Wolf Song of Alaska News

Departing Governor Murkowski Appoints New Member to Alaska Game Board

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / December 4, 2006

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) -- A former Anchorage assemblyman has been appointed to the Alaska Board of Game in one of Frank Murkowski's final acts as governor.

Bob Bell, a civil engineer, was named to the seven-member panel on Tuesday, less than a week before the inauguration of Gov.-elect Sarah Palin. The seat was vacated by former board chairman Mike Fleagle, who resigned in August to become chairman of the Federal Subsistence Board.

The seat's term expires in March just before the board's next meeting. The appointment can be revoked by Palin after she assumes office on Monday.

Murkowski was attending a meeting in Texas and couldn't be reached for comment, said his spokesman, John Manly.

Alaska Outdoor Council executive director Rod Arno said he was "shocked" by Murkowski's appointment of Bell. Bell has never participated in the Game Board process during the 15 years Arno has been involved, Arno said.

The council offered Murkowski a short list of candidates for the seat.

Arno praised Murkowski, however, for his efforts in game management, including the state's expansion of predator control.

"I think we're the only constituency who can say he did everything he said he was going to do for us," said Arno.

Palin hasn't had time to consider possible Game Board candidates because she's been busy with higher-level decisions, said spokesman Curtis Smith. Palin was not consulted about Bell's appointment.

"I can say that when it comes to board appointments, it's her preference those selections be left up to her so the members of those boards reflect the attitudes and policies of her administration," Smith said.

Palin will have the chance to appoint two new Game Board members before the panel's March 2 meeting.

Beside Bell's seat, the term for Ben Grussendorf of Sitka also expires on March 1.

Bell said he campaigned for Palin and knows her well. He'd be surprised if she blocked his appointment, he said.

Murkowski's office asked him to submit an application for the board before the primary election in August, according to Bell.

Arno said the council looks forward to working with Palin. He said several council members were appointed to her transition team.

"We have a really good rapport with her," he said. "I think with Sarah in there we can build on what Murkowski let the department do."

Game Board critics said Murkowski loaded the board with hard-core hunters and that non-hunting issues, such as wildlife viewing and photography, weren't given enough consideration.

John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, his group has "mixed emotions and high hopes" regarding Palin's takeover.

The Alliance opposes her support of aerial wolf control, but the group is encouraged by her comments about prohibiting trophy hunting for McNeil River bears.

"There's no doubt she comes from the (Alaska Outdoor Council) side of camp," said Toppenberg. "Hopefully she will have an open mind on some of these issues."

Palin heard complaints about unbalanced boards during her campaign and plans to address the issue once she takes office, according to Smith.

"Her intention is to take a close look at those boards and bring some balance to them," he said.

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