.
I think Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) said it best when he said that this is so astonishing it is hard to believe it is being taken seriously. These practices are cruel, savage and inhumane. Steel claw leg traps often result in animals being left for days in the wild, often attempting to chew off their own limbs. Baiting leaves out food to encourage the congregating of bears in order to shoot them all en masse. Aerial hunting involves the scattering of wolf packs, which is detrimental to pack social structures, and hunting them down by plane as they continue to run, bleeding to death, from the hunters flying overhead.
“This is not sportsmanship. It is purportedly aimed at increasing populations of caribou and moose but defies modern science of predator-prey relationships. And finally, it is inconsistent with the laws guiding management of our National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska,” said Former Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in a blog for the Huffington Post.
The Alaskan government has a history of attempting to convert the state’s tourism into a quick and easy stop for moose and caribou hunters. It is believed, against all understanding of ecosystems, that killing predators will lead to more moose and caribou for human hunters. It is mass killing to provide opportunities for more mass killing. Such practices will decimate populations of predators and rob future generations of the chance to see these iconic species in their ancestral home. It also takes away the opportunity for ethical hunters to pursue their sport the way it was intended.
Furthermore, refuges are not refuges when infant pups and bear cubs are at risk of being slaughtered. Refuges are also, and have always been, under the jurisdiction of the federal government, not the state, and certainly not the Alaska Board of Game from which most of this legislation stems. The point of our democracy is not to pander to an influential few, but to protect our values and heritage in the interest of all. These refuges, which encompass more than 73 million acres in Alaska, do not belong to special interest hunting groups without regard for true sport. They belong to the American people.
The need to protect the next generations of endangered species, particularly bear cubs and wolf pups in Alaska, should be understood by representatives who have been entrusted to preside over the lands in which these animals live. The natural heritage of America is comprised by much more than the slaughter of animals. It is comprised of a history of stewardship of the natural world, of mistakes and of attempts to continually rectify our faults to make ourselves better protectors and appreciators of the national parks and the flora and fauna that share our country with us.
Congressional efforts should be about preservation and protection, not slaughter. I grew up understanding that the purpose of government was to preserve and protect, but in the last few months I have been repeatedly forced to question this kind of idealism. The idea of the government, my government, capitalizing on the controversy caused by our president to pass legislation that permits the slaughtering of infant animals is quite frankly sickening. American citizens must speak up for the voiceless, for the wolves and bears who will be gassed, slaughtered and torn apart by such vicious killing.
Our representatives are shirking their responsibilities to themselves, to their constituents and to the lands of the American people. The kind of killing this legislation would allow is not sport. It is abuse. It is inhumane. And it is not the kind of legislation that we should allow to pass so easily through the United States Senate.