THE POWER OF CONNECTING|
Create an Effective Online Petition
The wolves of Denali National Park were in danger, and we had to spread the word fast.
As wildlife photographers, my husband and I have worked with the Toklat wolves in Denali since 1990. The Toklat and Sanctuary wolves had been seen and enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors each year inside the park. They were remarkably accepting of humans at close distances, making them unique among wild wolves. However, during the winter, both packs would leave the safety of the park on hunting forays, where they were routinely trapped and killed. Near the park entrance, the entire Sanctuary pack was killed by trappers. The Toklat family dropped from a high of 18 members in the early 1990s to just 2 in 1998. Luckily, the 2 were an alpha male and alpha female, which are the leaders of the pack, who mated and had pups the next year. When the Sanctuary pack was killed off, a nearby group, the Margaret pack, moved into their territory.
In 2001, our friends at the Alaska Wildlife Alliance submitted a proposal to the Alaska Board of Game (the wildlife-policy decision maker) to create a no-kill “buffer zone” adjacent to the park, covering the areas the remaining packs were known to frequent. The Board of Game would decide the fate of the buffer zone at an upcoming meeting, and the hunting lobby was already using heavy-handed political pressure. Though more than 80 percent of Alaskans were wildlife viewers, the Board of Game was composed entirely of hunters and trappers, who were dead set against additional hunting restrictions.
Facing such odds, we had to show massive support for protecting the packs. With the Board of Game meeting just a week away, I created a simple website that included a summary of the issue and photos showing why the wolves deserved special protection. I then established a petition on www.thepetitionsite.com, asking signers to answer questions in order to personalize the petition.
With only a week’s time, I had to jump-start the word-of-mouth process. First I sent the e-card to everyone in my address book. Then I sent it to the leaders of every environmental group I could find in Alaska. Next I wrote a short press release. Finally I composed a letter to the editor that summarized the issue and included the URL of the website, and I sent that to every newspaper in Alaska.
Almost 1,000 people signed our petition, from every state in the union and more than 36 countries. I called the local newsrooms to say I’d be wheeling boxes of signed petitions into the Board of Game meeting on a hand truck. We made the six o’clock news, and the petition helped convince the Board of Game to create the buffer zone. At the moment, the wolves are protected by the buffer zone, thanks in part to all those wonderful people who signed the petition. However, there are still pressures against wolves and the environment in Alaska, and we’re standing by.
|Dorothy Keeler is a professional wildlife photographer/activist who lives with her husband, Leo. The Keelers have appeared on CBS News in regard to their conservation efforts, and they’re now moving their entire business to www.akwildlife.com so they’ll have more time for activism.|