FAIRBANKS -- The newest member of the Alaska Board of Game has strong ties to sport hunters.
Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday appointed Teresa Sager-Albaugh, 45, of Tok to the board that regulates hunting and trapping. She also reappointed board chairman Cliff Judkins of Wasilla. Sager-Albaugh is a former president of the Alaska Outdoors Council, a federation of outdoors' clubs and the official state association of the National Rifle Association.
Palin appointed Sager-Albaugh to the board one year ago. When representatives of Alaska Native organizations protested the lack of an Alaska Native on the board, Sager-Albaugh withdrew her name from consideration.
Palin instead nominated Craig Fleener of Fort Yukon, who has since been named director of the state Division of Subsistence. Stosh Hoffman of Bethel replaced Fleener as the lone Alaska Native on the board.
In the latest appointment, Sager-Albaugh replaces Dick Burley of Fairbanks. She will be the first woman on the board in three years. Her gender had nothing to do with the appointment, said Frank Bailey, director of state boards and commissions.
"While we do seek diversity, we don't make appointments based on gender," Bailey told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner by e-mail "Teresa's resume stacked up strongly against a pool of other applicants on its own merits. She is articulate and knowledgeable."
Bailey said Sager-Albaugh is "someone who takes the time to listen to all viewpoints and makes thoughtful and deliberate decisions."
Palin made the appointment despite requests from conservation groups and former Board of Game members to appoint representatives from "non-consumptive" interests such as wildlife viewing and tourism.
Former Game Board member Joel Bennett of Juneau wrote a letter to Palin last month signed by 12 former members asking for more diversity on the board. Bennett said he was disappointed by the appointment of Sager-Albaugh and the reappointment of Judkins, but not surprised.
The current board is one-sided toward hunting and trapping, he said, and there should be a certain number of seats dedicated to other interest groups.
Palin has said she will do what it takes to manage Alaska's wildlife resources for abundance. Animal rights critics continue to criticize her for maintaining Alaska's predator control program, aimed at building up moose and caribou populations in certain areas of the state. Defenders of Wildlife and actress Ashley Judd this week called on Palin to stop the killing of wolves and bears, which Judd called "senseless savagery."
Wade Willis of the Alaska branch of Defenders of Wildlife said wildlife should be managed for the benefit of all Alaskans, not the minority who hunt.
"Despite repeated appeals from her constituents, Gov. Palin did nothing to improve the Board of Game's diversity of views with these appointments," Willis said.
Sager-Albaugh was president of the Alaska Outdoor Council, the state's largest sportsmen's group, from 2005 to 2007. She has stated support for aerial wolf killing to boost moose and caribou numbers where needed.
Sager-Albaugh was born and raised in Fairbanks before moving to Tok more than 20 years ago.
Mike Smith, director of subsistence resource management for the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks, said it's a concern that no one on the Game Board lives north of Tok. Alaska north of Tok equates to more than half the state and nearly all the villages the Tanana Chiefs represents, he said.
Sager-Albaugh's strong ties to the Alaska Outdoor Council, which has long opposed a rural subsistence preference, also cannot be ignored, Smith said.