The Alaska Department of Fish and Game sent out a press release during the winter holidays announcing two new appointments to the ADFG "leadership" team. The significance of the appointments went mostly unnoticed.
Patrick Valkenburg, retired ADFG biologist and Alaska Outdoor Council board member, was named deputy commissioner of ADFG, making him No. 2 in the chain of command.
Valkenburg is eminently qualified for the position, but his ties to the politically influential AOC, and his own personal views on bear control, are cause for concern. As deputy commissioner, Valkenburg immediately began pushing to legalize the snaring/trapping of black bears in bear control areas, even though some of the area biologists and research biologists he oversees strongly opposed it or want more time to assess the ramifications of his policies.
If all that wasn't bad enough, Gov. Palin also created a brand new "leadership" position at ADFG -- "assistant commissioner for abundance management." The man she chose to fill it is Corey Rossi, a Palin family friend and biologist formerly with the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Health Inspection Service.
In the past year Rossi has been a spokesman and board member for a radical new organization in Alaska that is seeking to privatize wide-scale predator control and turn Alaska into a game farm where bears and wolves are mostly absent and a moose and caribou are behind every rock and tree.
This new organization, the Alaska Chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife/Sportsmen for Habitat, was founded by former state senators Scott Ogan and Ralph Seekins. Privately and publicly they have touted their political connections and access to large amounts of funding as they pursue predator control and non-resident trophy hunting opportunities.
Immediately after Corey Rossi was appointed, he began a campaign within ADFG to legalize the use of helicopter transport for "hunters" (even non-residents) who participate in any predator control efforts. Several proposals before the Board of Game at the upcoming spring 2009 meeting would do just that. The group that submitted those proposals is -- you guessed it -- Rossi's group, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife/Sportsmen for Habitat.
In a nutshell, "the fix is in" regarding an extremism in wildlife management unlike anything we have seen before. It is overt, and it threatens the reputation of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as well as the future of hunting in Alaska and how the rest of the state and country perceives it.
"Hunting" under the guise of "bear control" isn't supposed to be done from a helicopter, and we don't need to legalize the snaring/trapping of black bears or the aerial gunning of both brown and black bears. All this is in the works right now at the legislative and Board of Game levels.
And the current black bear control program in Unit 16 across from Cook Inlet is entirely hypocritical. The ostensible goal of the bear control program is to put more game meat of one kind (moose) on the tables of Alaska residents, yet the Board of Game waived the meat salvage requirements for a game meat (spring black bear) that is just as healthy and protein-laden as the other. Legalize the wanton waste of one kind of game meat in order to grow more meat of another kind -- how does that make any sense at all?
I am a longtime and current Alaska hunter and trapper who opposes this extremism and hypocrisy with all of my being. I encourage other concerned hunters to do the same and stand up and speak out against all this at the Board of Game meeting in Anchorage beginning Friday. I'll be there after a winter out on my trapline, putting the money from my fur sales where my mouth is by paying my own way to attend and testify before the Board of Game.
Mark Richards is co-chair of Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers