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My turn: Dumb and dumber, Alaska version

Posted: August 2, 2012 - 12:08am

Not only do the Alaska Board of Fish (BOF) and the Alaska Board of Game (BOG) care little about your State Constitutional rights to feed your family fish and game from our lands and waters, they also don’t care very much about your safety. Effective Jan. 1, the BOF prohibited the use of felt soles while sportfishing. Not to be undone in the “dumb department” the BOG followed suit, banning felt soles for hunting, effective Jan. 1, 2013. Don’t blame ADF&G for this attack on your safety. Blame the BOF and BOG. Specifically—blame BOF chairman and part time resident Karl Johnstone. For the record, ADF&G personnel will continue to be able to wear felt soles while wading streams because technically they are not fishing or hunting — and their safety is important! 

People will most probably be killed because of one’s man failure to think rationally when looking at scientific data. Anyone who has spent much time in the field — or worse, had unexpected “swims” — knows how dangerous our cold waters are and how quickly one could lose their life. Even a quick dunk can be unforgiving and have dire consequences. The difference between wearing felt and wearing rubber is like night and day. Unfortunately, there are no alternatives. Safety wise, it is the same as driving without a seat belt, or running your chainsaw without a pair of chaps. Sure you may get by without them, but do you want to get into an accident without your seat belt on? In essence, that’s what the BOF and BOG are telling you to do. Your safety, your life, is unimportant to them.

Can felt soles transport invasive plants and animals? Unfortunately, yes. Very limited research has shown that felt soles can spread such invasives as Didymo (rock snot), possibly whirling disease, and one New Zealand mudsnail was proven to be transported by a felt boot. In no way do I mean to belittle the importance in keeping invasive plants and animals out of our waters, but let’s be sensible about it — not dumb, and especially not careless. Research has also proven that these invasives can be transported to other waters on shoe laces, socks, inside the wading boots themselves, on the wading material itself and even on rubber boots. Furthermore, research has also proven invasives can be transported from one water body to another by boat trailiers and through bilge water of boats and float planes. Even Darwin wrote many years ago, about migrating waterfowl transporting plants and animals from one water body to another, both internally and externally. Should we ban these vectors as well? Open season on waterfowl, float planes and boats? Why not just ban people altogether? 

This reckless ban is based more on hype than common sense. A better, more proactive approach would be to educate people on invasives and how to prevent spreading them instead of “outlawing” personal protective equipment. Why not use ADF&G’s education program to educate people on how to treat their felt soles, waders, bilge water etc.? According to ADF&G personnel, their concern is not so much with Alaskans spreading invasives as it is with tourists bringing them into the state. Why punish Alaskans then? Why not educate and target the tourists when they come into the State?

An underlying issue to this ban is its inherent attack on our personal freedoms to travel afield as we see fit. This country is a free one, with “inalienable rights” of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, (which for many of us is the pursuit of fish and game!). When did we give up the right to decide what we should wear and not wear while in the field? Why are we allowing nonsensical political appointees to make decisions such as this. Their mandate is to manage fish and game — not people. Seasons, bag limits, methods of taking — not wardrobes, and definitely not personal safety equipment. Every time we allow another entity to take away our rights, we lose more of our personal freedoms. Tell your legislators to lift this ban. Better yet, tell the BOF and BOG to stop being dumb with our safety.

• Sprankle is a resident of Fairbanks who appreciates being able to feed his family moose, caribou, sheep and salmon from Alaska’s lands and waters. He can be contacted at jakesprankle@gmail.com.

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