Blasting wolves from airplanes and baiting bears with
doughnuts are among the reasons supporters give for wanting
new voices and viewpoints, even a new name, for the Alaska
Board of Game.
Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, has presented legislation to make
room on a new, larger Board of Wildlife for "non-consumptive
users," such as photographers and scientists. The bill
faces an uphill battle in the Legislature. But if it fails
there, advocates say they'll take it to voters as a statewide
who feel the current Game Board doesn't represent them say
the revisions are overdue. The board is stacked against non-consumptive
users, and doesn't reflect the public's changing values on
hunting and trapping, Paul Joslin of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance
Bill 343 "creates a level playing field, so all those
who care about wildlife are at the table making decisions,"
say Ellis' bill is unnecessary. Game Board chairman Mike Fleagle
said the board considers all viewpoints; it just doesn't agree
with some of them.
wouldn't be opposed to having people on the board with different
perspectives than mine," said Fleagle, who lives in McGrath.
"In fact, I've worked with board members with opposing
viewpoints and it adds to the discussion. But I think mandating
the make-up of the board or changing its name to accommodate
this isn't necessary."
seven Game Board members are nominated by the governor and
confirmed by the Legislature. There is no requirement that
they have hunting or trapping licenses, only that members
have "good judgment, knowledge and ability in the field
of action of the board."
governor is also expected to name members "with a view
to providing diversity of interest and points of view."
not happening, said Ellis' chief of staff, Garen Tarr. The
new bill specifies that the board "taken as a whole,
shall directly reflect all of the citizens' various uses of
game for sport and subsistence hunting, trapping, non-consumptive
uses, tourism and scientific study."
Legislatures have refused to confirm nominees "because
they felt the intention of the Board of Game was to represent
consumptive uses only," such as hunting and trapping,
panel would be renamed the Board of Wildlife, and would expand
to nine members. That would allow Gov. Frank Murkowski to
add two non-consumptive users without removing any current
members, Tarr said.
could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
his constituents have called for such changes for years, Tarr
said. The clamor increased after Murkowski was elected and
filled six board seats with advocates of predator control
-- killing wolves to boost populations of moose and caribou.
state Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, pushed a bill through
the Legislature giving the Game Board unprecedented authority
to resume aerial wolf control, a practice that had virtually
died out after a ballot proposition in 1996.
state-sponsored aircraft-supported wolf kills are under way
near McGrath and in the Nelchina Basin northeast of Anchorage,
and the Game Board is expected to consider similar programs
in several more areas when it meets later this month in Fairbanks.
with non-consumptive users, the board still might have authorized
the wolf kills, Tarr said. But the programs might have been
structured differently and sidestepped some of the controversy
that surrounds them, she said.
said critics are missing the mark.
been on the board more than six years total, and every iteration
of that board has been very thorough in its discussion of
the issues," he said. "I know we're criticized for
being all hunters and trappers, but I think that's unjust
criticism. I think it works."
least one poll suggests otherwise. A statewide survey of 510
residents conducted by Dittman Research Corp. of Alaska on
behalf of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance in 2002 found 83 percent
favored including wildlife watchers, photographers and others
who neither hunt nor trap on the Game Board.
the Legislature won't make the changes, voters will through
a ballot initiative, Joslin predicted.
has so much overwhelming support, (an initiative) seems the
logical thing to do," he said.
reporter Joel Gay can be reached at email@example.com or at 257-4310