Alaska editorials: Board of Game appointments

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2003

A few weeks ago we lamented the direction the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Board of Game has taken the past eight years and, directing the comment toward Gov. Frank Murkowski, said Alaska should be known as a land of plenty.

On Friday, the governor came to Fairbanks to show people that he has taken one quick and giant step in the opposite direction with the appointment of six like-minded members to the game board. These are members with history and intimate knowledge of Alaska's wildlife, outdoors and - as the name of the board suggests - game.

These appointments must come as a bit of whiplash for those who enjoyed the past eight years as the culture of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the boards slowly eroded toward wildlife monitoring and away from effective wildlife management.

It must feel a little like the whiplash that came with former Gov. Tony Knowles' appointment of a board with an agenda similar to his ...

So we've traded an old board that was willing to make a political statement with less-than-adequate rules at the expense of local hunters and trappers, for one that aims to exceed the demands of the constitutional call for sustained-yield to promote healthy and plentiful wildlife populations for the benefit of all Alaskans.

Our state constitution recognizes that wildlife is perhaps our greatest renewable resource and that it is one that should be maintained at maximum sustainable levels for the well-being of the state and its people. ... Over the past eight years our state turned its back on the constitution, advocated for a switch to management by federal doctrine and exercised passive management.

Alaskans are ready to see that direction change and we applaud Gov. Murkowski for standing up to take a clear step in the right direction. ...

Saturday's Fairbanks Daily News Miner

Hunting and trapping are an important part of Alaska's heritage. While there are organizations and individuals who would dispute the value of these activities, they are distinctly Alaskan and undeniably worthy of defense as both a rural lifestyle choice and a recreational endeavor.

That said, Gov. Frank Murkowski's appointments last week to the state Board of Game raise serious questions about the mind-set of the governor and his interest in a board that will speak and act for all Alaskans ...

Of the six appointees to the seven-member board, four have ties to the Alaska Outdoor Council, a big supporter of the Murkowski campaign and a hardcore advocacy group for hunters and trappers that is interested in maximum management of game for consumptive purposes. The remaining two appointees are wildlife biologists who also support game management strategy favoring hunters first.

This is not to say hunting interests should not be represented on the board. But there are many people in this state who enjoy the wildness of Alaska who may have different points of view about how best to use and enjoy that wildness.

There is something singularly undemocratic, then, about a regulatory authority constitutionally charged with passing regulations "to conserve and develop" Alaska's wildlife resources that is comprised entirely of hunters ...

According to state Department of Fish and Game licensing statistics, 91,502 Alaska residents purchased a hunting or trapping license in 2002. In a state of some 635,000 people, this amounts to about 14.4 percent of the general population.

So who will speak for nonhunters and folks who believe that the state's game resources should be managed in a way that can accommodate both consumptive and nonconsumptive uses?

... Also lacking on the new Board of Game is a viable rural or Native voice. Only one member, Michael Fleagle, is from rural Alaska. But he's from McGrath, a hotbed of predator-control sympathizers, and can hardly be expected to offer anything approximating a rational voice to lead the state to a resolution of its subsistence hunting issues. ...

We hope this round of appointments does not set the tone for the rest of the Murkowski tenure. He was elected by a broad spectrum of Alaskans, to whom he must remain accountable. To allow an interest group representing less than 15 percent of the state's population to decide wildlife management policy for the other 85 percent is just plain wrong.

Today's Homer News

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