Keep the board-advisory process strong

My turn

Posted: Thursday, November 02, 2000

The My Turn submitted by Avrum Gross (Juneau Empire, Oct. 29) contains some assumptions and statements that are misleading. Referring to Mr. Gross's statement that biologists in this case fisheries biologists make resource allocations among user groups has never been true.

His statement, "Why is a biologist any better suited to make these decisions than anyone else?" is incorrect. Fisheries biologists determine the total allowable biological harvest, but it is, and always has been the responsibility of the boards of Fish & Game to make user allocations. Board members have had that responsibility and authority since statehood.

Many users do believe that fish and game decisions are too complicated for the average citizen. For example, the Cook Inlet Sport Fish regulations booklet alone contains 27 pages. It is beginning to look like one needs to take their attorney fishing with them in order to be certain they comply with the myriad of regulations.

Mr. Gross's other statement that requires qualification is his reference to the Legislature as the "other group of experts," if Proposition 1 passes the assumption being that there is no other group involved in this process. Many professional biologists believe the greatest danger to the wise management of fish and game resources lies not with elected represented officials, but having the judicial system weigh in on fish and game decisions. Judges are not elected and they are not resource-trained, but they must make decisions in strict conformance to statutes without the benefit of all the evidence and testimony that board members have had.

If anything, Alaska most likely has the most democratic process in the nation for funneling public input to the statewide boards for consideration. With over 80 advisory committees and companion regional councils, the opportunity for public expression is overwhelming. For example, the fishery board meetings annually consume weeks of testimony from both the public and professional staffs. This system has worked well and Alaskans are fortunate to have this system in place.

The initiative process bypasses all knowledge and expertise of the Fish and Game board whose information has already been generated through public process. It also bypasses the debate process by legislative committees, and also, the governor's veto. This is one area where the initiative process can work against the numerous public hearings held just for this purpose.

Alaskans should support and keep the board-advisory process strong. It is a truism that all the people of Alaska own common property resources, but all the people are not qualified to manage them, especially the judiciary. I encourage people to consider this information and to vote yes on Proposition 1.

Andrews is a retired Alaska Director of Sport Fish.

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