More diversity urged for Board of Game
PAST MEMBERS: Palin asked that wildlife viewers be included.
The Associated Press
FAIRBANKS -- Former members of the state Board of Game want to see more diversity on the seven-person panel that regulates wildlife management in the state.
A dozen former board members asked Gov. Sarah Palin in a letter to consider more representation of "nonconsumptive users," such as wildlife viewers, on the board.
"Nonconsumptive users of wildlife in Alaska include tens of thousands of residents and nonresidents alike who contribute significant revenue to the state through their activities," states the letter sent Thursday. "Unfortunately, in recent years virtually all Game Board members were appointed to represent hunting and trapping interests.
"We strongly urge you to recruit and appoint future board members who can effectively represent both consumptive and nonconsumptive users of this state's wildlife."
Former board member Joel Bennett of Juneau wrote the letter and it was signed by 11 other former members.
Among them was Julie Maier, a biology professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As far as she is concerned, only one member on the current board -- Ben Grussendorf of Sitka -- serves to represent nonconsumptive users.
"I don't necessarily think you have to have extremists on there, but I think it helps to have a broader representation," said Maier, a hunter. "Nonconsumptive users definitely do feel it's a waste of time to go to this board, and that's a shame."
Current board member Dick Burley disagreed with the letter.
"I feel this board has been very sensitive to all different groups and players," he said.
Burley said the board will never make all user groups happy, whether they are hunters or wildlife viewers.
"It's easy for people who have a decision made against what they want to say that the board doesn't represent their views," he said.
Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said the governor had not yet seen the letter and therefore had no comment.
The governor is responsible for appointing Game Board members, who then are confirmed by state legislators.
The makeup of the board has been at issue for several years, with such organizations as the Alaska Wildlife Alliance and Defenders of Wildlife pushing for more balanced representation.
Wade Willis, the Alaska representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said he would like to see a travel industry representative appointed to the board. Tourism is the second-leading industry in the state, and wildlife viewing is one of the primary reasons people visit Alaska, he said.
"For the tourism industry, decisions made by the Board of Game are the number one image maker in this state," Willis said. "It's not that somebody from the tourism industry is going to say, 'No, we can't do predator control,' but they might say, 'We need to package it in a way to minimize the negative impact it has on the tourism industry.' "
Willis and Maier said nonconsumptive users have largely been ignored by the board under the administrations of Palin and former Gov. Frank Murkowski.
Before Murkowski, vacancies on the panel were advertised and nominations were solicited from various groups, according to the letter. The process is much more secretive now and nominations are not shared or scrutinized like they once were.
"Our perception now is that these practices no longer prevail and the rule seems to be that only input from hunting and trapping interests is valued," the letter states.
Sure is funny that Julie Maier says the nonconsumptive users don't have to be extremists; yet the article goes on to mention two extreme animal rights' groups (DOW, and AWA) are pushing for a balanced Board. Both groups have worked in the past with their primary objective being to assault hunting and trapping rights. Diversity is divisive; leave the BOG the way it is.
IF, IF, IF they get representation, I want to see the wildlife viewers given seasons, just like hunting; limits on #'s of people allowed to view, and season's on viewing. Currently, they have neither (with few exceptions-like McNeil River).