Legislation Aims to Change Game Board's Name, Mission
board last fall approved aerial hunting of wolves in
order to boost moose populations in several areas
Lynn Melling / KTUU-TV / Channel 2 / NBC / Anchorage
/ February 16, 2004
Feb. 16 - A move from the Senate minority Monday to protest decisions from the
governor's office on wolf control. Senate Bill 343 would change the name of
the Board of Game to the Board of Wildlife, and add two more members to the
But how much will it change? The sponsor of the bill says it's a step toward
much-needed change, and merely an attempt to bring more voices into the debate.
Opponents say the Board of Game already represents a variety of voices and this
proposal does nothing more than stir the pot.
Wolves have become the center of a passionate debate. Dozens have been killed
so far this winter from airplanes in an attempt to preserve moose for subsistence
needs. The decision to do it came from the Alaska Board of Game -- some say an
"We have a Board of Game right now that is about extremist as you can get," says
Paul Joslin of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. He says the board is made up of
hunters who give hunting interests the upper hand and, at the same time, disregard
the views of most Alaska voters.
Now the movement is on to change that. "This bill would work towards creating
fairness. It would create a level playing field so it could make good decisions," Joslin
Senate minority leader Johnny Ellis has just introduced SB 343, which would change
the board's name to the Board of Wildlife. Aside from that change, it would add
two more seats to the seven-member board. He says that would give the governor,
who appoints the board members -- and would continue to do so -- a better opportunity
to offer some balance.
"I think Frank Murkowski is inviting disaster with his extreme appointments and
his extreme policies that ignore the will of the voters," Ellis says.
The bill says the board "shall directly reflect all of the citizens' various
uses of game," from subsistence hunting to non-consumptive uses to tourism.
But at least one member says the current board already represents all those interests.
"I think it does," says Pete Buist. "We have people who have commercial interests
in wildlife. Virtually everybody on the board use wildlife for 11 and a half
months out of the year, although for a couple of weeks, some of us hunt."
Members say the board has been successful since statehood. "The system has worked
very well for a number of years," Buist says. "And the fact that activists are
upset with it doesn't mean we should change the whole system."
Right now, it's a system that's apparently up for some scrutiny. Ellis says his
bill is a direct response to aerial wolf hunting, as well as to a bill recently
introduced by Fairbanks Sen. Ralph Seekins that would give hunters the right
to pursue and kill bears.
If the bill makes it through the Legislature, Ellis says the actual changes the
public would see would depend on the governor, since he still gets to appoint
the board members. Ellis says the bill does not make any requirements of the
governor, but he hopes the governor would take advantage of the opportunity.
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