Board of Game not representative of Alaskans

The letter from Bob Ermold (Clarion, Feb. 1, 2012) deserves a response. John Toppenberg was criticized for describing the Alaska Board of Game as having zero diversity, and using an anti-science approach to wildlife management. The truth may hurt, but Mr. Toppenberg wrote the truth.


Since 1967, I have closely followed state and federal wildlife management issues. I was a member of the Board of Game in 1975-76, when aerial wolf control first drew national attention. The Board membership today is entirely devoid of any diversity of backgrounds or opinions. It has been this way for 20 years, and more. Only hunters, trappers, guides and taxidermists gain appointment and confirmation to the Board.

This is shameful, in a state where less than 15 percent of the adult population holds a license to hunt or trap. Where are the Board members reflecting the diverse Alaskan interests of photographers, tourism operators, wildlife viewers, and scientists -- in other words, the 85 percent of Alaskans who place other values on Alaska's wildlife, besides meat on the table, a mount on the wall, or a tanned pelt? The Alaska Constitution at Art. 8, Sec. 3 states that Alaska's wildlife is owned in common by all Alaskans. Yet a very small minority of Alaskans form the pool from which Board members are selected -- and this Board has a strangle-hold on all state wildlife decisions.

The various fish and game advisory committees also reflect this lack of diversity in backgrounds and interests. Their memberships are perpetuated by no enforceable diversity requirements, and by "good ol' boy," "us against them" attitudes. Mr. Ermold may sincerely believe that the advisory committees are doing their best -- but given their uniform backgrounds and one-dimensional interests, that simply isn't good enough for all Alaskans.

The documented Board actions in defiance of departmental staff conclusions and recommendations (such as the recent aerial wolf-hunting approval) show the anti-science bias of the Board. Criticism has come from retired and former department scientists and managers who reflect, collectively, a thousand years or more of service to the Department.

Re-read the Alaska Constitution. There is no requirement for "maximum sustained yield." Yet the Board's actions may be unlawfully "maximizing" sustained yield to the breaking point, benefitting two species (moose and caribou) at the expense of all the rest. Is this in the public interest of all Alaskans -- or of just the hunters and guides?

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is criticized for not cooperating with state intensive management on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, implying that USFWLS is violating federal law. To the contrary, an explicit statutory requirement for managing the Refuge is to manage for "natural diversity" of species.  Natural diversity is the antithesis of human-directed moose monoculture, which in fact is what intensive management represents. If USFWLS allowed aerial wolf gunning on the Refuge, it would clearly violate its own laws. Federal laws simply trump state laws and regulations on federal land.


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