Been a long time since I was at a Board meeting. Really had no idea how to play the game, but I did some learning. Believe me, the whole thing is a game, and knowing how to play makes all the difference.
One of the first things I learned was just how difficult it is for any one person, sitting on a Board such as this, to really grasp and fully understand all the issues surrounding each proposal or issue before them. Rarely did any member I watched have a viable understanding of the legal, biological, or social issues involved with each proposal.
The next thing I learned was the Dept. (ADF&G) goes into these meetings with a team attitude. They have many players, including legal, enforcement, administrative, and biological, all working together every day of the meeting. This team makes sure their respective viewpoint is continually in front of each member.
Thirdly, I learned that these team members, ESPECIALLY KEVIN SAXBY, have no problem blowing smoke on any issue if Board members seem to be swayed by public input.
The meeting was arranged so public testimony was done first. This puts you at a disadvantage right away. Any thing you say, the dept will have time to prepare to respond to. Once your 5 min are up, that's the last time you get to speak on the record. When the Board hears the proposals for a certain unit, the Region staff sit at the table and have all the time in the world to speak and discuss the issue with the Board.
Here's an example:
One of the proposals was to lengthen the spring griz season in 22C. At our AC meeting, the dept was against this proposal as there was not any decent bear pop. data currently. Also, earlier spring hunting results in higher bear harvest. The dept has regularly opposed anything that will increase bear harvest in this area, despite complaints from locals about high bear numbers. The AC supported this proposal.
At the meeting, now the dept reason for opposing was that adjacent units had lower moose numbers and calf survival. The dept didn't want more bear hunting in 22C to take hunters away from adjacent units. This was mostly smoke, as the bag limit in adjacent units is one bear per year. 22C bag limit is one every 4. Additionally, The proposed opening date for 22C was May 1. Much of the adjacent units are thawing and unreachable by this date. The dept staff knew all this but only told the Board what they wanted the members to hear. Of course, no one knew this would be the new reason for opposing. So we had no chance to speak to it at testimony.
There is hope tho. During breaks, citizens have a chance to speak privately with Board members, and try to sway them to your side. Board members will even seek you out if your testimony impresses them.
Pretty hard to beat the Dept, if they aren't on your side. Even with AC support, the Dept will do anything they can to promote their side. Not sure what changes would make things better.
This was definitely an enjoyable experience tho. Even if I didn't fully get what I wanted out of it. Hope to try one out again some time.