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Alaska's Wildlife Not Managed by Scientific Principles

Letters / Juneau Empire / February 10, 2008

Our Board of Game is dominated by the Alaska Outdoors Council. The council membership is only around 3,000, but there are roughly 90,000 registered hunters and more than 600,000 Alaskans. Our state constitution says resources such as wildlife are owned equally by all Alaskans, yet as is obvious from the past two votes banning aerial hunting, the council considers nonmembers secondary owners. The Board of Game adheres strictly to council guidelines in its decisions.

Our wildlife is no longer managed by scientific, ethical principles but by the whim of the council. Methods such as aerial hunting are established not by sound science but by the dictates of this extreme group.

Sadder yet is the subsistence situation. You'd think proper respect and significance would be given to subsistence needs, yet wildlife is managed by the Board of Game for the urban hunter. For instance, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Web site notes the concerns of residents of Game Management Unit 23, not about wolves but incursions by nonlocal hunters.

Toeing the council line is our governor, Sarah Palin, also a member of the council. Perhaps too busy posing for Vogue, she claims she was unable to contact a Native candidate for the Board of Game despite several such nominees. But for the resulting outrage, for the first time since its formation in 1976, the Board of Game would have no Native representative, no subsistence representative. In keeping with what I would describe as the council's anti-rural preference stand, Palin would have created a Board of Game not only unresponsive to mainstream Alaska but also rural, subsistence Alaska.

The greatest danger to our wildlife is not the "outsider" bogeyman the council likes to conjure. I think it's the council whose members hunt to feed their egos in contrast to the ethical, conservationist hunters that feed their families.

There is a revealing and disturbing quotation to be found at the council's Web site. Rod Arno, council executive director, says the following speaking of aerial hunting: "It doesn't have anything to do with sport hunting, 'fair chase' or hunters' ethics. Those are not valid criteria by which to judge management of predator/prey systems."

Even the council cannot bring itself to call aerial hunting ethical.

When we leave ethics out of the equation, we have to ask ourselves, what have we become?

Art Greenwalt

Vice president, Alaska Wildlife Alliance

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