25. ALASKA RUNS STATE SANCTIONED POACHING MONOPOLY

The cruel and illegal slaughter of fish and wildlife is a multimillion dollar industry in the state of Alaska which law enforcement is not only aware of, but appears to protect.

Behind Alaska's $20 million-per-year, big-game hunting industry operates a good-old-boy network that wraps the guides, the board that regulates them, and some officials of the Alaska Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection in a cocoon of political and economic cooperation, according to an investigation by the Anchorage Daily News, reported by Craig Medred, the Daily News outdoors editor.

Following is a sample of the widespread conflicts of interest: Chuck Weir is Vice Chairman of the Guide Board, the regulatory board that is supposed to regulate and police the guide industry. Weir also is a former guide and one of the few insurance salesmen in the state specializing in insurance for guides. Robert Boutang is a sergeant with Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection and is also a licensed assistant guide, working toward his registered guide's license. Phil Driver, a guide and president of the professional hunter's association, was dismissed from his job as Guide Board chairman in 1985 after being charged with hunting illegally. It was the second time Driver had been indicted on illegal hunting charges. Investigating this apparent multi-level statewide corruption has proved dangerous. Two guides who had been arrested on poaching charges died in plane crashes in which the banking cables of both their planes had been reversed. One of the two poachers had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and was due to appear in court the day after his death. Alaska State Troopers found the deaths to be coincidental.

The efforts by one whistle-blower to expose the statewide poaching monopoly has ruined his life, forced him into poverty, and left him in jail on murder charges. Ken Hunter, Ph.D., is a former college professor who left Montana to pursue a commercial fishing career in Alaska. On his arrival in Alaska, he discovered what many already knew about the poaching industry and vowed to expose it.

According to Hunter, his efforts were met with resistance from the Alaska State Troopers (AST) and eventually a contract was put out on his life by big game guides and poachers. Hunter said that three attempts were made on his life, and, despite pleas for help from the AST, he received none. During the third attempt, in 1984, he shot and killed two hit-men whose bodies were never found.

In an effort to draw attention to his plight, Hunter confessed to the murders even though no bodies were found. His strategy didn't work since no charges were brought against Hunter and he left Alaska.

Then, in 1988, Hunter filed a $680 million suit against 75 prominent Alaskans he believes to be implicated in the state-wide corruption. Shortly after the suit was filed, the state of Alaska indicted Hunter on charges of murdering the two alleged hit-men four years earlier.

Ken Hunter now sits in an Alaskan jail awaiting judgment by the those he is suing. In a letter to Project Censored, Hunter wrote: "My family and I are now being sacrificed in order to conceal the involvement of Alaska State Troopers (ASTs) in conservation crime with Alaska's big game hunting guides. I ask you, as an American and as a human being, to help us fight and expose the corruption, the oppression, and the inhumanity that weigh so heavily upon us."

SOURCES:

ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, 5/8/88, "Game guides are under fire," by Craig Medred, p 1+; assorted articles from the Daily News and ANCHORAGE TIMES, 1988; personal letter, by Ken Hunter, 10/26/88.