2/23/15: AWA and others submit emergency petition for Denali Buffer Zone

On February 23rd, The Alaska Wildlife Alliance, along with Denali Citizens Council, National Parks Conservation, and seven individual citizens, submitted an emergency petition to the Alaska Board of Game. The petition, which can be downloaded below, requests that the BOG close certain lands along the eastern Boundary of Denali National Park and Preserve to the taking of wolves.

The buffer zone, as proposed in 2012

The buffer zone, as proposed in 2012. View a larger image here.

The following is excerpted from the petition:

The petition proposes simply that a small subset of the GMU 20 wolf population – the twenty to thirty individual animals that comprise what had been the most viewed 3 or 4 wolf packs in eastern Denali National Park – is at risk from take on adjacent state lands, and asks the State to grant protection to this small, unique subset of the GMU 20 wolf population due to its significant and disproportionate economic value to Alaska.

We note that Denali National Park contributes over $500 million each year to the state economy, and one of the main reasons tourists come to Denali is to see wildlife, including wolves.

The petitioners respectfully request that the Board place this Emergency Petition on its March 2015 meeting agenda, solicit and consider public comment, and act affirmatively on the petition.

The unexpected and precipitous decline in the Denali wolf resource (population and viewing success) clearly meets the threshold for emergency action by the Board. The wolf population across the 6 million acre park and preserve has declined from 143 wolves in fall 2007 to just 50 in fall 2014 – a drop of almost 2/3 in just six years. The spring 2014 wolf count in the park of just 50 wolves was the lowest in the park’s historical record, and remained at 50 in the fall count. It is highly unusual, indeed worrisome, that the 2014 Denali wolf population did not increase over the summer as it traditionally does.

2014-Denali-Wolf-Population

View a larger image here. Or go even larger with the PDF version linked at the bottom of this post.

Given the low count in fall 2014, it is expected that the wolf count for the park in spring 2015 survey will be even lower, likely again the lowest in the historical record. As well, it is expected that visitor viewing success of Denali wolves will remain extremely low in coming years, unless and until there is protection from trapping/hunting on state lands along the park boundary.

Just since the Board of Game removed the no-take Denali buffer in 2010, wolf-viewing success for the park’s 400,000 annual visitors has dropped precipitously – from 44% in 2010, to 21% in 2011, 12% in 2012, to just 4% in 2013 (the most recent year for which these data have been reported). As far as we are aware, this 3 precipitous decline in wildlife viewing success is unprecedented in the history of the U.S. National Park system.

View PDF versions of the above maps, and read the full petition here :