Ballot Measure 1 limits the rights of Alaskans

Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2000

It's ironic that so many residents up North seem willing to give away their voting rights if that's what it takes to prevent Outside money from influencing election campaigns in Alaska.

Ballot Measure 1 would change the Alaska Constitution to forbid residents from using the initiative process to make laws that permit, regulate or prohibit taking or transporting wildlife or prescribe seasons or methods for taking wildlife.

Many people up North believe Ballot Measure 1 is a good idea. They claim it is about sound wildlife management. They believe the crafting of sound wildlife management policies should be restricted to "trained professionals" whose policy decisions always are sensible and always based solely on biological considerations.

The supporters of Ballot Measure 1 cannot believe any good Alaskan could fail to see the wisdom of this approach. Thus, they say anyone who disagrees must be influenced by Outside money and by extremists from the animal rights movement.

But the residents of Alaska are smarter than that. They know the state's wildlife management system already works pretty well and pretty much the way Ballot Measure 1's supporters want it to. Trained professionals from the staff of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game consult among themselves and with members of public advisory groups to decide how to manage our wildlife resources.

It is for those times when the policy-making system makes bad policy that opponents of Ballot Measure 1 want to retain the right to have and to use the initiative process. How could the system produce bad policy?

It is naive to assume that all of the members of the advisory group so valued by Ballot Measure 1's supporters always are looking out for the best interests of all of the wildlife and all of our state's residents all of the time. These are interest groups. Self interest is not the same as public interest. They want what they want. They lobby the Department of Fish and Game as well as the Legislature, which is only too happy to gain unshared power.

Take away the people's right to respond to bad policy that has been influenced by self-interest groups from within or outside Alaska and influenced by power-happy legislators and all of the people of our state lose a degree of the democracy we hold so dear.

In seeking redress from bad policy, we should not be limited to turning only to the state Legislature, which may not want to hear a discouraging word from the people especially when that word is accountability.

This is a constitutional right Alaskans should not give away.

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