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Governor Murkowski Names 9 to Professional Hunters' Board

New: Big Game Commercial Services panel to police standards

Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News / August 4, 2005

Fairbanks -- Nine people have been appointed to a panel that will regulate and license big game hunting and transporting services in Alaska.

The Big Game Commercial Services Board was appointed last week by Gov. Frank Murkowski during a bill-signing sweep through Fairbanks.

The new board will "ensure professional guide services will be held to the highest standards," said Murkowski.

The new board will regulate transporters who ferry hunters to and from hunting destinations and will standardize contracts to include specific language regarding different aspects of a hunt, such as length and exactly what services hunters can expect.

"Nobody is going to guarantee a hunt, but a guide should provide a certain level of service," said Rep. Ralph Samuels, the Anchorage legislator who spent three years pushing the bill through the Legislature. Other issues the board may handle include cracking down on illegal guides and transporters who flood certain areas with hunters, said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner McKie Campbell.

Fairbanks big-game guide Virgil Umphenour supports the guide board's revival.

"There will be a forum to discipline unethical guides and transporters; right now there isn't one," Umphenour said.

"That's the purpose of it, to deal with the bad apples."

The Alaska Professional Hunters Association supported the re-creation of the board.

"If something goes wrong now, you've got to address it through legislation or go to occupational licensing and tell somebody who doesn't know anything about hunting and ask them to fix it," said APHA executive director Rob Fithian of Copper Center. "Now we have a sounding board to go to."

The board replaces a similar guide board disbanded in 1995. The guiding industry has been overseen by the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development for the past decade.

There are 685 registered big-game hunting guides, 1,505 assistant guides and 311 licensed transporters in the state. The guiding and transporter industry generates an estimated $250 million a year in Alaska.

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