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Alaska Board of Game, Alaska Outdoor Council, and Sarah Palin as Governor

A Lot Left Out of AOC's Web Site Article

Leo Keeler / November 10, 2006

I know an AOC web site article has already run it's course and had it's effect - i.e. Palin as new Governor.


However, I would like to set the record straight.  As a member of the McGrath Adaptive Management Team and one of the many Board of Game members nominated by Governor Knowles, but not confirmed by the legislature due to political pressure from Alaska Outdoor Council, I know there is a lot left out of AOC's article.

To begin with, AOC offers an old saying about past performance being an indicator.  I wonder how they can ignore the past public statements made through two public initiatives banning aerial wolf hunting? They even ignored the most recent acquisition of 57,000 signatures to vote on it a third time, when only 32,000 signatures were required.  Their political lobbying and omission or inability to accept public direction demonstrates their bias and desire to act only for a minority of Alaskans.

I am not an expert on the Babbit case or Katie John case, but I believe that Governor Knowles had good experts advising him.  After working for the Chugach National Forest for 22 years in Alaska Land law, I know that Tony had many reasons and justifications to drop those cases.  One reason AOC ignores is that the Federal Government granted rights to the State under the Statehood Act.  Initially those grants to Alaska, like all other States, included the privilege to manage fish and game for the benefit of all Alaskans.  However, as with all States, the government retained the rights to make future determinations of what would be best for "ALL" Alaskans, and under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and Alaska National Interested Lands Conservation Act, the U.S. Congress determined that it was in the best interest of "All" Alaskans and "All" Americans to pass those acts containing provisions for "rural" preference in use of fish and wildlife.  AOC conveniently ignores all the trade-offs made by those acts and all the benefits Alaskans have received through developing the north slope oil, which settled numerous court cases addressing land rights, ownership, and use of resources.  AOC also wants everyone to believe that the "State" is superior in power and decision making authority to the Federal Government, even though they will reluctantly acknowledge that in the court process there is a benefit to having the U.S. Supreme Court as the ultimate decider.

Alaska's Board of Game is an old system, that, like the old Guide Board, operates on the "Good Old Buddy" system.  The Guide Board was found unconstitutional in State court because of the common use clause in the State Constitution.  Unfortunately, AOC has been successful in lobbying the Legislature enough to get them to believe that because hunting fees and the Pitman Robertson act funds pay for wildlife management, that only hunters should have a say in wildlife management.  They can not accept the principle that paying for hunting licenses is paying for the "PRIVILEGE" of taking a public resource for personal use and consumption.  When Governor Knowles began to appoint people to the Board of Game that hunted, but also saw special benefits to watchable wildlife like McNeil River bears and the Toklat Wolves of Denali, AOC lobbied the Legislature to reject confirmation.  They were successful for nearly 5 years and when Murkowski became Governor there were 5 seats open, to which he nominated 5 of the most radical AOC supporters that could be found.  Thus AOC was set to thumb their noses at the public initiatives against aerial wolf control, and able to initiate and spread their philosophy that appears to be to kill as many predators as possible in order to make it as easy as possible for hunters, especially urban hunters.

As a member of the McGrath Adaptive Management team, I know AOC's article is very misleading, offering only points that support their position.  Points omitted include that the Team required ADF&G to identify the number of residents potentially dependent on moose in the McGrath area, and calculate the moose population necessary to provide adequate meat for McGrath and nearby communities.  That number was 3,000-3,500 moose.  AOC is correct in that an "accurate" count showed there were about 3,000 moose in the area under consideration for wolf control.  But AOC does not inform the reader that along with that count, ADF&G determined that, unlike a normally hunted moose population where the bull/cow ration would be 35/100, near McGrath the ratio was as low as 6/100.  Wolves avoid bulls if possible, because of their antlers, size, and fighting ability, but humans do not.  Another indication of over hunting was the further you got from McGrath, the larger the antler spread became.  Near McGrath it was only 30", as compared to 42" in areas requiring time and effort to get to.  A head ADF&G manager even wrote a statement declaring over hunting the major problem at McGrath, but he also supported AOC's concept that, by reducing competition from natural predators to extremely low, un-natural levels, hunters could harvest more moose.

The McGrath Adaptive Management Team, including myself, expedited work as much as possible per Governor Knowles directions.  We even began developing a basic plan and strategy for wolf control before ADF&G had completed it's studies.  Once the studies came in, though, it was evident that the conceptual information we had used was way off base and the plan was totally unsupportable.  Governor Knowles realized the error of implementing the plan, unfortunately Murkowski yielded to AOC's lobbying and special interest objectives and appointed a Board of Game which has become known as the Board of Shame.

I have hunted all my life, and still do hunt occasionally.  I do not accept AOC's fear-mongering statements that unless they fight all anti-hunting actions, hunting will eventually be banned.  I hope the recent national elections help convince everyone there is no effort to take away all guns and hunting rights and hunting will always be a privilege to be passed on to future generations. Maybe those claiming hunting fees pay for management will eventually realize their fees pay for the privilege to take what belongs to everyone and consume it. Unfortunately, few know that sport and competition shooting at Target, Trap, and Skeet ranges supplies the majority of the funds going into the Pitman/Robertson funds.  As that fact becomes better known, hunters will be forced to stop using it as part of their justification for controlling wildlife management. Hopefully, the trend to make management more balanced will spread as more people learn the facts and realize that wildlife belongs to everyone, and in some cases, watchable wildlife values far exceed the benefits of harvesting a natural surplus of game animals.

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