Wolf Song of Alaska News

Alaska Native Appointed to Board of Game

TROUBLE AVERTED: Craig Fleener replaces Teresa Sager-Albaugh

Mary Pemberton / The Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News / February 9, 2008

Gov. Sarah Palin moved rapidly Friday to make a new appointment to the Board of Game, and in doing so quieted a storm of protest from Native leaders and lawmakers.

Palin appointed Craig Fleener of Fort Yukon to replace Teresa Sager-Albaugh, a former president of the Alaska Outdoor Council, the state's largest outdoor sportsmen's organization.

Sager-Albaugh withdrew her name Wednesday as anger mounted among lawmakers over the governor's three appointees to the seven-member board. If those appointees had been confirmed, the Game Board would have had no Native member for the first time since it was formed in 1976.

The board is responsible for setting hunting and trapping regulations statewide.

Fleener, reached in Anchorage where he is taking a class to complete his master's degree in wildlife biology, said he has lived in both rural and urban Alaska and can bring that perspective to the board. He is familiar, he said, with a subsistence lifestyle, both his own and others, while at the same time being closely associated with sport hunters and commercial fishermen.

Some Native lawmakers and leaders said it was essential that a Native be on the board. Others, such as Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, felt the more serious problem was that the board would have no one who had lived off the road system and truly understood life in the Bush.

Fleener negates both complaints. He is Athabascan and from Fort Yukon, a town of about 600 some 145 air miles from Fairbanks. His was one of three Native names recommended by the Alaska Federation of Natives before Palin's first appointments.

Fleener, who has served in the military for more than 21 years, is an intelligence officer in the Alaska Air National Guard and is stationed at Eielson Air Force Base. He is married with four children.

He has served as executive director of the Council of Athabaskan Tribal Governments, and has worked as an environmental manager, project coordinator and wildlife biologist.

"This guy fits the bill," said Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, who had said that Palin made a serious misstep in passing over qualified Native candidates for the board. "This guy is exceptionally bright."

Talk had circulated in Juneau that if the governor remained committed to her appointees and nothing changed, lawmakers would not confirm them.


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