Outside groups should still have a say at the Board of Game

As a former long-term member of the Alaska Board of Game, I take exception to the tenor of the Dec. 1 My Turn by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotton, entitled, “Board of Game forum spurs unlikely accord.”


Was his point to advocate support for Alaska Native cultural hunting traditions? Or was it a not-so-subtle disparagement of those outside Alaska animal advocacy groups who come to testify at Alaska’s Board of Game about issues they care about? While the commissioner no doubt supports Native hunting traditions (and who wouldn’t), I see his remarks as a thinly veiled criticism of yet another outside animal group which he believes has no business involving itself in Alaska’s “exclusive” affairs. I say this having witnessed countless examples of this attitude while I served on the Board of Game.

Let’s be clear that the mandate of the Board of Game has always been to respectfully consider all points of view relating to Board of Game proposals, no matter where a person or group is from. Alaska’s wildlife is, after all, a public resource. Most people who testify are well meaning and have a perspective about wildlife that reflects legitimate values. Unfortunately, too often we welcome non-residents who come to hunt and take our resources, but not those who come to testify at our meetings.

It appeared that the Florida-based animal group in question was primarily concerned about ethical and humane treatment of wildlife, something I believe most Alaskans strongly support. Killing bears in dens or killing bear cubs with their mothers has no place in our hunting laws, with the exception of traditional Native subsistence. The problem arises in that this type of killing, while currently limited to specific rural areas, is not restricted to Native people alone.

The methods of hunting that Alaska authorities approve must be carefully crafted so that inhumane and unethical methods of killing animals are prohibited, with limited exceptions. Doing this has much to say about how enlightened we are as a state — and about our sense of decency toward other living things. If it takes an outside group to make this point, so be it.

Joel Bennett,


• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


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