- VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED -
Alaska wolves are prized for their pelts. Here, trapper and tanner Al Barrette skins a wolf and makes the case for continued hunting and trapping
- VIDEO - http://www.backpacker.com/dogs_of_war_part_3_witness_a_wolf_skinning/videos/59
ANCHORAGE, Alaska—The video of him skinning a wolf and citing the Bible to explain man's dominion over animals is giving people the wrong idea about Al Barrette, said the newest member of the Alaska Board of Game.
Barrette, 44, a trapper and fur tanner, describes himself as a family man who spends more time observing game animals while paddling his canoe than killing them. He said he still gets a thrill at seeing a moose by the side of the road, and his board decisions will be based on science, not religion.
"I am not the bad guy," Barrette said, days before the Legislature was scheduled to vote Friday on his confirmation. "I just happen to be the new guy."
Gov. Sean Parnell in February appointed Barrette to the seven-member board that regulates Alaska's vast wildlife resources.
Critics said Barrette's decisions consistently favor one group—hunters— regardless of scientific data and public sentiment.
"Many Alaskans, myself included, want more balanced representation on the Board of Game," said Vic Walker, of Juneau, in a comment to lawmakers.
Barrette's ideology isn't sitting well with some who viewed a Backpacker magazine Web video showing him at his tannery business. The video opens with a close-up of the head of a dead wolf and cuts away to a partially skinned wolf that Barrette is picking up by a hind leg.
Barrette says in the video, "It specifically puts out in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis, that we should subdue nature and control it. We should be the managers of the animals and through the sin of Adam and Eve is what brought it on and in fact the first clothes that were made for Adam and Eve were skins of animals by God."
In his letter to lawmakers, retired Anchorage professor Rick Steiner said, "There can simply be no place for this sort of religious zeal in the science-based management of our collective wildlife resources."
Barrette said people who have seen the video mistakenly think he uses religion, not science, to make wildlife management decisions.
"I am Christian and I believe in God and the Bible," he said. But, "they are trying to say I take the Bible and make game management out of the Bible," Barrette said.
Barrette said he uses "professional, scientific and biological data."
"I am not going to any particular piece of scripture," he said.
Regardless, his critics said he has no place on the board because he makes his livelihood off game animals and his decisions could benefit his Fairbanks business.
"It is a conflict of interest, plain and simple," said Laurie Cramer, of Kasilof. "He should not be on the Board of Game."
Critics ask how Barrette can make fair decisions on the state's predator control program—in which hundreds of wolves have been shot from airplanes to boost moose and caribou herds—when he is one of the program's permitted gunners.
"He is an aerial gunner. He has no understanding or respect for hunting with fair chase," said April Warwick of Anchorage, in her letter to her representative.
The Alaska Wildlife Alliance is lobbying against Barrette because the conservation group thinks Barrette strongly favors trophy game hunters from urban areas and the Lower 48—over rural subsistence hunters.
"The Board of Game is supposed to represent all Alaskans. He in no way represents all Alaskans," said Alliance director John Toppenberg, describing Barrette as "a super radical among radicals" on the board.
Barrette's supporters include the Alaska Outdoor Council, the state's largest sportsmen's group. It sent out an e-mail alert Thursday encouraging Alaskans to tell their representatives to support Barrette.
"This is extremely important for all Hunters in Alaska. It will set the tone for the next couple of years," the e-mail alert said in big, blue letters.
Rod Arno, the council's executive director, said Barrette brings much-needed knowledge about trappers and trapping to the board. He rejects the idea that the board caters to hunters while ignoring the non-consumptive users—the wildlife viewers, photographers and others who don't hunt but appreciate nature anyway.
"The board has tried to accommodate those other uses and I think they have done a fair job," Arno said.
Aaron Bloomquist, a supporter who heads the Anchorage advisory committee, echoed that, saying there's nothing wrong with a game board comprised of hunters.
The confirmation fight is bigger than Barrette, Arno said.
"Basically, this battle that has been going on for a couple of decades now is over ideology. There is a large group of people that believe that wildlife should not be managed," he said.