Photographer bumped off game board

Wolf debate knocks out governors' pick for Game Board member

Posted: Thursday, March 09, 2000

Wolves in Interior Alaska aren't just killing moose and caribou. On Wednesday they also took down Leo Keeler's nomination to the state Board of Game.

The House and Senate, meeting in a joint session, voted 48-9 against confirming Keeler to the board.

The vote was closely tied to a controversy over wolf control in Interior Alaska. The Game Board has approved killing wolves in McGrath and the Nelchina Basin to bolster moose and caribou populations, but Gov. Tony Knowles refused to go along with that plan.

He further angered many legislators when he didn't reappoint a pro-hunting board member, Bob Churchill, whose term was ending.

Instead, he appointed Keeler, a wildlife photographer. While also a hunter, Keeler has said the board should be looking out for more than just hunting interests.

Rep. Beverly Masek said Keeler would support closing more areas of the state to hunting and trapping. ``He's jeopardizing the use of wildlife for human use, including subsistence,'' the Willow Republican said.

Not confirming Keeler will be a step toward helping residents of McGrath who are having trouble competing with wolves for the caribou and moose they need to feed their families, Masek said. Residents there have also said the growing wolf population has killed pets, and they fear for their children's safety.

``We cannot put the life of a child in danger because of these wolves, who are on the rampage and do not care who they eat or what they eat,'' Masek said.

Supporters of Keeler, however, said there are no known incidents of wolves killing humans.

Sen. Johnny Ellis, an Anchorage Democrat, said the governor is required by law to appoint members who bring a diversity of viewpoints to the board, and Keeler would help do that.

``I don't think Alaskans want a Board of Game where the opinion runs the gamut from A to B,'' said Juneau Sen. Kim Elton, a Democrat. ``We need to assure Alaskans that every opinion is heard and every viewpoint considered.''

Elton and Juneau Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula voted for the nomination, while Juneau Republican Bill Hudson was among the majority voting against it.

Knowles' spokesman Bob King said another nominee for the board has not been chosen. The current meeting of the Board of Game will end soon and there won't be another meeting until the fall, so there's no hurry to pick a replacement, he said.



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