My Turn: Rebalancing the game board

Posted: Tuesday, February 04, 2003

On Jan. 21, the Anchorage Daily News printed an editorial accusing Gov. Murkowski of destroying the balance on the Board of Game and stacking the board too much toward hunters and predator-control advocates. The editorial also accused me personally of being anti-subsistence and basically racist. The editorial finished by warning Alaskans that the new board will encourage more division and conflict over game management.

I rarely respond to newspaper editorials, as it is generally a waste of time. Certainly, the editors have the right to print whatever they choose as opinions. However, since the Anchorage Daily News editorial staff attacked me personally, I decided to make an exception.

Lets face it, what Gov. Tony Knowles did to fish and wildlife management in Alaska during his eight years in office was terrible, possibly even criminal. Other than giving fish and wildlife management to the federal government, manipulating the Board of Game process to favor special interest groups, and appointing non-professionals to lead ADF&G, you might say it was an outstanding performance. Gov. Knowles also ignored legislative fish and wildlife policies, refused to cooperate with his own board concerning predator-prey relationships and management, and catered to anti-hunting and non-consumptive groups at the expense of Alaskan traditional uses. If that's balance, Alaska's traditional uses of Alaska fish and wildlife could be balance" right out of existence.

Gov. Murkowski has chosen to be more pro-active in managing Alaska's fish and wildlife resources to meet the needs of Alaskans and has chosen Board of Fish and Board of Game appointees that share his enthusiasm, dedication and vision. I haven't heard the governor advocating that non-consumptive uses be ignored. What I have heard is that the boards will be balanced and traditional uses by Alaskans are going to be a high priority and are not to be sold out to anti-management or passive management groups.

Gov. Murkowski has also promised Alaskans a professional Department of Fish and Game leadership. He has supported using all of the tools in our management systems to enhance and improve our fish and wildlife resources. Does that mean he advocates killing all the predators in the state? No. Does it mean that the Board of Game should consider predator management a legitimate management tool? Absolutely. What is refreshing is that the governor is putting all the cards on the table and encouraging his appointments to consider them all.

The Anchorage Daily News criticism concerning the lack of diversity among the new board appointments is interesting. Diversity to the Anchorage Daily News apparently means the extremes on both sides must be equally represented. Somehow the News fails to recognize there is regional diversity, educational diversity, racial diversity, economic diversity, philosophical diversity and practical management diversity. I believe the new board may not have as many Ph.D.'s but it has vastly more practical management diversity. I think the public would rather have the latter.

Concerning the Daily News' attack on me, it is unfortunate they use rhetoric in describing the mythical rhetorical reputation of their literary victims. They accuse me of being against subsistence, which is patently false. There is no evidence I have ever opposed subsistence. Have I been critical of the existing federal law in its present form? Absolutely. By the way, the position I expressed in the past just happens to be shared by the Alaska Supreme Court. The federal law created a serious conflict with the state constitution that has led to federal management.

For everyone's information, I grew up in Craig and am very sympathetic to true subsistence practices and the importance of these uses to the Native and non-Native cultures. To try to erroneously paint me and other board appointments as racists that have no sympathy for Alaska Natives may help fuel the rural-urban fire the Anchorage paper vociferously condemns in print but it is actually counter-productive. It would be refreshing if maybe they would provide the public with the facts by printing all of our confirmation hearings verbatim. The Daily News might be surprised to learn that most of us are more sympathetic to the non-consumptive users needs than many of Gov. Knowles' appointments were to the consumptive needs of Alaskans. Granted, it may not sell as many papers but it might actually begin the process of helping heal the rural-urban wounds they always keep opening and festering.

Ron Somerville has lived in Alaska for more than 60 years during which he worked 24 years with ADF&G. He is a active sportsman and consultant to Legislature on natural resource issues.



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