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Conservation group targets Palin in new campaign

Judd (Peter Kramer / The Spokesman-Review)
Judd (Peter Kramer / The Spokesman-Review)
By Tom Kizzia McClatchy

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Defenders of Wildlife has put Gov. Sarah Palin in the crosshairs of a new national campaign focusing on Alaska’s predator control program as an example of the governor’s “wider anti-conservation agenda.”

The new campaign features an Internet video in which actress Ashley Judd says, “It is time to stop Sarah Palin and stop this senseless savagery.”

The campaign, unveiled Monday, drew a response from the governor’s office.

“It is reprehensible and hypocritical that the Defenders of Wildlife would use Alaska and my administration as a fundraising tool to deceive Americans into parting with their hard-earned money,” Palin said Tuesday in a statement.

She called Defenders an “extreme fringe group” that she said was “twisting the truth.” Palin defended Alaska’s program as scientifically based and an important effort to sustain game populations for Alaska hunters.

The state’s predator control program has been in the middle of state and national controversies before. What’s different this time is it appears to be the first featured item in a larger campaign aimed at Palin herself.

The new Defenders campaign is called Eye on Palin. The campaign Web site, adorned with photos of Alaska’s governor, includes a ticker counting the number of wolves killed in the “aerial slaughter” and another page for donations. The site claims Palin is teaming up with “wealthy special interest groups” to expand control efforts, which the group said were being carried out for the benefit of “out-of-state hunting interests.”

The new campaign is being run by the political arm of the national group Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, said Wade Willis, the Alaska representative of the group’s nonprofit arm.

The state’s “intensive management” program targets wolves and bears in six specific zones where moose or caribou populations are judged to be too low. The program has killed more than 800 wolves in five years and a much smaller number of bears.

Four of the plans are scheduled to come before the state Board of Game at its Feb. 27-March 9 meeting in Anchorage. The public comment period for those plans is now open.

The intensive management program allows hunters with permits to shoot wolves from the air. They are required to retrieve the animals and can keep the hides.

The Defenders Web site criticizes Palin for a $150 bounty proposal and a $400,000 state-funded “propaganda campaign.”

The bounty was proposed in 2007, when aerial hunters were killing fewer predators than biologists deemed useful. The bounty was rejected by a state court before any money was paid.

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