Because he dared to contradict the hysterical predator-killing ideology currently popular in Alaska’s hijacked wildlife management system, I thought that Mark Richards---a hunter-trapper and co-chair of Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers---showed a lot of courage in his two Compass pieces for the Anchorage Daily News:
“Fish and Game changes set extremism, hypocrisy loose,” February 25, 2010.
And, “Board to weigh trapping bear sows, cubs,” September 20, 2010.
AK Voices blogger, Bill Sherwonit, briefly, favorably (and quite understandably) quoted Richards in his 9-28 AK Voices posting:
“The State Expands Its Extreme Predator-Kill Agenda, While Limiting Public Participation.“ Bill wrote:
“…Among those to criticize the state is Mark Richards, a longtime hunter and trapper who also co-chairs the Alaska Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. In a Sept. 20 Compass piece for the Daily News, Richards lamented, “I certainly didn’t think that the board [of Game] and department [of Fish and Wildlife] would arrange for such an important and controversial matter [the expanded trapping of bears] to be heard and decided upon at a short meeting out of the regular schedule that was only supposed to be about Nelchina caribou hunting permit allocation issues.”
Now comes the bizarre part: Mark Richards, in an Email sent to 15 people (including myself) and labeled “(This message is confidential and not to be quoted elsewhere)” went as follows:
“Bill…you likely know that when you invoke my or AK BHA's [Backcountry Hunters and Anglers] name to bolster your viewpoint it just kills us among the hunting community. So what happens is that now all I'll hear is that "the antis agree with AK BHA and Mark Richards" and let the crap begin. Not saying you or anyone else on this list are "antis" by any means and I abhor those all-encompassing labels and generalizations myself, only saying what the perception is among the majority of the hunting community in Alaska. And we have to deal with that reality day in and day out.
“If that sounds out of line, I'm sorry. But sadly it's just the way things are. I and my co-chair have worked hard and spent much of our own limited income in getting AK BHA going and in trying to provide some sort of moderate views to the hunting community re wildlife management, that come from the hunting community, from hunters and trappers. Every single time DOW [Defenders of Wildlife] or AWA [Alaska Wildlife Alliance] or folks like you use our message to bolster your own it just friggin' kills us. I really can't stress that enough.
Bill Sherwonit replied, pointing out that he
“…had no idea the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers had requested conservation groups -- or greenies in general -- never to use the group's name or quotes or stances on wildlife management issues, because it doesn't want to be associated with us greenie types. When and where was that mandate issued? I missed it. Second, I wrote the piece as an independent writer/blogger, not as a member of any group. If you look at my tagline, I'm identified as a nature writer and author. Maybe that casts a dark shadow on your group too; so it goes. Third, I don't need the Backcountry Hunters to bolster my stances or opinions; I have plenty of my own. At the same time, Mark's column was the first public commentary I'd seen on the upcoming BOG meeting and I thought he made some good points. I often quote or otherwise credit other people who I believe have made thoughtful comments on controversial issues. That's part of what a writer does.
“…Mark put his opinions out in the public arena; it's not like I talked to him about an issue and then blindsided you guys with some unexpected quotes. You put something in the paper, you should know it's fair game for anyone to comment upon, favorably or otherwise. Am I supposed to ignore your perspectives, when you have relevant things to say? I also wonder if you guys really believe that other hunting groups and individuals don't understand that at least some of your stances/philosophies are in tune with the conservation community. Another thing to consider: if you're in so tight with Alaska's "mainstream" sportsmen's groups, perhaps you can explain to them that people who oppose the state's increasingly extreme predator control policies aren't by definition "antis." While dealing with the ‘day-in and day-out reality‘ of the larger hunting community -- and by that I assume you mean the urban/suburban sport hunters and guides -- maybe you can do a little hunter education on the side.
“…do you guys (Mark and Dave) really prefer that people like me who frequently report on and, yes, write opinion pieces about Alaska's wildlife management issues never seek out or publish your group's perspectives? That doesn't make sense to me…”
To make this situation even more bizarre, there was an ignorant little diatribe by Richards‘ co-chair, Dave Lyon:
“don't know mark, its a s if our request not to use our name or quotes falls on entirely deaf ears.really infuriating.how about this "DON'T USE OUR NAME. EVER, EVER, EVER!!!. DON'T ALIGN US WITH ANY GROUP HUNTERS CONSIDER ANTI. I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU CONSIDER YOURSELVES, IF HUNTERS CALL YOU ANTI ... YOU ARE.... USING AK BHA'S POSITION TO BOLSTER YOUR OWN IS CHEAP, AND MAKES US LESS EFFECTIVE AS A VOICE FROM THE HUNTING COMMUNITY."
Here is part of one very coherent response to this rant:
“Dave and Mark,
I haven't met either of you, but I'll offer a bit of unsolicited advice:
If AK BHA won't stand up and be counted, then just what is its purpose? If Mark writes a strong Compass piece in a public newspaper (i. e., standing up and being counted, for sure), and someone else (Bill Sherwonit or someone else) agrees with that publicly-stated position and quotes it favorably in his own writings for public consumption, then AK BHA has no legitimate complaint.
Once Mark's Compass piece appeared in print, any position taken by AK BHA in that article was fair game (no pun intended) to be used in support or opposition by anyone. AK BHA simply cannot take a public position, and then expect to dictate or limit how others might use that organization's stated position to bolster their own arguments, whatever side they may be on.
If any "aligning" happens here, its origin is AK BHA's publicly-stated position. If AK BHA doesn't like that, then perhaps it should stay out of the public arena.
Just my 2-cents' worth, as I see it.
Folks: Once it’s out there it’s out there. There is no such thing as a “confidential” Email sent to 15 strangers. And there sure as hell is no such thing as a “confidential” Compass piece published in the Anchorage Daily News!
I am amazed that a person like Mark Richards, who can write such intelligent, coherent Compass pieces, is such a babe in the woods that he wants to control who quotes him---even favorably---because he doesn‘t want to be “associated” with the perceived “cause“ of the writer quoting the piece. That‘s being out of touch with reality!
On second thought, however, I am well aware that the hunting-trapping community is a bizarre, paranoid, vindictive and emotional minefield. I‘m guessing that, in this case, the writer-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-quoted has lost his nerve. He wrote two excellent Compass pieces and my guess is that, because he is a hunter-trapper, his words are hitting home with hunters and others of his kind and some of them don‘t like it. Perhaps this explains his final (I hope) plea:
“Bill, I won't belabor this any longer. I am offended and that rarely happens. Some of you really have no clue just what we risk personally and what we are trying to do within the hunting community. You folks talk about it, but please take us off any further correspondence.
I have a clue! I get it! Hunters and trappers must never question the industrial strength killing of Alaska’s wildlife or they will be subjected to “crap” from the hunting establishment and put at “personal risk.” But the truth is coming out because some of us have eyes. Anyone with basic observational skills who spends periods of time outdoors must realize that Alaska‘s wildlife is in decline and simply doomed to diminish even further under the current mismanagement system. Killing mass numbers of predators is just the last gasp of this totally corrupt system.
The “good hunting” is gone. Experienced hunters and trappers are now trying kill as many animals as they can because they realize that the wildlife populations in Alaska have been hunted out and are destined to collapse even further in their lifetimes. Within the hunting-trapping establishment, however, none dare speak this truth: Just like any other resource extraction process that is dominated by emotional, political and economic greed rather than scientific standards---the supply of Alaska wildlife is running out. The great hunting is over, perhaps forever. The locals who have hunted each year know it. The professional hunters and trappers know it. The big-rig weekend warriors may suspect but do not know for sure. The strategy for those in the know is to kill whatever wildlife they can get for now and to keep their observations to themselves so they won’t feel the wrath of the wildlife-killing organizations. The public, so far, seems oblivious and the wildlife extraction organizations don‘t want to wake the public up by including the public in wildlife management decisions. Which is required by law, by the way, and was the subject of Bill Sherwonit’s excellent, informative and important blog.
Mark Richards and Dave Lyon of Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers think they are living the dream of eating wild meat and fish---but they are living in a dream world. And the real enemy of their dream world is the Alaska Outdoor Council, the Sportsmen For [Fish and?] Wildlife and/or Sportsmen For Habitat; and their “sister organizations,” the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Board of Game.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Board of Game are now nothing more than an arm of these outside-funded, militant, extremist wildlife extraction organizations---proponents of the industrial slaughter of Alaska’s remaining wildlife and wildlife all across America. They are the real enemies of Mark Richards and Dave Lyon and Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and their dream of living off the land.
SFW/H---Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife/Habitat---is a special interest group. It's one of the most radical of the hunting groups. They got the professionally-unqualified-but-ideologically-compliant Corey Rossi appointed to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as Director of Wildlife Conservation by the half-term Governor Palin. This shadowy group is one of the prime movers in the efforts to legalize bear trapping, the snaring of bears and the selling of bear parts---which is guaranteed to destroy the bear populations. Disgraced State Legislators, Ralph Seekins and Scott Ogan are two of their front men in Alaska.
So, it is for good reason that reasonable, moderate and sane hunters and trappers are afraid to speak out against this militant, outside-funded effort to take over wildlife management and basically wipe out Alaska’s remaining wildlife.
It takes a certain amount of courage to speak out on anything in this culture. But to fear mere association with anyone who dares to quote one’s own words is, as one commentator said, lacking the courage of one‘s convictions. So, take heart: because Alaska’s wildlife will not survive if knowledgeable people don’t speak out…or if they try to backpedal on what they have already said.
- Rudy Wittshirk
Wolf Song of Alaska
P.O. Box 770950
Eagle River AK 99577-0950
Phone: (907) 622-9653
Fax: (907) 622-9654
Web Site: http://www.wolfsongalaska.org
'The Alaska Wolf Cache'
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