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My turn: Act to balance Alaska's wildlife management

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What can you do to modify extremism in Alaska's wildlife management? During the last two months, you have been reading about questionable wildlife management. Now you have an opportunity to act by providing Gov. Sean Parnell with alternate choices from the partisan groups now represented on the Board of Game i.e., the Alaska Outdoors Council, Safari Club International, and those whose primary interests involve big game hunting and trapping.

The legislature refused to confirm Al Barrette's appointment to the board because of his extreme views and voting record on wildlife management. Legislators and the public will be scrutinizing Gov. Parnell's next appointment. Expanded representation is needed on the Board of Game, and the governing statute requires it.

The Board of Game should include at least one person who represents the non-consumptive values of wildlife. Following the rejection of Barrette, Gov. Parnell stated he was committed to selecting nominees for the Board of Game who will ensure there is abundant wildlife for Alaska families who depend on it.

Of the 20 percent of Alaskans who hold a hunting license, less than 4 percent are considered low income hunting licenses, where people really need to hunt to survive. I am among the majority of Alaskans who do not hunt and do not have representation on the board, yet I have a deep investment in board decisions. I have been an Alaskan for 42 years because I am attached to Alaska's rich wilderness. My attachment includes being able to view and photograph wolves and bears while they are alive. The 80 percent of Alaskans who do not hunt merit representation on the board.

Rigorous science has largely been cast aside in Board of Game decisions aimed at boosting moose and caribou numbers to unnaturally high levels through predator control. A report by the National Research Council offering scientifically sound standards and guidelines on predator control in Alaska is ignored. An independent scientist - biologist or ecologist - outside of the Department of Fish and Game staff should have a seat on the board to help ensure that the best available science, including an ecosystem approach, will guide wildlife management practice.

The re-introduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park greatly increased visitor numbers and expanded ecotourism by $35 million. Alaska's wildlife policies do not recognize the financial opportunity our wolves and bears afford. Each wolf and bear over its lifetime could be extremely valuable in tourism dollars. A broader view that includes the economics of Alaska's wildlife management policies is needed. Gov. Parnell would be wise to appoint an individual to the board from the ecotourism industry.

The writers of the statute dealing with appointments to the Board of Game understood that only if an assembly represents the full diversity of opinion within the state will its decisions be regarded as the decisions of the state. Alaska law (AS 16.05.221) requires the governor to appoint persons with a diversity of interest and points of view to the board.

The statute reads:

"Boards of Fisheries and Game. (b) For purposes of the conservation and development of the game resources of the state, there is created a Board of Game composed of seven members appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session. The governor shall appoint each member on the basis of interest in public affairs, good judgment, knowledge, and ability in the field of action of the board, and with a view to providing diversity of interest and points of view in the membership. The appointed members shall be residents of the state and shall be appointed without regard to political affiliation or geographical location of residence."

Applications for the Board of Game may be submitted online at: http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell/services/boards-commissions/apply-online.html. The online application is good for one year. Within that period, two more board appointments will open. Please step up and apply or support the application of others who represent a diversity of views. Let's give Gov. Parnell choices and then encourage him to make the choice for democratic representation.

• Patricia J. O'Brien is a Juneau resident.



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