Gov. Sarah Palin's three recent appointments to the Alaska Board of Game are coming under fire from critics who say the board will have no Native representative for the first time since 1976.
Palin's office maintains the choices are good ones.
"Race is not going to be a factor in my hiring or appointing practices," Palin said Tuesday.
"We wanted a good solid Alaskan, who would be fair and listen to both sides," added Frank Bailey, director of the Office of Boards and Commissions.
The Board of Game makes regulations and decides allocations for the state's game resources. Its seven members are appointed by the governor to three-year terms. Each appointment must be confirmed by the Legislature. The law does not apportion seats by geographical region or expertise.
Palin chose Ted Spraker of Soldotna, who has been on the board since 2003, Lewis Bradley of Palmer and Teresa Sager-Albaugh from outside Tok. The last two were both appointed for the first time this year.
Bradley and Sager-Albaugh replace Ron Somerville of Juneau, who resigned in January, and Paul Johnson of Unalakleet. Johnson, the sole Native representative, was not reappointed after his interim two-year term.
The governor asked Somerville to quit last year after he made remarks that some considered to disparage Alaska Natives.
Bailey said the appointees' names were not found by active search, but forwarded by local advisory committees.
Both of the new appointees are hunters, and they both have supported controversial predator control programs.
Bradley is a sheep hunter and a former gym teacher and coach at Wasilla Middle School. Sager-Albaugh is, Palin said Tuesday, a subsistence user. She has served as president of the Alaska Outdoor Council, a sportsmen's group.
Bush legislator Rep. Reggie Joule, D-Kotzebue, said there wasn't enough Bush representation.
"For me, it's a very big issue," Joule said.
Critics, such as Joule, also say the board is heavily tilted toward urban rather than rural Alaskans. They say it's not good enough that one board member comes from Sitka and another from Palmer, about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage. Those two cities are considered under federal subsistence law to be rural, but not everyone agrees.
Asked if she truly considered Sitka and Palmer to be rural, Palin said, "I consider that if the law says they're rural, then they can be rural."
Rep. Mary Nelson, D-Bethel, said she's already hearing concerns about rural residents who are having difficulty getting game, and having to travel farther to do it. With rising fuel costs, the result is a narrowing of nutritional variety, she said.
"Right now rural Alaskans are in a state of injury," Nelson said.
An urban legislator, Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage, said the board needs to consider people's uses, cultural relationships and the economic needs of rural and Native residents, Doogan said.
"I think it is a problem for all of us," he said.
A different criticism of the new board came from a wildlife conservationist, John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.
"They offer nothing new," he said of the appointments. "It is still 100 percent hunting and trapping interests represented."
Hunting and trapping interests only represent 14 percent of the population, he said.