Commentary: Denali buffer needs to be restored to protect wolves

The state Board of Game erred last week when it voted to remove protection for Denali National Park wolves on state land bordering the park. The 4-3 decision makes some of the most viewed and studied wolves on earth vulnerable to trapping in a swath of land known as the "wolf townships." The board's decision isn't an invitation to slaughter. Wolves are hard to trap and kill. More open territory won't have any significant effect on Alaska's wolf population, which is healthy and likely to remain so.

But the decision may well disrupt Denali's packs and reduce the numbers of easily seen wolves that thrive in the protection of Denali National Park and Preserve.

Some board members expressed some tit-for-tat politics at play; they said they might be more sympathetic to the desires of National Park Service officials and wolf advocates if they got a little more cooperation on matters like predator control. That's not the high road, not the way to temper the passions ignited by wolves.

The park service and conservationists wanted to expand the buffer zones, arguing that hundreds of thousands of visitors to Denali and the views of hundreds of Alaskans living in the area outweighed the desires of a few trappers.

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