Wolf Song of Alaska News

Big Turnout for Fish and Game Advisory Elections

Ashton Goodell / KTUU-TV /January 5, 2010

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Environmentalists and hunting advocates fought Tuesday night for control of the Anchorage Fish and Game Advisory Committee.

It's one of the most influential in the state and offers advice to
the Board of Fisheries on local issues, but the vote could polarize
the committee.

The last time the public turned out in numbers like this is was last
summer during the debate on the gay rights ordinance.

A lot of the same players showed up Tuesday, but this time around it's about politicking and gerrymandering to turn an election.

One long line can speak volumes, and this one was twisted and packed with people shouting words like "democracy" and "representation."

Conservationists claim pro-gun groups are coming in from the Valley to influence the Anchorage Fish and Board Advisory Committee election.

"At first I thought how can that be and then I talked to a number of other people that have been involved with it and they said that's exactly what happened last time; a bunch of people from the Valley came in and tried to load their people onto the committee," said conservationist Rick Steiner.

The Anchorage Second Amendment Task Force says that's a loaded argument, and says environmental groups are trying to limit who can vote.

"We are not loading anything from Wasilla. We sent out a message to all of our members and our members are all over the state. I don't think you're going to find too many people driving too far for this vote," said George Hines, a member of the Task Force.

But other organizations like the Conservative Patriots group tried to influence the election by handing out literature calling on gun
rights activists to sway the results.

The district lines between the Mat-Su and Anchorage Fish and Game region overlap, meaning some people are voting in both elections.

"It would be like someone in Government Hill being able to vote for the legislator from South Anchorage, or vice versa. It just doesn't work that way. It's not representational democracy," Steiner said. It comes down to ideology. Pro-gun groups want a local committee favorable to hunting issues while green groups want a committee focused on conservation.

Steiner asked the state board to postpone the election until it fixes the issue of residency verification, but the state says it's not

"As a practical matter there's never been a pattern where folks from Fairbanks or folks from Southeast Alaska are driving or flying to Anchorage to participate in the Advisory Committee elections," said Jim Marcotte, Executive Director of the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

As a compromise, the state agreed to verify whether voters lived in Southcentral Alaska, but it wouldn't keep Valley voters from casting an Anchorage ballot.

"They've always got to lock on to something that's going to anger
somebody because emotions drive this stuff," Hines said.

While the line took longer than the debate, most voters filled out
their ballots before it even started.

Voting results were unavailable.

Check back to KTUU.com and watch for a follow-up Wednesday on the 5:00 Report and the News Hour.

Contact Ashton Goodell at agoodell@ktuu.com

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