Wolf Song of Alaska News


Abolish Board of Game; Build Relevant One

COMPASS: Other Points of View

Barbara Brease / Anchorage Daily News / March 22, 2010

It is time to abolish the Alaska State Board of Game. The present board has no regard for balanced resources allocation, ecological or biological processes, or even the democratic representation required to properly manage such a valuable asset as the Alaska's wildlife. While charged with representing all Alaskans through the public process, the BOG acts as a special interest group, dismissing all reasonable public and agency input, except those by a minority of sport hunters and trappers.

The BOG shows no understanding of their key purpose: the Alaska state statutes (mandate) that they are working for the people, and that the decisions must involve the public in actions that ..."conserve and develop" wildlife resources.

They are doing no such thing.

I attended the recent public hearings in Fairbanks before the BOG and was shocked by the disdain the board showed to members of the public who were there to offer thoughtful and reasonable testimony in support of conservation or protective measures, demonstrating the board's poor baseline understanding of the process, not to mention the science and the nature of the issues involved.

The board's disrespect of the public process was clear in their obvious contempt of testimony and final decision on the Denali Park buffer. There has been tremendous support, essentially state-wide, for protection of the Denali Park wolves when they roam into state lands in the northeast corner of the park. The existing closure acreage is a small 122-square- mile area (less than .00004 percent) of about 285,000 square miles of the state still open to trapping. The Denali buffer represents one of the best historically researched, scientifically considered, and surgically approached areas in Alaska, because it is one of the state's greatest wildlife and economic assets.

The public support for this buffer was unprecedented and came mostly from Alaskans, as well as the National Park Service in both written and oral testimony, yet the board refused to maintain the existing buffer, let alone enlarge it in response to new wolf range data.

The BOG further ignored many public voices for no good reason when they voted against a well supported proposal from Healy requesting a public safety trapping closure in a small area near the majority of Healy residences. Pets have been getting caught in traps set near homes, and many residents are concerned with the possibility of traps nearly in our back yard. Even the safety of children is a concern. All residents asked for was the ability to walk their dogs near their homes without fear of them getting caught in traps. In spite of this plea for safety or common decency, the board dismissed this small proposal as well.

A large contribution to the problem is the extremely slanted make-up of the BOG. All seven members are hunters and/or trappers and guides. Al Barette, the newest appointee owns both the Fairbanks Fur Tannery and a company which manufactures wolf traps, a blatant conflict of interest. No wonder there is no board concept of conservation, tourism economics, or other values our wildlife represents.

More than 95 percent of Alaska is open to wolf trapping, shooting and/or wolf control. But in this immense state of trapping and hunting opportunities, it is clear that the board is incapable or unwilling to concede a tiny portion of acreage, even when the state economy and simple political savvy would suggest the Denali buffer is good business. To establish a semblance of balanced resource management would only further empower Alaskans and demonstrate to all that we can intelligently manage our resources.

There is no need to continue the masquerade of appropriate representation by the BOG. It is time to abolish the Board of Game, and build a balanced, relevant, and realistic land and wildlife management system.
Barbara Brease is a long-time Denali Park/Healy resident and former member of the Middle Nenana River Advisory Committee to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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