Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
April 2009

Membership for The Alaska Board of Game

By Kristy Tibbles
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Board of Game Member Ben Grussendorf considers a question at a Board of Game meeting.

Predator management in Alaska is contentious and critics often attack the Board of Game in the press. Letters and editorials have expressed values and ideology, but often they show a misunderstanding of the Board of Game – how it operates, what it does, and who serves on it.

The qualifications for Board of Game membership defined under Alaska Statute are rather basic; the Governor appoints each member on the basis of their interest in public affairs, their good judgment, knowledge, and ability in the field of action of the board. They are also selected with a view to providing diversity of interest and viewpoints in the overall membership.

That said, members are appointed without regard to political affiliation or geographical location, and they are not appointed to represent certain user or interest groups. In fact, once appointed, they must set aside any personal interests or biases and are required to make reasonable decisions that serve the best interests of Alaskans. Each one of the seven members of the board is committed to upholding this expectation.

Board members receive compensation for the days they attend the meetings, but service on the board is not a job and all board members have full-time jobs or are retired. Current board member professions include a civil engineer, home inspector, retired biologist, and retired public school teachers, one of who is a former state legislator. Past board members have included scientists, artists, and professionals working for private businesses, Native corporations, and state and federal agencies

Every year, the board considers 200 to 300 proposals requesting changes to hunting and trapping regulations; the majority are submitted by the public. The board meets two or three times a year in different parts of Alaska. Board members read hundreds of pages of documents in preparation for the meetings. At a typical board meeting, members spend several days listening to public testimony, as well as testimony from the fish and game advisory committees who represent their communities, various government agencies, and the Department of Fish and Game for the biological information. In addition to the oral testimony, they also review hundreds of written public comments at each meeting. After considering public input, biological information – all the while adhering to the statutory and constitutional mandates – the board makes its decisions, serving the best interests of Alaskans, to conserve, develop and allocate the state’s wildlife resources.

Alaskans are passionate about the state’s fish and wildlife resources. Because there are often competing interests over the resources, some of the decisions made by the board are highly contentious. One of the most controversial topics that the board deals with is predator management. Many view the board’s decisions for predator management as biased, unnecessary and cruel. The fact of the matter is that the board is bound by the Intensive Management Law, which was enacted in 1994 and mandates the board to make these difficult decisions for the purpose of restoring prey populations. Any board member, regardless of their background, is obligated to adhere to this law and other laws.

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Board members listen to testimony at a Board of Game meeting.

The Board has been criticized for having a membership that consists of all hunters, but in Alaska, many environmentalists, artists and wildlife viewing advocates are also hunters. Many hunters are also avid bird and wildlife watchers. There are times and places for both activities, and they are not mutually exclusive. It is simplistic and unfair to assume that simply because someone hunts they are biased, unreasonable and unable to appreciate non-consumptive uses of wildlife.

The board has also been criticized regarding decisions about wildlife viewing opportunities. At times when the Board has favored providing additional hunting or trapping opportunities, critics have accused the Board of being single-minded in support of consumptive uses of wildlife. But historically, the board has rejected more proposals for predator control than it has approved. On many occasions the board has also made decisions that enhance and maintain wildlife viewing opportunities. , For example, in Southeast Alaska, the board rejected a proposal to allow brown bear hunting at a popular bear viewing site on Admiralty Island, and set a 10 year moratorium against accepting proposals on this topic. Similar moratoriums were also recently placed on bear vewing areas at Wolverine Creek in Southcentral Alaska. Most recently, the board closed the trapping season for wolverine in Chugach State Park.

Although there will always be criticism over their decisions, the members who serve on the Board of Game work tirelessly to make the best possible decisions based on science, the legal considerations, public information and experience. Board members have a high respect and appreciation for all the input provided to them which helps them with making difficult decisions

Kristy Tibbles works for the Boards Support Section at the Department of Fish and Game, and as Executive Director, she administers the activities of the Board of Game.

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