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Posted by Michael Strahan on Apr 19 2006
I was not aware of this situation; thanks for mentioning it.
I'm a huge fan of local rights to game, when there is not enough to go around. In a nutshell, I believe that when times are tough and there's not a lot of game around, the locals should come first (regardless of race), then Alaska residents, then non-residents and last of all, guides and other commercial operators. I've always believed this.
What makes this situation so offensive for people like you and I is the utter contempt it shows for wildlife. Even in the context of local issues involving people living in close proximity to lots of bears, it's just not acceptable to do something like this. In the broader sense, it makes it that much more difficult for local folks to lay claim to "first rights" to game. If you're opposed to those kinds of rights, a case like this should leave you drooling, because it demonstrates the contemptuous disregard for game laws. From some locals' perspective, our game laws are an outside imposition and inconvenience, but nothing more. They want a moose, they go shoot one. Doesn't matter if the season is closed or not. The perception is that the Feds are just going to look the other way anyway, so who cares about the law?
There are a lot of elements to this case if one takes the position of trying to understand, be sensitive to, and otherwise mollify local customs and practices. On the other hand, from another perspective, "if you break the law, you go to jail". Simple. The Federal government's apparent failure to follow through on this case brings us one step closer to an impending confrontation between local and non local hunting rights. The irony is that the governments' own foot-dragging here appears intended to allow locals (particularly native folks) to pretty much do as they please, but by their failure to follow through, the government is only making it easier for local preference to come under fire.
The native community needs to recognize the potential long-term consequences and pursue this issue (and others like it) to the full extent of the law. Failure to do so will only raise the ire of non-local hunters and commercial operators and could eventually compromise the rights of local hunters. It's one thing to turn a blind eye to someone feeding their family by shooting a moose out of season; it's another matter entirely to ignore someone going on a nighttime thrill-seeking jacklighting adventure for bears, wounding several and returning later to hack off a few claws for trophies. The former is understandable, but the latter is outrageously unacceptable by any standard.
It's time to enforce the lines that have already been drawn.
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