Conservation groups seek to curb Alaska Board of Game

Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Conservation groups filed a lawsuit Monday that says the Alaska Board of Game is monopolized by hunters and trappers.

The suit seeks to transfer the board's regulatory authority to the Department of Fish and Game until the makeup of the board is broadened.

''This would continue until the board has been reformed to reflect the wide ownership spectrum of our wildlife resources which our (Alaska) Constitution recognizes,'' Paul Joslin, executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said in a news release.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance is joined in the suit by the Alaska Center for the Environment, Eastern Kenai Peninsula Environmental Action Association, Friends of McNeil River and the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society.

The groups say the makeup of the board leaves too many Alaskans who would prefer non-consumptive uses, such as research and photography, with no voice in the state's management of wildlife. They say that for more than 25 years the Legislature has refused to confirm any board member who is not a hunter or trapper.

''Even hunters who profess a strong interest in non-consumptive wildlife values have been summarily rejected. This is undemocratic, unlawful and just plain wrong,'' Joslin said.

The Legislature repeatedly has thwarted Gov. Tony Knowles' choices for the board. Wildlife photographer Leo Keeler was rejected this year after lawmakers cited his past criticism of pro-hunting legislation, and a plan he supports to provide a buffer zone on state-managed land to protect wolves that stray from Denali National Park.

Knowles last month appointed Chip Dennerlein, the regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, to the board. His confirmation will not come up for a vote until next year.

The exclusiveness of the board has resulted in hundreds of regulations which allow and regulate hunting and trapping being adopted. Meanwhile, the board has approved less than a half-dozen regulations to protect or encourage non-consumptive wildlife interests, the groups say.

''The Board of Game has always had a single management objective: to maximize the harvest to meet hunter and trapper demand,'' said Leo Keeler, president of Friends of McNeil River.

Carl Rosier, a former Fish and Game commissioner and president of the pro-hunting Alaska Outdoor Council, said the governor is to blame for the Legislature not embracing his choices for the board.

''If the governor doesn't send extremists up, then you wouldn't have that problem,'' he said.

He described board members as ''moderates'' and said they've done a good job of fairly allocating the state's wildlife resources.

The lawsuit is an attempt by special interest groups to expand their influence from parks to recreation areas, he said. If successful, Rosier said the suit would unfairly put Fish and Game in the middle of allocation decisions.

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