July 29, 2002 Anchorage Daily News urges approval of latest game board appointees

Posted: Monday, August 05, 2002

For Gov. Tony Knowles' two terms, the Legislature has played Whack-a-Mole with his choices for the Board of Game.

Whenever the governor picks someone who thinks about more than just hunting or trapping or who won't automatically approve killing wolves in the name of ''predator control,'' WHACK! The Legislature ditches the nominee.

Gov. Knowles then picks a similarly minded replacement. That lucky person gets to serve until the Legislature convenes again and can send him or her packing.

As the Legislature plays Whack-a-Mole, Gov. Knowles responds like the Energizer Bunny. He keeps going and going, trying to bring some balance to the Game Board with his appointments, even if they are doomed to be short-timers.

His latest set of choices for the Game Board reflects that admirable persistence. The five include three men, wildlife filmmaker Joel Bennett and retired biologists Vic Van Ballenberghe and Jack Lentfer, who previously served on the board. During their tenure, the three were thoughtful and judicious and open to the concerns of nonhunters. All three served at a time when the Legislature did not treat those traits as fatal flaws. Mr. Van Ballenberghe came back for another tour of duty during the Knowles administration, but pro-hunting ideologues in the Legislature cut short his tenure by refusing to confirm him.

Neither the governor nor his appointees are even remotely anti-hunting. Messrs. Bennett, Lentfer and Van Ballenberghe have decades of experience hunting in Alaska. They simply understand that there is more to game management than just hunting and that hunters are not the only Alaskans with legitimate interests at stake.

To represent Native subsistence interests, Gov. Knowles' list includes Tim Towarak, a Native leader from Unalakleet. The fifth appointee, Rob Hardy, is a big-game guide and trapper from Wasilla.

Taken as a whole, the five nominees are an excellent slate. By law, the latest Game Board choices can serve at least until Gov. Knowles leaves office in December. They deserve the chance to serve full three-year terms.

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