Wolf Song of Alaska News

 

Somerville Demotion Offer Accepted

Alex deMarban / Anchorage Daily News / March 3, 2007

 

Ron Somerville, stung by criticism after implying that Natives missing from an October meeting were off drinking beer, announced Friday he'll step aside as Board of Game chairman.

He did not resign from the board.

Gov. Sarah Palin twice asked Somerville to quit the board but he refused, said Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton. Palin has said his remarks created a cloud of controversy that detracted from the board's business.

After Somerville wouldn't resign, Palin then asked him to give up the chairmanship, Stapleton said.

"She feels it clears much of the cloud the board is working under, so she's satisfied," Stapleton said.

Somerville's three-year term on the board ends next March.

"The governor will have the opportunity to evaluate the seat at that time," Stapleton said.

Somerville, appointed by former Gov. Frank Murkowski, could not immediately be reached Friday.

The board's members elect the chairman. After Somerville stepped down, board members elected Cliff Judkins of Wasilla to replace him as chairman.

The controversial remarks came after some Natives who had signed up to speak at the board's Oct. 7 meeting didn't come to the microphone when Somerville called their name.

"There must have been a run on free beer or something," he said.

The next person he called came forward.

"Don't like beer, Donna?" he asked.

Natives from the Copper River region led the call for his removal. They feel he threatens subsistence hunting, and wish he'd been removed, said Ken Johns, president of Ahtna, the region's Native corporation.

"He's still in a position to do damage to our area either verbally or by his actions on the game board, so we're not too happy he's sticking around," Johns said.

Somerville announced the decision on the first day of a marathon meeting in Anchorage where the board is considering, among other things, allowing bear hunting near areas such as the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, one of the world's premier bear-viewing areas.

 

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