Letters to the Editor

Posted: Friday, October 06, 2000

Initiative process needed to guard against poor wildlife policy, politics

Now comes the Coalition for the Alaska Way of Life, a front organization for the Alaska Outdoor Council. This group was formed for one purpose only: to take away your constitutional right to vote on wildlife issues by initiative.

In perspective: Of the 29 initiatives appearing on the ballot since statehood only two related to wildlife. Alaska voters approved the 1996 initiative to ban same-day, airborne wolf hunting and voted down the 1998 initiative to ban wolf snaring. The voters rightly perceived the merits (or lack of) in these two initiatives and voted accordingly. Seldom needed, the initiative-referendum process gives the people their only tool to enact law against bad wildlife policy.

You say, we already have a good system of wildlife management, where a governor elected by the people appoints the Board of Game and the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and where citizen advisory committees elected by the people are a liaison to the Board of Game.

A good system that should work, but hasn't since 1993. Why? Biology is politicized and wildlife management is people management. Gov. Knowles appoints an eminently qualified person, Dr. Van Ballenberghe (one of the most knowledgeable biologists on predator-prey-human relationships in the state) to the Board of Game. The Republican Legislature, which confirms (this is where the system first breaks down) Board of Game appointees, thinks Van Ballenberghe's haircut makes him look too much like a conservationist and let the session run out without acting on the appointment.

The next two well-qualified appointees are judged guilty by association (with a non-hunter?) even before they face a thumbs-down inquisition by the House Resource Committee.

Advisory committees from Fairbanks to Palmer more often than not mirror the views of the single-use group that advises the Republican Legislature on wildlife issues.

Poor to bad wildlife policy is continually being proposed or passed into law by the Republican majority under the influence of the Alaska Outdoor Council. With its coterie of retired (and fired) biologists and politicians, the hierarchy of this paranoid, single-minded, hard-core, motorized hunting organization advocates a wildlife agenda that is best described as exploitative.

In 1997, when Larry Holmes, chairman of the Board of Game, responding to a large majority of proposals from hunters in Unit 13, tried to protect the declining moose population and the habitat (the job he was appointed to do) from the decade-long misuse of mechanization by hordes of mostly urban, off-road-vehicle hunters, he was threatened with reprisal by Republican legislators, and later, railroaded off the Board of Game.

How do we curb the mismanagement of our wildlife resource by politicians in lock-step with a minority single-interest group?

By voting "Yes" on the referendum to repeal same-day, airborne hunting of wolves (ballot measure No. 6) and by voting "No" on the constitutional amendment to outlaw wildlife initiatives (ballot measure No. 1).

The make-up of the Legislature must also be changed if wildlife policy-makers and the professionals at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are to work together in the best interest of the resource. To effect this change (what follows is by former governor Jay Hammond) do not vote for any candidate that fails to pledge allegiance to the following: Will you oppose legislative efforts to manage fish and game resources when the Department of Fish and Game opposes such efforts?

George R. Pollard


When you cast vote Nov. 7, think about dividend checks

With the news that we are each going to get almost $2,000 in our permanent fund check, we may have been so busy thinking of how we are going to spend it that we may have forgotten how close we came to losing it.

Rep. Hal Smalley thinks the government can do a better job spending your money than you can, and was one of the people in the Legislature trying to steal our permanent fund. Fortunately, Rep. Smalley and those who think like him -- that the government can handle our money better than we can -- were stopped by Sen. Jerry Ward, Sen. Robin Taylor and a few other legislators who truly work for the people instead of the special interests.

Unlike Rep. Smalley, Mike Chenault has stated that if he is elected representative, he will protect the permanent fund.

If you live in Kenai or Nikiski and want to continue receiving your full permanent fund check, vote for Sen. Jerry Ward and Mike Chenault for representative.

Esther Rhines


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