In appointing six new members to the state Board of Game on Friday, Gov. Frank Murkowski said he will take a second look at predator control programs that have spared Alaska's wolves.
The governor said the state needs to responsibly manage predators in Alaska based on scientific findings and not politics.
It's an abrupt change from Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, who maintained a no-kill policy on wolves before leaving office in December. Murkowski removed six of the seven Game Board appointees named by Knowles. The current Game Board had extended a protected area for wolves around Denali National Park and had protected wolves on Douglas Island in Juneau from hunting and trapping.
"My intention is to keep politics out of this area as much as possible," Murkowski said.
The governor said he did not fear a tourism boycott like those threatened by environmental groups in the mid-1990s.
"I think if they come to see no wildlife because of populations of wolves, that's not what they come for," Murkowski said. "We want the visitors to see a myriad of wildlife and not just one species."
Murkowski's appointees include two Fairbanks game guides who echoed his support for predator control in Alaska.
"Two things I am interested in are sustainable yield and predator control," said Sharon McLeod-Everette, a hunting guide from Fairbanks. She replaces Julie Maier on March 1 and her term lasts three years.
Knowles appointed five Game Board members last summer to fill vacancies created after the Republican-led Legislature in May refused to vote on whether to confirm other Knowles' appointees to the Game Board and other major state boards. Legislators said then they wanted to let the new governor fill the positions.
Knowles appointee Joel Bennett of Juneau charged that the new governor has now stacked the board with aggressive hunting advocates to the detriment of other Alaskans who treasure the state's wildlife resources for viewing or other nonconsumptive uses.
The appointments "are a step back in time to say the least," Bennett told the Anchorage Daily News, "to an older day when wildlife in the state was purely at the beck and call of hunters."
New member Pete Buist is a licensed master hunting guide and past president of the Alaska Outdoor Council and the Alaska Trappers Association. Buist replaces Vic Van Ballenberghe and his term expires March 1, 2005.
Michael Fleagle, of McGrath, is a hunter, trapper and subsistence user. He has served on the board of directors of Doyon Ltd. since 1996 and is president of the Native village of Manley Hot Springs. Fleagle replaces Tim Towarak and will serve until March 1, 2004.
Ted Spraker, of Soldotna, is a former state wildlife biologist on the Kenai Peninsula. He replaces Jack Lentfer and his term runs until March 1, 2005.
Ron Somerville, of Juneau, has worked as a paid consultant to GOP lawmakers opposed to a subsistence constitutional amendment. Somerville, a commercial fisherman and guide, replaces Bennett. Somerville will serve until March 1, 2005.
Cliff Judkins, of Wasilla, is the former owner of the Crown Point Lodge at Moose Pass and serves on the Susitna fish and game advisory committee. He replaces Rod Hardy and his term ends March 1, 2006.