Wolf Song of Alaska News

Defending Ourselves Against the Radicals

John Aronno / The Alaska Commons / January 6, 2010

Article, Photos & Reader Comments



Main Entry: 1rad·i·cal
Pronunciation: \ra-di-kel\
Function: adjective
3 a : marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional : extreme b : tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions c : of, relating to, or constituting a political group associated with views, practices, and policies of extreme change d : advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs <the radical right>

- Merriam Webster

Tonight, the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game held elections for eight key seats on a board consisting of fifteen total members, designed to “provide a local quorum for the collection and expression of opinions and recommendations of matters relating to the management of fish and wildlife resources.” [5 AAC 96.010.]

Any South Central Alaska resident age eighteen or above is qualified to vote on nominees, who were presented to the body tonight. But not before a gaggle of groups on the right – the Second Amendment Task Force, Conservative Patriots Group, among others – decided to mobilize against conservation-minded candidates, whom they billed in emails and handed out pamphlets as “radical environmental groups.”

Hundreds of people decked out in camouflage, orange hats, and duck whistle ring tones filed in, easily filling to capacity the room which held 200, and leaving additional hundreds outside, in a line that extended all the way outside. Those who couldn’t be squeezed in were granted ballots to fill out and drop off. (Every voter was allowed eight votes. If you divide that into the total number of votes – 3721 – it appears that 465 people showed up.)

The meeting finally began at around 7:30pm (a full hour after schedule), and was tense from the outset. Patience is a virtue, and also becoming more of a rarity. Toss in the lack of air conditioning and absence of food and drink, and angry calls to begin the proceedings quickly switched from muttered groans to loud accusatory outcries targeting the board members present; many of whom were also wearing camouflage. However, they might have been doing so in an attempt to blend in.

The nominations began, followed by short speeches from each of the twenty nominees. Unfortunately, the content didn’t really matter. Barely anyone was listening. Many had the eight slots on their ballots filled out before anyone had even said a word, and instead just sat there, enjoying a day at the races.

The instructions for the introductions went as followed:

“Next thing we’re [going to] do guys, we’re [going to] have each one of these people come up, give a short ‘who you are’ and ‘why you’re running’, your knowledge and experience with fish and wildlife resources and their uses in the area; state your reputation within the community regarding these issues, and give us any commercial interests if that’s your department.” (I didn’t get the name of the committee member who spoke, my apologies!)

The first speaker was a young man looking to be in his late twenties, early thirties, by the name of Justin McGinnis, a freshly retired Captain in the Marine Corps. He is a lifelong Alaskan who grew up hunting and fishing; feeding his family with the bounty. During his tenure serving our country, McGinnis volunteered with the Camp Pendleton Game Board and Wildlife Refuge, where he worked on sustainability. “Hunting and fishing is important to me. And it’s been important in my family,” McGinnis said, “and I would like the resources to continue to be here as I make a home in Alaska and raise my family here. I want them to have the same resources, same opportunities that I had growing up.”

Mustering just above 4% of the vote, the radical Justin McGinnis will not be serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee.

Kate Swift was the second nominee, but was stuck in a snowstorm in the lower 48 and could not attend the meeting. Her cliff notes were read aloud by surrogate: 20 year Alaskan resident, spent winters in Anchorage and summers in Denali, biologist by trade, substitute teacher, mushing tour guide, tour bus driver in Denali National Park for eighteen seasons, worked on the Iditarod for ten years, and is described as an avid outdoor adventurer.

But the radical Swift got Kanye’d and will not be serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee, clocking in with only 3.5% of the vote.

Terry Miracle came to Alaska in the nineties, is a retired Air Force First Sergeant and a current civil service employee. He is a hunter 30 to 40 days of the year as well as a pilot. “I really care, because I’m hunting in my backyard,” he claims. “I’m here cause I represent no organizations but the average Alaskan person. Someone needs to look out for us.”

Terry Miracle
Terry Miracle

But maybe, most prophetically, Miracle finished by saying: “We all need to utilize the resources that we have in an efficient manner. My goal is to work towards a responsible wildlife management for all of Alaska – Alaskans – as it says in our constitution, and I would do so to the best of my [abilities]. I’ll be loyal, always put the needs of the people first, and I thank you for your time and hope that you haven’t already voted.”

Evidently they already had, and Miracle – one of the radicals on the list – walked away with less than 4% of the vote.

Lynette Moriano Heinz is a first Alaskan and long time Anchorage cab driver. Mike Priebe is a salmon fisher raised in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who moved to Anchorage, enjoys hunting and fishing with his two children, and works in the analytical regulatory compliance testing industry, dealing with environmental concerns that need to be addressed in Alaska. Grant Klotz is a retired Bostonian who moved up north in 1978 and is a dedicated fly fisherman, nature photographer, archer, backpacker, and rafter who believes that his constant exposure to and involvement in nature has prepared him to bring a healthy discussion to the table.

All three, clearly radicals, were voted off the island with barely 6% of the vote, combined.

Stacee Frost also was nominated. A lifelong Alaskan and business owner in Anchorage who oversees 60-plus employees, she describes herself as a “huge proponent and advocate” of women getting outdoors and utilizing our resources. She’s involved with groups like the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program and Sensory Safari. Obviously, this was way too radical to be tolerated. Tonight, she searches for a nice place on the mantle to display her 108 votes, and will not be serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee.

 Kneely Taylor
Kneely Taylor

“What I’m really interested in most is seeing that perhaps we back away from some of these very adverse, strong, two-sides kind of approach to these issues,” Kneely Taylor mused in front of the body. Taylor has lived in Anchorage for 35 years, is a mountain climber, hiker, skier, ocean kayak-er, and former hunter (he stopped hunting in the mid-eighties). He worked on two subcommittees; one that successfully established a buffer zone for Denali wolves and the other which sought to limit trapping on heavily used recreational trails, including wolverine trapping in Chugach State Park. He’s vied for election to this board three times now, and knows that conservation is not a positive buzz word in this scenario, which is odd being that it is so critical to maintaining a sustainable ecosystem that thrives for the benefit of all. Within thirty seconds, people began tuning out, and side conversations began competing with the volume of the candidate who was given the floor to introduce himself. Recognizing this, he said, in a somewhat defeated tone, “I do want to apologize to all of you who who came out here just to vote against a slate of candidates. I’m part of that slate: conservation. But I do hope that in the future, maybe we all can sit down and start looking at these issues a little more rationally; a little more working together; a little more talking rather than just battling.”

Kneely Taylor will have to try a fourth time. The radical who asked that people be open to the idea of working together, rather than anchor ourselves to our differences, will not be serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee.

And then the night took a deranged turn. Karen Deatherage – who may win the “unfortunate name” award, but took us all to task with a heartfelt appeal to our sense of community – took her turn addressing the spectators, and calling the underlying issue out:

I have been involved in wildlife conservation issues for about ten years… During that time I learned a lot, got beat up a lot, and learned that there are a lot of values for wildlife that people have out there, and the

Karen Deatherage

Karen Deatherage

big battle we have here tonight and throughout the state is how to balance those values on boards like this and on the board of game. I served on the Anchorage Bear Committee for three years, I served on the Urban Wildlife Task Force that produced the ‘living with wildlife in Anchorage’ plan, for three years, I also got to serve on the Central Kuskokwim Moose Management Planning Team up in Aniak with folks from the guiding industry, people from [the] trapping industry, the native community in that area, commercial guides, transporters; it was an incredible experience.

And after we at least got to the point where we recognized that we had different values in wildlife, we ended up with an okay plan – not everything I agreed with – but what we did walk out with was a lot of respect for one another. And that’s something that I don’t see on the little papers going out on both sides of the table here, with respect to how this whole thing came about.

While I would appreciate your vote, I’m [going to] ask you to do something where you can vote for me or not. We have our little papers that tell us who to vote for tonight. Everybody’s got ‘em, right?

“Got it right here!” A man called out.

Yep, we got ‘em. We’ve had them before. I was here ten years ago and the same thing happened again. But, Anchorage is a diverse population of people. There are people here who hunt and fish – I love to fish, I’m a dip-netter – there’s [sic] people here who love to just watch wildlife. There’s [sic] tourism people out there who make their living off of wildlife. There are people who study wildlife and provide us with important information that we need to know in order to manage wildlife… And what I’d like you to do is, on those lists that you have; on your ballot, and I know this sounds crazy, but cross out one name that you were given tonight, and replace it with a name from the other list. One name. It’s one step towards recognizing we have different values, and recognizing that we can sit up here and talk respectfully about them.”

This is where everyone who had all but drifted off, allowing their eyes to drift to the back of their heads, suddenly got slapped upside the back of the head by a good old fashioned chunk of peace, love, and granola. They now found themselves clutching their voting guides. No pamphlets contained any protocol regarding what to do in this situation. This insane narrative that many bought into, which implied that if any of these radicals were able to breach the inner sanctum of the Advisory Committee, suddenly environmental law would be dictated by Ashley Judd riding through town atop an atheist moose, was cracked; if even just a little bit. This appeal to logic rattled folks. One man shouted “Nice try!” while others’ whispered furiously to one another. No one said that there would be hypnotism! WITCH!

And with that, the hope – if there was any – of community trumping demographics, was lost entirely. The following speaker, Valerie Connor, was shouted down when she mentioned that we lived in a Democracy.

“IT’S A REPUBLIC!” An angry garden gnome screamed. Members of the crowd voiced their approval of the Joe Wilson themed retort, because, clearly, this was the appropriate time to have this debate.

The game was over. The Patriots were up 48-3 going into the fourth quarter, and the eyes of the attendees had safely returned to the backs of their owners’ heads. Many began to leave, dropping their paper ballots off on the way out the door. Outside, a man was gathering signatures for the Alaska Family Council backed petition regarding Parental Consent. The corners of multitudes of handlebar mustaches were perked upwards; basking in the satisfaction of a game well played and a safe victory at hand. And Deatherage, Connor, and the rest of the radicals were forced to fall back.

Nobody came to listen. They were told that this was a vote down party lines, despite the nonpartisan nature – and makeup – of the field of nominees. Hooting and hollering occurred at appropriate places, diligent clapping at others, and a satisfied trip home, all without the vast majority having the slightest clue what they had shown up for.

What had they just done, I thought to myself on the way out, after being asked by the Alaska Family Council guy if I had gotten what I had wanted out of the evening.

We just added eight people (probably should be noted – eight white men) to a committee that shapes policy regarding hunting, fishing, subsistence rights, and our wildlife (kind of important in Alaska), who largely boasted qualifications like: “I’m a lifelong Alaskan,” “I enjoy hunting,” and “I have children, born and raised in Alaska, who enjoy hunting.”

We added two general contractors who, other than the above mentioned fondness for hunting, have absolutely no evident prerequisites for this position, and given the chance to present themselves to the voting public, didn’t even try to sell themselves on anything beyond shallow introductions that are usually shared while waiting for the waitress to bring you a beer.

Frank Newman, elected tonight, offered that he isn’t “here being supported, necessarily, by any other organization in Alaska.” Necessarily? What the hell kind of caveat is that?

Phil Lincoln, who achieved the most votes tonight (9%) used his time to talk about the bee hive he’s had for a few years now, and mentioned that he supports residents having access to fishing. Oh, thank God! Can I vote for you twice?

Frank Newman, clocking in with the second most votes, spoke of his qualifications: He’s hunted moose, caribou, and bears. Have we really reached the day where one acquires a position on a committee responsible for advising the Department of Fish and Game, not for their experience in policy or conservation, but instead for what animals they’ve taken down?

Not Ron Jordan, elected tonight, who bravely broached the subject of subsistence rights, summarizing the problem and offering thorough, proven solutions. “When we have wild game for an abundance, that problem will be solved.”

Problem solved?

Jordan may end up at odds with Robert Caywood – one of the two general contractors – who defiantly said, to a rousing cheer from the crowd, “I’ve got a nine year old boy and in the last five years we’ve lost a lot of access to our hunting grounds, and I’m here to make sure we keep it.”



  Steve Flory

But let’s not overlook the most insane win tonight, edging in with the fewest votes among the winners.

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Steve Flory. First thing I want to let you know is I am a convicted felon.”

I’m sorry?

“Am I still not loud enough? Okay, I’ll tell you straight up that I am. I did the first time I was elected to this committee, I did the second time I was elected to this committee. I’ve been the committee’s chair, I’ve been the committee’s vice chair, I’ve testified on behalf of this committee and others multiple times in front of the board of game, I’ve sat on more than twenty five different board of game subcommittees and several fish subcommittees. Those who wanted to attack me because of my past – it’s way in the past – but you’re welcome to do that. I understand. You have that right.”


Coincidentally, here’s what Alaska Dispatch had to say on the matter today in an article centered around Sarah Palin’s email habit:

“Flory was a former circulation manager for the Anchorage Daily News who had an affair with an underage newspaper delivery woman in the early 1990s. Though Flory claimed not to know she was underage, he admitted to the affair and settled the case in a plea agreement that reduced the charges against him… Flory is described by a friend as sometimes abrasive, but not crazy. His past legal problems appear to amount to several divorces and some non-alcohol-related traffic violations.”

Um… Okay?

Flory went on to use his time not addressing why he belongs on the board, but instead attacking those who have attacked him. For being a convicted felon.

I’m sorry that it became important to use my past to get someone else’s name inserted. [If] you had the guts, you could have come straight out and told me. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

Looking around the room, I saw dumbfounded looks from those who actually came hoping for positive change to be added to the committee. People who had already cast their ballots for Flory just looked at the floor, or at their pamphlets, or the backs of their eyelids; almost notably uncomfortable, but residing in that happy place; pleased that they had done their part, never giving question to what “part” it was that they had done. Content with fulfilling their duty to do whatever they were told to do by whoever told them to do it, they missed out on the point that the best part about sticking to your convictions is knowing how you developed them. My favorite part of reaching a conclusion is knowing how I arrived at it. Critical thinking was never on the table for some people tonight, and we’re worse off because of it.

You get what you vote for. And when you don’t know why you – you personally – are voting someone into a position, there’s a fair chance that they won’t know what to do once they get there.

But, hey, at least we made damn sure none of those radicals got elected. When was the last good movie Ashley Judd made, anyway?


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