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Sarah Palin Believes Ron Sommerville's Presence on the Alaska Board of Game Adds to its Balance

Palin's Wrong, Vote Knowles

She's simply a more personable and ethical version of Frank Murkowski

Letters / Anchorage Press / November 3, 2006

The new Board of Game chairman apologized Wednesday for When Sarah Palin tossed her Valley hat into Alaska's gubernatorial-candidate ring, I, like many residents, found it refreshing that the Republican party was finally offering the public a candidate with strong ethics and a willingness to take on the party's powerbrokers. I also found her to be likeable and an "up front" sort of politician. A straight shooter. Whether or not those qualities make her governor material can be argued, but she seemed a vast improvement over our current governor. Though I rarely vote Republican, I thought I'd wait and see what she offered as the primaries gave way to the general election campaign, and her stances on important issues became clearer. Alas, the more I've learned about Palin the more convinced I've become that she's the wrong person to lead our state. More than anything, I think, she's simply a more personable and ethical version of Frank Murkowski.

Sarah touts herself as one who'll take issues head-on and speak her mind no matter what. Yet she showed an unwillingness - or inability - to give straight answers when questioned by listeners on a recent "Talk of Alaska" call-in radio show. I was both frustrated and troubled by her responses to questions about abortion, subsistence, the Pebble Mine, and increased trophy hunting for bears near McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, which protects the world's largest gathering of brown bears and affords visitors an unparalleled opportunity to spend time in the close company of bears.

Increasingly frustrated by regressive state wildlife-management policies, particularly with regard to predators (and their "control"), I was especially bothered by Palin's ignorance of the highly charged controversy over increased hunting opportunities for brown bears on state lands near McNeil sanctuary. This seems peculiar, given her professed passion for shooting and hunting and her desire to increase hunting opportunities around the state. It's also troubling that she believes Ron Sommerville's presence on the Board of Game "adds to its balance." In fact Sommerville's presence demonstrates the board's incredible lack of balance. It also demonstrates the political pull of the Alaska Outdoor Council, a largely white, male, and urban "sportsmen's" group that has endorsed Palin (and of which she's a member). Sommerville symbolizes a power-hungry Board of Game that is sympathetic to an ever-narrower slice of Alaskans.

Palin's support of Sommerville also reflects a bias against federal laws that give a preference to rural subsistence hunters and fishers, a fact of Alaskan life the AOC despises. She, like Sommerville and other BOG members, also supports the state's ever-expanding predator-control programs, the most extensive and oppressive in decades. The Board of Game's pro-ungulate, anti-predator policies - reflecting AOC values - are awful and need to be changed, the sooner the better.

If there's a straight-shooting maverick in this governor's race it's independent candidate Andrew Halcro, not Palin. Someday, Halcro might very well become our governor. But this time around we need a trip "back to the future," with experienced leader Tony Knowles.

While Knowles is not perfect, he's a far superior choice to his primary rival, Palin, at least for those who prefer a progressive approach to both social issues and wildlife management, and a recognition of the need for a rural subsistence priority. During his first two terms as governor, Knowles consistently appointed people who broadened the BOG's perspectives and gave at least some voice to the majority of Alaskans who don't hunt. He's also been to McNeil and urges that the sanctuary's bears be protected, as its management plan clearly states.

Though Knowles says "predator control is a valid wildlife management tool," he adds that the only control efforts he'll support are those "targeted at specific areas and (wolf) packs," undertaken as a last resort, not an ever-widening priority. Knowles also supports Alaskans' overwhelming opposition to airborne wolf hunting and calls bear baiting of grizzlies a travesty. As he put it in a recent interview, Knowles believes that wildlife management, as practiced now, is "a tool that's gone out of control."

Just as I'm convinced that Knowles will restore balance - and sanity - to Alaska's wildlife management, I've become convinced that Sarah Palin will largely "stay the course" laid down by Frank Murkowski, a horrible path to take. She may be a likeable, reasonable, ethical woman, but I worry about her political experience and the people who'll be advising her.

There's been lots of talk this political season, about changing directions. That's clearly the issue with wildlife politics. I'm hoping that other disgruntled Alaskans will vote for balanced, progressive wildlife management, by voting for Tony Knowles.

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