Wolf Song of Alaska News


Alaska Board of Game Nominees to Go Before State Senate

Stefan Milkowski / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / 2-27-07


Juneau - The newest appointee to the state Board of Game, former Anchorage assemblyman Bob Bell, told lawmakers Monday that he's seen a lot of things in his 37 years in Alaska that he'd like to do something about.

A personal one involves the moose population in Game Management Unit 16B, a rich wildlife area west, across Knik Arm, from Anchorage, where he's had a hunting camp for the last 20 years. Bell said the unit is closed now because natural predators and hunting have shrunk the moose population.

"I can see the impact of policies that didn't protect those animals," he told members of the House Resources Committee during a confirmation hearing. "I think I can help make things better," he said.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed Bell, a civil engineer from Anchorage, to the seven-member board a week before leaving office last year. Bell was given the seat vacated by former board chairman Mike Fleagle, who resigned in August to become chairman of the Federal Subsistence Board.

The term of Bell's seat expires this week, but Gov. Sarah Palin reappointed him to the board, according to Game Board executive director Kristy Tibbles. Palin also reappointed former state lawmaker Ben Grussendorf of Sitka, who has now served on the board under three governors.

The House Resources Committee considered the appointments Monday, and the Senate Resources Committee is scheduled to discuss them Friday. Lawmakers will vote on the governor's appointments later in the year during a joint session of the House and Senate.

During the hearing, Bell said he would bring the perspective of a "wildlife user" who's experience is mostly through hunting.

He said he saw predator control as a good tool for managing game populations, but said he would stand behind the recommendations of biologists studying the populations.

When asked specifically about the McNeil River bear population, Bell again said he would follow the advice of biologists.

"I'm going to listen very carefully to what they have to say," he said.

As a user of fish and game, he said, he would want to make sure the animal populations were sustainable.

Grussendorf, who also served as mayor of Sitka, said he liked to think people saw him as thoughtful, fair and knowledgeable about wildlife. When he was in the Legislature, people came to him when they had questions about birds and other animals, he said.

Grussendorf said when he wasn't sure about a management call, he tended to err on the side of the "critter." It's better to make hunters mad for a year or two than create a long-term problem with a game population, he said.

Rod Arno, director of the Alaska Outdoor Council, spoke well of both appointees.

Last year he said he was shocked by Murkowski's appointment of Bell, who he said hadn't participated in the Game Board process at all during the 15 years Arno was involved.

On Monday, Arno said the AOC wouldn't object to his appointment and was convinced Bell would be "advocating for abundance management."

Having Bell on the board would be good for Fairbanks because of his support for predator control, he said.

Arno described Grussendorf as experienced and fair.

"He certainly is a representative not just of the hunting constituency, but I think he does a pretty good job and listens to the concerns of all user groups," he said.

Alaska Wildlife Alliance director John Toppenberg said he wished Palin had picked someone who would represent all the Alaskans who aren't hunters.

The House committee on Monday also considered two appointments to the Big Game Commercial Services Board, which adopts regulations overseeing the big game service industry. The nine-member board consists of guides, transporters, landowners, members of the public, and one member of the Board of Game.

Leif Wilson, who said he's served on the board for a little over a year, is president and co-owner of 40-Mile Air, a Tok business that transports big game hunters.

When asked about potential conflicts among different groups serving hunters, Wilson said there have been and will continue to be conflicts.

"But I think no matter who it is, those are going to be there," he said.

Also considered was Dick Rohrer of Kodiak, who said he's been on the board two years since it was reinstated, started guiding in Alaska in 1965 and has run a family guiding business, Rohrer Bear Camp, Inc., since 1982. He is a master guide and former member of the Kodiak Fish and Game advisory board.

The House committee forwarded all the appointments on to the full Legislature for consideration after minimal questioning.
Contact staff writer Stefan Milkowski at 388-6141 or smilkowski@newsminer.com.


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