Fairbanks Daily News-Miner from Fairbanks, Alaska on August 18, 1969 · Page 14
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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner from Fairbanks, Alaska · Page 14

Fairbanks, Alaska
Issue Date:
Monday, August 18, 1969
Page 14
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Page 14 article text (OCR)

A4—Fairbanks, Alosaka, Daily News-Miner, Monday, August 18,1 969 ANALYSIS & OPINION HickePs Heavy Hand Seen Behind Feds' Move to Halt Muskox Hunts ByJOELAROCCA Resources Editor The U.S. Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife unilaterally abrogated its long-standing agreement with the state of Alaska recently when it announced that it would not permit the muskox hunts on Nunivak Island which the State B'ishand Game Board last year scheduled for this fall. Lurking behind the bureau's public move, which virtually every wildlife technician in Alaska privately opposes, is the heavy hand of Interior Secretary Walter J. Hickel, whose removed from the island, or we risk the loss of most of the herd of some 800 in the event of a severe winter. Even John Teal Jr., probably the world's most ardent muskox protectionist, ruefully admitted to me personally last spring, and later so testified before a joint legislative resources. committee, that the only feasible solution to . the Nunivak problem is to permit limited hunting there, as the state Fish and Game Board has proposed. Already, the herd and the island range have deteriorated because of overgrazing, overpopulation and a wide sex ratio imbalance in favor of bulls, which are polygamous. Recently, for the first time since musk ox were transplanted onto Nunivak 34 years ago, the calf crop has declined . . . from 21 per cent of the total population in 1965, to 14 percent in 1968. A cursory survey last spring revealed evidence of similar calf—and for the first time, adult—mortality or lowered physical vigor as a result of last year's unusually harsh winter on Nunivak, coupled with the critical scarcity of forage. In the average winter of 1966-67, 500 muskox utilized nearly all of Nunivak's winterrange, according to the bureau's own studies. Since then, due to an increasing population, forage on winter ranges has further deteriorated. Forage plants are dead from overgrazing. Beach grass on the perimeters of the island, where muskox do virtually all their winter grazing, has helped to stabilize the sand dunes, but over-utilization by muskox is already creating a severe erosion condition which could take centuries to repair. The history of hoofed animals on Bering Sea islands has been marked irrational opposition to the hunts was conceived in 1968, when he was governor of Alaska. The 1962 agreement between he Alaska Pish and Game Department and the U.S. wildlife bureau, now scrapped, provided for the joint resource management of Alaska's muskox herd on the Nunivak Island federal wildlife refuge. Though the preogative for deciding whether the Nunivak muskox should be hunted lies with the state Fish and Game Deptarment, the wildlife bureau- a branch of the U.S. Interior Department which Hickel now heads—holds access jurisdiction onto Nunivak Island. Thus, the bureau can bar hunters authorized by the Fish and Game Department to take muskox from setting foot on the tiny Bering Sea island. Hickel's latest move, of relatively minor import in the overall scheme of things, nonetheless betrays a highly significant syndrome in the Hickel psyche, and confirms the conviction held within certain circles that, despite the high powered whitewash which Interior Department image makers have applied, Hickel remains essentially unchanged. His feeble grasp of natural environmental phenomena still penetrates clear down to the surface. Every wildlife management technician, range ecologist and biologist in Alaska and elsewhere who is familiar with the situation agrees that at least 250, probably more, non-productive bulls must be CARSON OILFIELD EXPEDITORS International Airport (907) 452-3296 by disaster, according to a recent bureau report. Nunivak reindeer during the 1940s declined from 30,000 to 5,000 in a few years; 2,000 reindeer on St. Paul Island dropped to eight over a few winters; and a herd of 6,000 caribou was reduced to less than 100 in a single winter. REUSABLE -65° Hose & Fitting ItwdlUuItt llAC* • Ini*t mm Jl -I •.!_•_ _ ^^ Hydraulic hot* • low-medium and high prot- •»«. W.'N m*. up and Install hoM •nd* to irour *|M<ificat!af». All ham or* OUAKAN- TCZPI LOCAUr OWNED AMP OfMATO 454-4414 ARK . .TKIAl AtlA The same fate could swiftly befall the Nunivak muskox, which are more vulnerable to Bering winter conditions than reindeer because they cannot dig down through any appreciable depth of the hard, compacted snow characteristic of Bering Sea islands. We face the real risk of losing the only viable, feral herd of this exotic and unique animal in the United States. The alternative to hunting the superannuated bulls is their methodical slaughter by wildlife management field personnel, if we are to protect the herd from imminent extinction, and the island range—which is also utilized by 8,000 to 10,000 reindeer—from further deterioration. Transplants have also been proposed as a solution, and two undertaken, and that is the pretext upon which the wildlife bureau now rationalizes its recent action. However, as a practical matter, the cost of effective and successful transplants is prohibitive, limited experience has already shown, and so far the two which have been carried out in Alaska have only served to aggravate further the serious sex ratio imbalance on Nunivak, since a preponderance of calves, heavily weighted in favor of females, is desireable for an optimum transplant. (See MUSKOX Page A-8) OIL IS WONDERFUL But it Won't Build a House It takes money to start construction Give yourself a saving start. Per Annum PAID QUARTERLY . McKINLEY MUTUAL SAVINGS BANK Now Announcing A NEW ADDITION TO OUR SALES STAFF Elmer Green WELDING ENGINEER WITH 30 YEARS EXPERIENCE GAS/ARC WELDING SUPPLIES 18 54 2nd Ave. only scheduled jet Slights to Alaska's North Slope! 23 FLIGHTS WEEKLY O Wien Consolidated £•• your travel ogont or dial 452-1381

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