FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks once again has a seat around the campfire that is the Alaska Board of Game.
Fairbanks fur tanner Al Barrette was appointed to the game board last week by Gov. Sean Parnell.
His appointment ends a year-long gap in which there was no representative living north of the Alaska Range on the seven-person board that regulates hunting and trapping in the state.
Barrette, 44, is an avid trapper and hunter who owns Fairbanks Fur Tannery. He has served on the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee for the past six years and was recently re-elected for a third three-year term, though he will resign from the committee effective at the end of the advisory committee’s monthly meeting tonight.
Barrette applied for a seat on the game board about two months ago. He said his time on the local advisory committee ignited an interest to dive deeper into the process.
“I was encouraged to do it and I wanted to do it,” Barrette said.
Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee chairman Ray Heuer called Barrette “an excellent choice” to serve on the game board and not just because he’s from Fairbanks.
“He asks appropriate questions, and he’s not a ‘yes’ man,” Heuer said.
The fact that he is the only member of the board living in the northern part of the state is important, he said.
“He has the Interior’s best interest in mind. That’s what we’re lacking right now,” Heuer said.
Barrette replaces Bob Bell of Anchorage, whose three-year term will expire on March 1.
Former state legislator Ben Grussendorf of Sitka was reappointed to the game board for a fourth-consecutive term by Parnell. The appointments of both Barrette and Grussendorf must be confirmed by the joint legislature, but both are expected to participate in a board meeting scheduled in Fairbanks Feb. 26-March 6.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, said Barrette has “a wealth of experience in issues involving Alaska’s game resources” and “his hunting, trapping and guiding experience, as well as his service on the Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee, will make him an effective member of the Board of Game.”
As the second-youngest member of the seven-person board, Barrette said he will offer “new ideas and a maybe a younger perspective” to the board, which often finds itself embroiled in controversial issues like predator control and cow moose hunts.
“More modern with some of the old-school thinking,” is how Barrette summed up his philosophy.
Barrette has a hunting guide’s license and calls himself “a consumptive user” but admitted trapping is his first love.
“I will definitely be a representative for the trappers,” Barrette said.
Barrette, an Army transplant who has been in Fairbanks since 1989, said he talks to a lot of trappers and hunters who come through his shop and has a good idea what’s on their minds.
Fairbanks advisory committee vice-chairman Virgil Umphenour said Barrette is familiar with the game board process and is an active participant, both at the meeting table and in the field.
“I think he’ll do great,” said Umphenour, who sat on the state Board of Fisheries for six years. “He does his research and he has the moral courage to question the (Department of Fish and Game) if he thinks they’re wrong.
“That’s what you need to be a good board,” Umphenour said. “That and the dedication to spend the time to study the department’s scientific reports and look for other scientific reports the department doesn’t present.”
Long-time Fairbanks advisory committee member Mike Tinker said Barrette represents a more “hands-on” approach than most board members because he makes his livelihood on trapping and still spends considerable time in the field.
“Al is not your Ph.D. type,” Tinker said. “He’s your blue-collar guy. He comes at it from the standpoint of I went out and tried this and it didn’t work; why not? He brings a whole different perspective than we’ve had before.”
The board has not had a trapping representative for several years, Tinker noted.
“I think he’ll represent Alaska trappers well,” he said. “It’s important to have somebody who knows when somebody is blowing smoke when they’re talking about trapping and Al will do that.”
Barrette’s seat on the Fairbanks advisory committee will be filled by former committee member Emma Lee Grennan, who was the first alternate in December’s vote to elect four new members. Grennan has been filling in for another committee member on a leave of absence and will assume Barrette’s spot following tonight’s meeting. Mark Albert of North Pole, the second alternate in the December election, will take over the temporary seat Grennan was filling.