A bill from Anchorage state Sen. Johnny Ellis raises
a good question: Why is the state panel that makes wildlife
management decisions called the Board of Game?
implies that wildlife are nothing more than the objects of
humans who want to hunt or trap them. A majority of Alaskans,
though, do not hunt or trap. Many Alaskans and visitors enjoy
being able to see a moose or a bear or a wolf or a sheep or
maybe a whole herd of caribou. Every year, miles of film and
trillions of pixels are devoted to capturing images of Alaska's
majestic wild animals. Some people take satisfaction just
from knowing wild animals are out there in Alaska, even if
they never see them.
board of "game" needs to reflect the interests of
these Alaskans too. In recent years, the Legislature has repeatedly
spurned Game Board appointees who were considered too sympathetic
to non-hunting interests. Since Gov. Frank Murkowski took
office in 2002, all six of his appointments have been hard-core
advocates of killing predators so hunters will have more moose
no mistake: Hunting and trapping are legitimate uses of Alaska
wildlife. Natives have depended on wildlife for food since
time immemorial. Subsistence use of wildlife is still the
foundation of Native cultures. Many non-Native Alaskans hunt
to put food on their tables, too. Sport hunting here is a
worldwide attraction that makes an important, ecologically
sustainable contribution to the economy.
non-hunting Alaskans are underrepresented on the Game Board.
Sen. Ellis' bill would bring more balance to the process.
He would add two seats and require the governor to make sure
the full spectrum of wildlife uses are represented. By changing
the name to the "Board of Wildlife," his bill would
reinforce that broader point.
fans of the current board say it already considers non-consumptive
users when it makes decisions. Consideration, however, is
different than representation.
one would argue that the Legislature can do without representatives
from rural areas because urban legislators will "consider"
rural perspectives on issues. Having one's views "considered"
is no substitute for having a seat at the table when it's
time to deliberate and decide.
advocates say they may launch a voter initiative if Sen. Ellis'
measure does not pass. Neither the bill nor an initiative
would be necessary if the Legislature and governor would show
more respect for non-hunting interests. But they are not likely
to change course, so it will almost certainly take an initiative
to ensure more balanced representation in the state's wildlife
The Board of Game needs better representation for non-hunters.