Saturday, 13 March 2010

Chuck Heath Sr. to little Billy Geerhart: No aerial wolf-hunting in Alaska - just the Russians do it! - UPDATE

By Patrick and Kathleen

Little Billy is a curious little schoolboy. He likes to write to prominent people, shows interest in what they are doing and asks them questions. In 2008, Sarah Palin caught his attention after being nominated as the vice-presidential Republican candidate. Back then, he wrote to her:

"Dear Governor Palin, This is a project for my school. We're supposed to write to ask someone we admire a question. My grampa helped me find your address. He likes the way you wink at him from the TV. My question is if we visited Alaska would you take us wolf hunting from your helicopter? That would be really cool! Could you also send a picture? Sincerely, Billy"

Billy was lucky - he received a personal reply from a member of the Palin-family! It reads:

"Billy, Thank you for your letter to Governor Palin. I'll get it to her tomorrow. Like your Grandpa, I also like the way Sarah winks. I'm helping her with the mail... No wolf hunting from helicopters here. The news media thought that up. It is done in Russia, though, where pictures came from. Best Regards, Chuck Heath (Sarah's dad)"

Here is a screenshot of the letter:

Chuck Heath copy letter - 2

Chuckles also likes the way his daughter Sarah "winks"...?

A cold state, a"hot" Governor -
and a father with a strange sense of humor

Anyway: No wolf hunting takes place from helicopters in Alaska, according to Chuck Heath Sr. Just the evil Russians do it - not the good Americans. Billy certainly is reassured now.

But little Billy isn't happy - because he doesn't exist. He was invented by William Geerhart who wrote thousands of letters to famous public figures during the last 15 years. "The Independent" (UK) reports today:

"Billy Geerhart was actually a bored adult, who has spent 15 years scrawling fake letters to public figures. The highlights have now been compiled in a book, Little Billy's Letters, which is due out in the UK next month.

William Geerhart, to use the author's proper name, invented Little Billy in 1994, when he moved to Los Angeles hoping to become a screenwriter, but found himself temporarily unemployed.

His first letter was fake fanmail to Dan Quayle. The former US Vice President's reply suggests that he accepted, without question, the proposition that an eight-year-old had recently ploughed through his turgid memoirs.

After that, Mr Geerhart began sending a letter every few days, squirrelling the replies away in a private collection. He has narrowed down the 1,000 or so replies to little Billy's letters to 120 for his book. Highlights include a letter from OJ Simpson's attorney, Robert Shapiro, offering advice on how Billy might get away with having destroyed his sister's doll: he should accuse the family dog of eating it and hire "a good forensic dentist".

Mr Geerhart said yesterday that he'd had trouble pitching the book to publishers because of concerns about copyright. But William Morrow eventually took it on, hoping to mimic the success of similar bestsellers, such as William Donaldson's Henry Root Letters."

More reports about William Geerhart and his new book can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

Chuck Heath is of course correct. Alaskans don't hunt wolves from helicopters - because they do it from small planes!

(EDIT: I was wrong - Alaskans DO hunt from helicopters - see updates 1 + 2)

Slate reported in September 2008:

"Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska and John McCain's vice presidential pick, is an enthusiastic hunter who has proposed legislation and cash incentives to encourage aerial wolf gunning, the controversial practice of shooting wolves from an aircraft. Do people in Alaska really shoot wolves from planes?

Yes, but only with the government's permission. Aerial shooting yields better results than traditional hunting, since it allows the hunter to cover a lot of ground quickly and track target animals from a clear vantage point. Historically, hunters also used planes to drive animals—polar bears in Alaska and elk in Montana, among others—toward gunmen waiting on the ground. But many hunters found the practice unsportsmanlike, since it violates the "fair chase" ethic, and animal rights activists call it inhumane, since airborne gunmen rarely get a clean (i.e., relatively painless) kill. In response to concerns like these, Congress passed the Federal Airborne Hunting Act of 1972, which made it illegal for hunters to shoot animals from a plane or helicopter.

The federal legislation does have a loophole for predator control, permitting state employees or licensed individuals to shoot from an aircraft for the sake of protecting "land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life, or crops." (This doesn't just apply to wolves; coyotes and foxes are sometimes gunned down from aircraft, especially in Western states.) Since 2003, Alaska has issued aerial wolf-hunting permits in select areas where moose and caribou populations are particularly endangered. The idea is that by killing the predators, the airborne gunmen can ramp up the number of moose and caribou that human hunters can take home for supper.

(...) Palin tried last year to have the state pay $150 for every wolf killed, but the state superior court shot that down as an illegal use of bounty payments, which were outlawed in that state in 1984."

Sarah Palin herself showed a keen interest in "educating" the citizens in Alaska about the benefits of "aerial predator control" - in 2007 the legislature and the governor of Alaska approved to spend $ 400,000 in order to educate Alaskans about the aerial shooting of wolves and efforts to reduce bears in some areas.

Obviously the former teacher Chuckles didn't get that memo and needs some educating himself! The ADN reported in August 2007:

"Opponents of the state's predator control program are blasting lawmakers and the governor for approving a $400,000 appropriation to educate Alaskans about the aerial shooting of wolves and efforts to reduce bears in some areas.

They say the capital budget money is really an attempt to influence voters, who will decide next year whether to ban aerial shooting and land-and-shoot hunting by private citizens.

"It's outrageous," said co-sponsor Joel Bennett of Alaskans for Wildlife. "It looks like it's a clear effort to thwart the public will."

State game managers don't know how they will spend the money but it won't be used to influence the election, said Ron Clarke, assistant director for the state's Division of Wildlife Conservation.

"We're a science-based agency," he said. The state will try to share that information in a way the public can understand, he said.

Aerial predator control lets private citizens shoot wolves from the air or conduct land-and-shoot hunting of wolves in five rural areas of the state. In the last year, the state has also liberalized bear hunting in some of those same areas, including no bag limits and land-and-shoot hunting of black bears in Game Management Unit 16 across Cook Inlet from Anchorage.

The effort is intended to boost moose and caribou numbers.

More than 700 wolves have been killed since the program began almost five years ago. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates there are 7,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska."


Sarah Palin herself lied in "Going Rogue" about aerial wolf hunting and claimed that it doesn't exist. On page 327 she talks about her embarassing prank interview with "President Sarkozy" and says:

"Then Sarkozy started talking about hunting and suggested we get together and hunt from helicopters, which Alaska hunters don't do (despite circulated Photoshopped images of me drawing a bead on a wolf from the air)."

Screenshot from "Going Rogue", page 327:
Sarah Palin - Going Rogue - Aerial Wolf Hunting - Page 327

That is just one of the many, many lies that Sarah Palin tells in "Going Rogue".

Media Matters reported the truth:

Under Alaska law, "the Board of Game may authorize a predator control program as part of a game management plan that involves airborne or same day airborne shooting." On May 19, 2008, the Anchorage Daily News reported that "[p]ilot-gunner teams" had "taken 124 wolves," according to the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation, as part of "a winter program to kill wolves from aircraft," which the Daily News contrasted with "the 97 wolves gunners took last year." In 2007, Palin introduced a bill to "simplify and clarify Alaska's intensive management law for big game and the state's 'same day airborne hunting' law," which she stated would "give the Board of Game and state wildlife managers the tools they need to actively manage important game herds and help thousands of Alaskan families put food on their tables." According to an August 26, 2007, Daily News article (retrieved from the Nexis database), Palin supported "a $400,000 appropriation to educate Alaskans about the aerial shooting of wolves and efforts to reduce bears in some areas."

Recently aerial wolf hunting once more became an issue in Alaska - Mudflats and Shannyn Moore wrote about it from an Alaskan perspective just a few days ago.

In Europe, many countries like the UK, Germany and Italy are considering the reintroduction of wolves and other extinct species, as the UK Telegraph reported in February 2010.

In Alaska, the message of the government is that wolves are being hunted from the air so that more moose and caribou are available for native hunters, who are dependent on them as a food resource. In September 2007, however, 172 scientists wrote an open letter to Sarah Palin, protesting Alaska's aerial wolf hunting policy. They explain:

The basis of Alaska's recent predator control programs is the state's intensive management law. This law mandates restoring "depleted" ungulate populations to former levels of abundance and setting of ungulate population objectives. We are concerned that objectives were often based on unattainable, unsustainable historically high populations. Accurate determination of habitat carrying capacity was seldom considered. The net result is to perpetually chase unattainable objectives with inadequately designed predator control programs that risk long-term sustainability of ungulate habitat integrity and sustainability of reasonable predator populations.

(...) Finally, negative, long-term consequences of predator control may outweigh short-term increases in ungulate numbers. Such consequences include habitat damage from high ungulate populations that may result in population crashes of both ungulates and predators as well as the ancillary "costs" of predator control programs in terms of staff time and credibility with and support from the broader public. Many in the general public are concerned that the Alaska Board of Game process is not fair and representative of the broad public interest in Alaska's wildlife. We appreciate your support for fair and transparent government and ask you to encourage the Board of Game to consider the broader public interests in their wildlife decision making. Finally, we urge the State of Alaska to consider the ecological role that large predators play in preventing eruptions and crashes, and to consider conservation of predators on an equal basis with the goal of producing more ungulates for hunters.


Aerial wolf hunting in Alaska is explained in detail in this excellent video:

It seems that Sarah and her dad are apparently not very proud about the fact that Sarah supported aerial wolf hunting. One more reason to end this horrible practice.



Our reader Crystalwolf has pointed out that recently a close friend of the Palin's has been appointed to head the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which caused such a big controversy that even the sleepy ADN was forced to report about it today (citing an AP report!):

A relative newcomer to state Division of Wildlife Conservation who several wildlife advocates said is overly sympathetic to hunters at the expense of other groups has been selected to head the state agency at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Corey Rossi, who purportedly has close ties with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her family, starts his new job Tuesday. Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd said he chose Rossi because he brings a can-do attitude to the agency's mission.

But not everyone is happy with the selection. Rossi represents a move toward a narrow wildlife management philosophy that will benefit extremist hunters -- those that would artificially inflate moose and caribou numbers by removing massive numbers of predators, Alaska Wildlife Alliance director John Toppenberg said.

That approach will be at the expense of other user groups, such as wildlife viewers, whereas Doug Larsen, the man who Rossi replaces, had a more balanced approach, he said.

"With this appointment, it is my belief that the title of the organization that he now represents should be changed to the Division of Wildlife Killing," Toppenberg said.


Interestingly, it was also mentioned in this report:

"E-mails sent to Palin aide Jason Recher seeking comment after business hours Friday were not immediately returned."

So it seems that Jason Recher has now replaced Meg Stapleton as the new "go-to-person".


In addition, several Alaskans have commented on Crystalwolf's facebook regarding this story and said that helicopters ARE in fact being used for aerial wolf hunting in Alaska! One Alaskan said: "Alaska Fish & Game decided not even planes were good enough and went directly to helicopters."



When Sarah Palin said in "Going Rogue" that "Alaska hunters don't hunt from helicopters" she apparently had forgotten the press release of her own Department of Fish & Game from March 9, 2009:

Aerial wolf hunting press release 1
Aerial wolf hunting press release 2


UPDATE 3 - Corey Rossi:

Corey Rossi, the designated new head of the AK Department of Fish & Game, has also a commercial interest in hunting (anyone surprised?). He owns the "Great Northern Safari Company" in Alaska, which has a PO Box in Wasilla. He recently "donated" the following hunt to the "Mule Deer Foundation":

5-Day Trophy Reindeer Hunt for 1-hunter in Alaska
Great Northern Safari Company
Corey Rossi

The high bidder will get the first hunt on the herd for the 2010 season. For the past several years, GNSC has been harvesting what can only be described as the largest antlered animals on the planet! GNSC’s unbelievable Alaskan Reindeer have been producing top-ten SCI scores for several consecutive seasons. SCI Scores in the 420+ category are commonplace, with some animals actually breaking the enviable 500-inch mark! You will receive a “what to bring list” upon confirmation of the hunt.

Well, we are used to "a lot" from Alaska, but this clearly is a conflict of interest, is it not? The designated head of the Department of Fish & Game also owns a hunting company?

By the way, Corey Rossi's email address is mentioned there as "" - which also happens to be the contact email of the "Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife". "Gutpile"...what lovely people!

In addition, the "Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife" actively lobbied to get Corey Rossi into this position, as the AP reported. "With Director Rossi at the wheel, we at SFW look forward to some real positive changes within the Department that are long overdue!" SFW Alaska executive director Dane Crowley said in the statement.


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