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 Groups Challenge Wolf Killing, Thursday, November 23, 2006
Elffster
Posted: Nov 23 2006, 03:40 AM


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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Another lawsuit has been filed in a new attempt by conservation groups to stop the state-sponsored killing of wolves.

Three conservation groups are seeking to halt the state from issuing permits to shoot wolves under the aerial wolf control program now operating in five areas of the state.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, Defenders of Wildlife, The Alaska Wildlife Alliance and the Sierra Club have asked a Superior Court judge to stop the state from issuing the permits, said Valerie Brown, an attorney for the groups.

The request for a preliminary injunction also asks the court to order permitted gunners to hold their fire.

Under the program, private individuals can apply for permits to shoot wolves with the help of aircraft. Permitted gunners in planes can chase wolves from the air, then land and shoot. In some areas, they can kill wolves while airborne. The program also authorizes the shooting of bears.

The program intended to boost moose and caribou population is entering its fourth year.

Under the program, 564 wolves and a smaller number of bears have been killed. More than 150 wolves were killed last year. The program now encompasses about 10 percent of Alaska.

Sixty-eight pilots are registered to fly under the program, said Cathie Harms, a regional program manager with the Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks. Each pilot can carry more than one gunner.

The state must respond to the conservation groups' request by Monday.

"Our legal staff is writing the state's response," Harms said. She said she expects the court to rule on the injunction request within two or three weeks.

The Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife and the Anchorage-based Wildlife Alliance filed a lawsuit with the court in August, arguing the program should be halted because it relies on faulty science and violates state law. The Sierra Club, headquartered in San Francisco, has joined the lawsuit. Friday's injunction request was a tactic in the lawsuit.

In January, a state judge ruled that the program allowing aerial-aided killings was invalid. The state Game Board revised the program and it was allowed to go forward.

In their lawsuit, the conservation groups are challenging the revision.

In May, the board also implemented new rules to encourage bear killing in some areas. The conservation groups want those rules removed, too.
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