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On Guard for Fishing, Hunting
Opinion / Dick Bishop / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / November 25, 2005

Nov. 12 was a big day for more than 100 volunteers putting on the 22nd annual Alaska Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund/Alaska Outdoor Council Dinner & Auction. It was a pretty good evening for the nearly 500 guests who attended, too.

Why would so many people give days and weeks of their precious time and talent to this event? Why would dozens of Alaskan individuals and businesses donate their hard-earned assets to this auction?

One answer may be that many of us enjoy and just want to celebrate our Alaskan outdoor heritage of fishing, hunting, trapping and recreating. But, another likely answer is that in our democratic republic, where anyone is free to promote their view on how others should live their lives, you have to stand up for what you believe in--or lose it.

Example: A Defenders of Wildlife representative and others are again petitioning to dictate to everyone else through "ballot box biology" the terms of predator management. Their proposed statute would ban an important method of managing wolf predation. It includes a bunch of the same ambiguous terms and legal mumbo-jumbo as past efforts, guaranteed to paralyze professional predator management with lawsuits. Fortunately, Commissioner McKie Campbell of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced the department's opposition to this proposal to prohibit same-day airborne shooting of wolves in a state management program.

But that's just one example. Others are at least as ominous for fishers, hunters and trappers. For example:

* The federal government is overreaching its authority on state navigable waters--and the state is challenging the federal government in court. The Wildlife Conservation Fund and the Alaska Outdoor Council intend to join the lawsuit. Literally thousands of Alaskans will be adversely affected if the feds are not reined in. Recall that then-Gov. Tony Knowles dropped appeals of the Babbitt and Katie John court decisions, which mistakenly took away Alaska's authority to manage fish and game on federal lands and state waters. Now the state can only challenge how the feds implement the court decisions, not the decisions themselves.

* The Chitina dip-net fishery and sport fishing in Copper River tributaries are disadvantaged by un-balanced salmon allocations.

* Land access for traditional outdoor uses is being threatened by state and federal agencies as well as by special interest groups.

* Upper Cook Inlet salmon escapements for some species are unacceptably low, as are the sport fishing opportunities of the area.

* Federal allocation of hunting and fishing opportunities on federal lands and waters discriminates unfairly against the majority of Alaskans and often undermines state management programs.

* Department of Fish and Game research and management are under-funded. Likewise, the boards of Fisheries and Game and the advisory committee system.

All of these public-policy issues are concerns being addressed by the Alaska Outdoor Council and its sister organization, the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund. The council and fund work in the Legislature and Congress, through administrative procedures such as the Boards of Fisheries and Game, and if necessary, in courts.

No wonder hundreds of Alaskans in the Fairbanks area turned out to support our 22nd Annual Fairbanks Dinner & Auction. They, and we, don't want to see our outdoor heritage and our civil rights trampled.

Thanks!

Dick Bishop, Interior vice president of the Alaska Outdoor Council, is a retired state game biologist.

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