Knowles names 5 to Board of Game

Juneau man gets post on board

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Gov. Tony Knowles named five people, including a Juneau man, to the state Board of Game on Tuesday, filing spots left vacant when the Legislature rejected a slew of earlier appointments.

The move will allow the seven-member state Board of Game to hold meetings that it could not previously due to vacancies. The board is scheduled to meet in Anchorage on Nov. 1 for a work session.

The Democratic governor also is expected to name three people to the state Board of Fisheries later this week, a spokesman said.

Knowles has been filling vacancies since June when the Republican-led Legislature rejected appointments to four key boards.

The Legislature twice adjourned joint sessions without considering confirmations to the boards of fish and game, education and regents at the University of Alaska. The recommendations lapsed when the legislative session ended in June.

Knowles leaves office in December, and GOP lawmakers critical of previous board decisions said they wanted the next governor to fill the vacancies.

Republican U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski is heavily favored to win his party's nomination for governor. His Democratic opponent in the Nov. 5 general election is expected to be Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer.

The Board of Game is responsible for managing the state's game resources. Its most contentious decisions have centered around recommendations to reduce wolf numbers in game management areas around the state.

Republicans often have been at odds with Knowles' "no-kill" stance on managing wolf numbers in Alaska. His latest appointments did nothing to silence Republican critics.

Knowles appointed Vic Van Ballenberghe, a retired research biologist and former game board member from Anchorage.

Also appointed were Juneau wildlife cinematographer Joel Bennett and former state and federal biologist Jack Lentfer, of Homer. Both have served on previous game boards.

Bennett has served on the Game Board for 13 years through various administrations. He has been an Alaska hunter for more than 34 years. He currently works part time as state representative for Defenders of Wildlife, the governor's office said.

Also appointed were Rod Hardy, a big game guide from Wasilla, and Tim Towarak, a subsistence hunter and fisherman from Unalakleet who is president of the Bering Straits Native Corp.

They join current board members Julie Maier of Fairbanks and Ben Grussendorf of Sitka, whose terms expire in 2004 and 2003, respectively.

"I think Tony has appointed himself a board that wouldn't kill a wolf if their lives depended on it," said Sen. Robin Taylor, a Wrangell Republican. Taylor is a frequent critic of Knowles' policy decisions.

Taylor said residents living in rural areas, including Alaska Natives, have demanded predator-control policies that lessen the strain put on moose and caribou herds that residents depend on for food.

Knowles spokesman Bob King said the recent appointees will provide diverse viewpoints in game management issues and represent hunters, trappers and wildlife watchers.

Van Ballenberghe served on the game board under former Gov. Bill Sheffield and was appointed by Knowles in 1996 but was not confirmed by the Legislature, King said.

Van Ballenberghe has been a frequent critic of strategies to reduce the number of wolves in Alaska. "That's a viewpoint we think needs to be represented on the game board," King said.

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