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Board of Game not representative of Alaskans

Posted: February 10, 2012 - 9:43am

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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MathewCannava 02/10/12 - 10:26 am
Thank you T.E. for your

Thank you T.E. for your spot-on letter.

And for having the courage to sign your name to your words, as opposed to anonymous commentators who lack the integrity to stand by their posts.

ladyonthelake 02/10/12 - 12:13 pm

Section 4. Sustained Yield. Fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands, and allother replenishable resources belonging to the State shall be utilized,developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses.

248 P.3d 689 (2010)
Supreme Court of Alaska.
August 6, 2010

We AFFIRM the superior court's ruling regarding the applicability of Alaska's sustained yield clause to predator populations but REVERSE its ruling that AS 16.05.255 does not apply to predator populations. We AFFIRM the court's ruling that Defenders and West failed to meet their burden to show that the Board's 2006 predator control plans violate Alaska's sustained yield clause, and hold that Defenders and West also failed to show that the plans violate the sustained yield provisions of Alaska's intensive management statute. We AFFIRM the superior court's order denying West's motion for attorney's fees.

AKNATUREGUY 02/10/12 - 02:02 pm

Thank you T.E. for a great letter which accurately assesses the dismal situation in Alaska with reference to the Board of Game and its control over all important wildlife decisions made in the state of Alaska!

corinnep 02/10/12 - 06:55 pm

Thanks to T.E. Meacham for speaking up for the 85%, and for a brutally honest and informative letter.
Points 02/11/12 - 12:40 pm
Another thank you

Thank you for so eloquently representing the views of the vast majority of Alaskans who would like to see maintenance of a natural wildlife balance as the main goal of the Board of Game.

geomatz 02/11/12 - 01:24 pm
Board of Game

Meacham’s letter has some serious inaccuracies. While I agree that the current makeup of the Board of Game lacks diversity, I think it is inaccurate to say that “it has been this way for 20 years.” Up to the Knowles Administration, there were diverse appointments made to the Board of Game. It was the Murkowski Administration, followed by Palin and Parnell, that deliberately sought a Board of Game that is essentially devoid of interest in the nonconsumptive aspects of wildlife management.

Also, it is a distortion to assume that only the 15% of Alaska’s adult population who have hunting or trapping licenses are supporters of hunting. Many of those who don’t hunt also support hunting. My wife has absolutely no interest in hunting, but avidly supports my hunting and really enjoys eating game meat and being self-sufficient. It would be wrong to include her in the “other” 85%.

In fact, a 1994 survey by ADF&G found that 96% of Alaskan voters felt that “wildlife adds a great deal to my enjoyment of living in Alaska” and 87% “approve of hunting for meat.” While only 15% of Alaskans may have a license in any one particular year. The survey found that 62% have purchased a hunting license sometime in their life.

Furthermore, it is a serious mistake to label all fish and game advisory committees as lacking diversity and having “one-dimensional interests.” In fact two Kenai Peninsula advisory committees strongly opposed the recent BOG wolf control proposals for Unit 15.

While Meacham touches on some legitimate issues, his effectiveness would be better if he didn’t misrepresent matters. The fact of the matter is that a lot of Alaskans support both consumptive and nonconsumptive uses of wildlife and their perspective is being left out by extremists on either side of the hunting issue.

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