Kudos to Gov. Murkowski for taking the helm and disbanding the previous game board. After attending, as well as testifying at the last hearings, presenting sound biological data, and answering questions cloaked in false interest, I left with heavy shoulders and a sad heart.
The board's decisions were made long before any public testimony was ever heard.
Our local advisory committee dedicated many hours to hearing the same comments, and scrutinizing them by also speaking with studied wildlife professionals before weighing in as they did. Their testimony was given absolutely zero consideration in decisions that will affect all sportsmen and women, as well as the general public that call Southeast Alaska home.
The general consensus seems to be that if a population of animals is to be hunted and/or consumed in some way, there will be no room for the nonconsumptive user. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most hunters I know spend far more time (and money) enjoying nonconsumptive situations with wildlife and the great outdoors than they do actually pursuing with the intent to harvest.
The fact that hunters and fisherpeople foot the vast majority of the bill for monitoring and propagating wildlife populations in this and other states is rarely mentioned. Although these groups pay for so many programs that directly benefit so many users, their agenda is in fact very generous. Most would love to introduce to others the joy and wonder of participating in the great outdoors. To some of us, being a member of the circle of life, as a predator, borders on religion.
I applaud Mr. Murkowski for stepping up to the plate and installing educated, involved individuals who have a vested interest in the long-term viability of Alaska's wildlife to the Game Board. I have complete faith that no user group will be left out, and in fact will be sought out for input and comment at future meetings.
Get involved, and educated. Those are the opinions that are valued. And the next time you meet a hunter, thank him/her for their contributions. Without them, there wouldn't be a heck of a lot of things out there to enjoy.
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