Knowles appoints Dennerlein to Game Board

Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- In an appointment that pleased conservationists but could run into trouble in the Legislature, Tony Knowles appointed the regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association to the Board of Game on Monday.

Chip Dennerlein also has served as state parks director under former Gov. Jay Hammond and executive manager for the Municipality of Anchorage.

''Dennerlein brings experience and commitment to this position and his expertise in the area of parklands will be invaluable,'' Knowles said. ''Chip will be an asset in the difficult task of managing our important wildlife resources.''

Dennerlein said he would work to find solutions that satisfy both hunters and advocates of non-lethal uses of game such as wildlife viewing. The two sides have clashed in recent years over many aspects of wildlife management.

''We can take leadership thoughtfully and we can sustain all of these opportunities,'' Dennerlein said. ''It's probably going to mean that there are places where we protect predators and places where we control predators.''

Dennerlein will sit on the board for at least one meeting when it convenes in Juneau on Wednesday. However, his three-year term could be cut short when the Legislature convenes in January.

Pro-hunting lawmakers soundly rejected Knowles' last appointment, wildlife photographer Leo Keeler. Since Knowles took office in 1994, the Legislature has rebuffed his attempts to appoint advocates for wildlife viewing and other non-consumptive uses of game to the board.

Lawmakers cited Keeler's advocacy of wildlife viewing, his past criticism of pro-hunting legislation, and a plan he advocates to provide a buffer zone on state-managed land to protect wolves that stray from Denali National Park.

Dennerlein also supports that plan to protect the Toklat wolf pack. However, next week's election could produce a substantially different Legislature.

The pro-hunting Alaska Outdoor Council opposed Keeler, but has not taken a position on Dennerlein's appointment, said Carl Rosier, a former commissioner of Fish and Game and the organization's president.

''As far as I know, Chip has not had any hidden agendas about wildlife and the use of wildlife,'' Rosier said. ''I think that sets him apart from some of the ones that the Legislature turned down.''

Paul Joslin, executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, applauded the choice.

''He would be someone who recognizes that there are many values of wildlife to be respected in Alaska, that wildlife isn't just for dinner,'' Joslin said. ''He's someone who -- while holding a hunting license -- understands very well that 80 percent of the people are not represented on the Board of Game.''

In his work with the National Parks Conservation Association, Dennerlein said he concentrates on cooperation with the state and Alaska Native corporations to preserve the wilderness character of 53 million acres of national parklands within the state.

Dennerlein opposes one of the wildlife-related measures on next week's ballot, while supporting the other.

He's against Measure 1, a constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature that would ban initiatives dealing with wildlife. Its backers say they want to stamp out campaigns like the successful 1996 ban on land-and-shoot wolf hunting and the failed bid to outlaw wolf snaring.

''I strongly oppose eliminating the ability of the citizens of Alaska to speak on wildlife issues,'' Dennerlein said. ''Alaskans throughout the state depend on our wildlife resources for their lives, their livelihoods and their quality of life.''

He supports Measure 6, a referendum that would reverse the Legislature's decision to relax the land-and-shoot ban in areas designated by the Board of Game for predator control. Lawmakers argued the ban has allowed wolves to run rampant in parts of the state, cutting into the supply of moose for human hunters. The initiative's backers say an arrogant Legislature overrode the will of the people.

''I am not opposed to predator control as a management tool in cases where it is necessary,'' Dennerlein said. ''I'm opposed to reinstating land-and-shoot because I think it conveys a simplistic message that is not backed by good biology or ethical hunting practices.''

Dennerlein is already involved in the contentious argument over wolf control.

This summer, Knowles appointed him to a wolf management team for the McGrath area, a hotbed of the argument. Residents there contend the land-and-shoot ban has allowed wolves to multiply, causing the local moose population to decline.

The team is charged with making recommendations to the commissioner of Fish and Game to rebuild the moose population while maintaining healthy populations of other wildlife, including wolves.

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