Wolf Song of Alaska News

Fleagle Named Chairman of Federal Subsistence Board

Tim Mowry / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / August 20, 2006

Mike Fleagle, chairman of the Alaska Board of Game for the past four years, has resigned that position to take over the same post with the Federal Subsistence Board.

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, who is scheduled to visit Alaska this week, announced the appointment on Friday and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns concurred.

Fleagle, 47, replaces former chairman and Nenana Native leader Mitch Dementieff, who served as chairman of the federal board for 11 years before being removed in July by Kempthorne.

Fleagle, a Native and lifelong Alaskan who grew up in McGrath, served on the state Board of Game for the past 10 years, the last three of which he chaired the seven-person board, which dictates hunting seasons, bag limits and regulations on state land in Alaska.

The governor, who appoints game board members, has received notice of Fleagle's resignation, according to John Manly, spokesman for Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Unlike most game board members, Fleagle survived two different administrations. He was appointed to the game board by Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles in 1996 and again in 1999 before resigning his post in January 2002. Murkowski reappointed Fleagle to the game board when he took office in December of 2002.

A strong advocate of predator control and subsistence, Fleagle helped launch the state's first aerial wolf control program in more than a decade while chairing the game board.

How Fleagle's move to the Federal Subsistence Board will affect game management in Alaska remains to be seen.

State and federal game managers don't necessarily see eye to eye when it comes to subsistence management in Alaska.

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act passed by Congress in 1980 mandates that rural residents of Alaska be given a priority for subsistence uses of fish and wildlife. However, the Alaska Constitution guarantees equal access to the state's fish and wildlife resources for all residents.

The state has filed several lawsuits against the federal government regarding subsistence management in Alaska.

The Federal Subsistence Board mandates how subsistence uses on federal public lands and waters are managed in Alaska. Approximately 60 percent of the land within the state-about 230 million acres-belongs to the federal government. The Federal Subsistence Board, however, doesn't deal with predator control and federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have shown little or no interest in entering that arena.

Department of Fish and Game commissioner McKie Campbell said he had mixed feelings about Fleagle's departure.

While his leadership and experience will be missed on the state Game Board, Campbell said his presence on the Federal Subsistence Board after a decade on the state Board of Game could be a boost to subsistence management in Alaska.

"I think his appointment can't help but be positive for relationships on both sides," the commissioner said. "He's a strong advocate of making sure subsistence needs are met statewide properly."

The governor will begin accepting applications to fill Fleagle's position on the Game Board immediately, Manly said. The governor will be looking for a replacement who shares the same views on predator control as Fleagle, he added.

Dementieff called his 11 years as chairman of the Federal Subsistence Board "a wonderful experience" and said he understands how the system works.

"It's a political appointment," he said. "That's the nature of the beast."

Dementieff said he will remain active in subsistence management "behind the scenes."

"I don't think I'm going to be without influence as to what happens in regards to subsistence," he said.

News-Miner staff writer Tim Mowry can be reached at 459-7587 or tmowry@newsminer.com.

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