" If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as improbable fiction."
-- Twelfth Night, Act III, scene iv
In a recent development that could almost be Shakespearean in plot line, Alaska's Wildlife Division biologists have found themselves between a rock and a hard place: If they speak out they will likely either be fired or find themselves transferred to a post in the Aleutian Islands. If they don't, a more internal personal purgatory may wreak havoc with them on down the line.
More than 40 biologists and supervisors who formerly worked for the Division of Wildlife Conservation have sent a strong letter to Commissioner Denby Lloyd opposing his appointment of Corey Rossi as director of the division. This was based on their assessment of his woeful lack of experience and scientific credentials for the job. After more than a week, not one biologist within the division has spoken out. Is this because a classic gag order was imposed -- or are they just speechless?
Rossi's clear agenda is to amp up the killing of Alaska's bears and wolves under expanding predator control programs. This is the mission he is carrying forward for an extremist Utah-based hunting group (Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife) that he is a part of. Now with its new chapter in Alaska, this group has its man in place -- someone who can do the job without sound science getting in the way.
The 40-plus biologists and supervisors who signed the letter opposing Rossi's appointment represent more than 800 years of experience and scientific training within Alaska, making the silence of the division's current personnel even more deafening.
The division's current biologists and supervisors could now act in solidarity to object to Rossi's appointment. With numbers, no one's job would be at risk. Rossi would almost certainly be replaced by a person with the proper credentials and experience who would get the critical staff support and trust he needs.
If this does not happen quickly, legislative oversight is the only check and balance the public can hope for. A special legislative committee inquiry would shed enough light on this to expose the appointment for what it is. Our state's wildlife is a treasured resource owned in common by all Alaskans. Should we expect any less than fair and balanced management of it on our behalf?
Joel Bennett is a former member of the Alaska Board of Game. He lives in Juneau.