Gov. Sarah Palin's appointment of Theresa Sager Albaugh ensures a continued presence on the state Board of Game by a person from Interior Alaska, a qualification that is in somewhat short supply today. Albaugh's long history of personal and policy experience with wildlife issues makes her a worthy choice.
Board members shouldn't be picked solely on the basis of their addresses. Nor should they be expected to represent only the geographic areas around their addresses. As a practical matter, the state is too big and the board is too small for such rigid formulas to work well.
Board members should be expected to listen all those who are interested in the state's wildlife resources, regardless of their backgrounds, birthplaces or opinions.
The board is, however, strengthened by having a membership drawn from locations across the state. With Dick Burley of Fairbanks leaving at the end of the month, the board could have been left lacking anyone whose experience has been gained principally in the Interior. Albaugh's appointment ensures that void will not occur.
Four members of the current board live in Southcentral Alaska. They are worthy members. But having four seats filled by people from that populous region leaves just three seats for people who built their knowledge and experience elsewhere in the state.
Albaugh grew up in Fairbanks, and she and her family spent much time outdoors. She worked as a legislative aide in the 1980s and '90s. She has lived near Tok and Mentasta since 1996.
Albaugh doesn't have academic training in wildlife management, but a degree has never been a mandatory prerequisite to serve on the board under any gubernatorial administration - Democrat or Republican - since statehood. Nor should it.
The board needs knowledgeable people who are interested in Alaska's wildlife species and the public policy issues surrounding their management. It needs people who have first-hand experience with how the law affects Alaskans' use of wildlife.
Albaugh certainly has met those criteria, not only through her personal hunting and trapping activities but also through her work on resource issues as a legislative aide and as a volunteer with the Alaska Outdoor Council.
Some former board members and environmental organizations appealed to Gov. Palin to appoint a person who would overtly advocate for "non-consumptive" uses of wildlife. They hoped to see a board member who was sympathetic toward geographic bans on hunting and trapping and more skeptical of predator control. The board might have been strengthened by such an appointment, and the governor no doubt gave it consideration.
But a nominee's preconceptions should be no more determinative of appointment than one's address. It's clear that Albaugh won't advocate "non-consumptive" policies out of mere inclination, nor should she. But neither should she summarily reject proposals that reflect such viewpoints. A board member's job is to listen to all the information, use the insights gained through a lifetime of involvement with wildlife, then make the best decisions for all Alaskans.