I read yesterday afternoon of a couple of pieces of legislation currently under consideration in Alaska that concern me greatly. Bill SB 176 and bill HB 348 are proposals by the Alaska Board of Game that prepare for a mandate by the Board of Game to pursue what they call “aerial predator control programs” of wolves, brown bears and wolverines. SB 176 is an attempt to give the Board of Game free reign over the decision making process, with no requisite consideration of input from the scientific community – i.e., if the folks on the Board feel like mandating aerial shooting, or den killings of wolf pups, they need show no concern or evidence of supporting scientific study. HB 348 is a proposal to shift wildlife to a category they call “public assets”, which includes minerals, oil, and so forth, effectively removing them from public voice. This means the Board of Game can then make decisions such as aerial shooting with no input from or responsibility to the people of Alaska. I’ve written to local legislators here in Alaska on this issue, and I thought I’d post an amalgam of my letters here.
I am writing you with great concern, regarding the current proposed legislation, specifically SB176 and HB 348. The proposals, as we all know, are simply an attempt by the Alaska State Board of Game to avoid a repetition of the rather unfortunately necessary embarrassment of being sued for failing to comply with their own mandates and laws.
The Board of Game’s wish to impose and allow airborne and same day airborne aerial predator exterminating runs contrary to long-standing and respected hunting traditions. The Board of Game’s wish to make decisions without due and careful study, without consideration of the best available sound science is, at best, narcissistic, more probably negligence and gross malfeasance. Any decisions of environmental management must consider and value the best available sound science over the whims of a few people granted political postings. We saw recently how effective management is coming at the opposition to available science when the Board of Game went ahead with a decision to allow wolverine trapping in the Chugach State Park. Local biologists recommended against it, on the premise that wolverines were scarce in the area, and also that pets would likely fall victims to the traps. The trapping season came to a close and in all of 1 900 square miles, only 2 wolverines had been caught, along with 6 pet dogs, one of which died, another nearly died, and 4 were injured. Such is the efficiency of current management policy making when it denies best available input from the scientific community.
Of equal importance here is the issue of accountability. The Board of Game’s intent to remove the potential for any further litigation against them is unacceptable.
Political decisions must, like all choices we make, come with responsibility and accountability. The Board of Game are flagrantly denying basic principles of a democracy. Proposing that their own opinion of the time is reason enough to make decisions that flout the opinions of their state constituents is not a basis for any reasonable system of government, and certainly does not belong in the institution of American Politics. Governor Palin touts transparency as a critical structure of her government. Well, this is as transparent as it gets – I’m certain the Alaskan voting population, as well as the hundreds of thousands of tourists who spend their vacation dollars in this state every year can see right through this farcical and completely unacceptable proposal.
Government officials must be accountable to the will of the populace they represent. The Board of Game MUST be required to show any and all factors affecting their decisions, they must be required to reflect conclusions of examined and peer-reviewed sound science that informs their decisions. Policy must be supported by, and reflect, the best of information, not the egos and outdated Neaderthallic ideologies of a few. Constituents must have opportunity for input, as well as full legal recourse for failing and unreasonable policies. In the interest of Alaskan tourism, of Alaskan community, human and non-human alike, SB176 must not be adopted.
HB 348 is an affront to the fundamental principles the laws of this country are based on. The “will of the people, of the people, for the people” does not contain the word “regardless” in it. The people of Alaska have spoken, clearly, emphatically and repeatedly they do not want the wildlife of Alaska to be declared a “public asset”. By the Board of Game’s own game management law, the intent is to “reallocate the harvestable surplus of game animals from predators to humans”, and yet they simultaneously intend that the “people” are removed from decisions regarding that allocation, that the will and clearly communicated desire of the people is not just ignored, but opposed. Alaskan citizens have voted against aerial predator control twice now, and requested proposed initiatives to vote it down yet again, and the Board of Game, in all their suited and veiled arrogance, are attempting to wrestle even this opportunity out of their reach. To deny the constituency even a voice in policy-making is as un-American as bad Apple Pie. I sincerely urge you to consider the long-standing traditions of accountability of a land and place-based hunting ethos, of democracy and decent community and vote down HB348.
The Board of Game currently has no members who represent a non-consumptive viewpoint, and hence the policy they initiate do not reflect and promote the will of the Alaskan Constituency they belong to.
Alaskan Governor Palin is on record as saying:
“I have said many times that my administration is committed to management of game for abundance, and to a proactive, science-based predator management program where appropriate,”
“Our science-driven and abundance-based predator management program …..”
It remains to be seen if her government legislates accordingly.