Sunday, January 22, 2012

Board of Gaming the System: Managing Wildlife for the 1%

Before you dismiss this post as the opinion of a Bambi-loving extremest greenie,  just for the record I'm a multiple gun owner who has hunted caribou, moose, deer and various winged critters. I think that if you eat meat or wear any sort of animal product (including leather), it is nothing sort of hypocritical to be opposed to hunting.  Fine if you choose not to do so, but don't expect me to do the same.  I believe in the freedom of and from any sort of religion and that includes most any rigid political or social dogma.

There is a certain tragic beauty in the natural balance of nature. No matter if the predator is human or beast, hunting is essential to that balance.

On the Kenai right now there's an overpopulation of arctic hares and feral bunnies.  Besides making it darn near impossible to take your dog for a walk off-leash, there's plenty of snacks for predators - - especially lynx.  As this year's lynx have a feast, these well-fed cats will lose few of their own kind to starvation. Since more lynx will survive, there will be more offspring.  This trend will continue for a couple of years until enough fluffy bunnies have been consumed that there aren't enough of them to sustain the lynx. Some of these predators will begin to starve and the downward spiral begins again until there aren't enough lynx to keep the little hoppers from breeding, well, like rabbits. And the cycle goes on and on. 

That same pattern is part of the balance of predators and moose. Because moose breed, well, like moose, the cycle of feast and famine takes longer to phase through.

Humans are part of that natural cycle; we have been since we evolved. 

If there is something beyond nourishment, warmth and art that comes from harvesting wild game, it is the challenge of matching ones skills to the terrain, the weather, and the deadly smarts of our wolf and bear competitors.  Some years are lean for all involved. We humans have the luxury of stopping off at a store on the way home, so unsuccessful hunts don't thin our ranks.  If you haven't noticed, there's an overpopulation thing happening on the planet. With more people, there are more hunters and more of a demand for prey.  Not everyone will be successful. Get over it. Those who aren’t successful have a few options. They can keep at it and hone their skills and patience. They can find another hobby and in that way thin the ranks of human predators, or they can get appointed to the Board of Game and game the system, so that their big-game hunting guide cronies can bring in rich outside trophy hunters and guarantee them a kill.

That is the agenda of the Board of Game with their recent decisions to expedite aerial predator control on the Kenai and many other places around the state.

In making their decision about the Kenai, the BoG chose to ignore the 300+ moose killed in traffic collisions here.  Meat harvested from these accidents is eaten by Alaskans.  Although not hunted with a gun or bow, a dead and harvested moose is a dead and harvested moose.  When these moose are added to the numbers that hunters get, the yield for the Kenai is very plentiful.

The Rossi scandal is exposing the depths of how political cronyism coupled with blatant personal unethical practices have made Alaska wildlife management decisions become based on what is best for big game guides of rich outsiders.

Let’s begin with Ted Spraker, a central peninsula resident, former Fish and Game biologist and Safari Club member.  Ted admits that habitat is the most important factor when it comes to moose populations; in the log run, a habitat can only support so many moose.  In area 15A the moose population is slightly lower than the habitat can support, and in Area 15C there are slightly more than average as the habitat is much better there. Both well within what is normal for their different stages of habitat flux.  15A hasn’t had a major wildfire for decades and there just isn’t enough browse to support significantly more moose.

Despite Spraker’s awareness of this, he is looking for a short-term boost to the moose populations.  Why?  Well, the spin is that they want more moose meat on the table of Alaskans.  Ted knows that that the aerial hunting of predators will not significantly increase the success of Alaskan hunters. 

If there was a concern about the number of moose for ordinary Alaskans, how come the Board of Game has never considered reducing the number of rich Outside game and trophy hunters that guides bring in? Professional hunting guides do have skills and their clients are more successful than the average Alaskan.  And make no mistake, non-subsistence urban and Outside hunters take most of the game in any given management area.

There’s certainly a legitimate debate if subsistence users should have priority with hunting rights.  In my mind, they absolutely should.  In bush Alaska, the grocery store is nature.  In Kenai and Anchorage, we have Fred Meyers and Safeway. 

Preserving ones way of life is a legitimate consideration however, but ethical decisions must be made. I don’t understand the arrogance of thinking that someone who does not depend on hunting to survive should have as much access to the resource as someone whose life does.  Once subsistence needs are met and then if there is enough game left to satisfy recreational Alaskan hunters, only then you should you allow rich Outside sport and trophy hunters to get their trigger locks off.

Each and every current Board of Game member is tied in some way or another to big game hunting guides.  There is no balance on the board – each and every one was appointed by governors as a favor to the big game guide lobbyists.

The recent Corey Rossi scandal is exposing some of the arrogance that these political appointees practice.  While Rossi is not on the BoG, he was the director of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation and just got busted for violating hunting rules and lying about it. In addition, Rossi and current BoG Chairman Cliff Judkins and then-Game Board member Bob Bell of Anchorage went on a subsistence musk ox hunt. Yeah, that’s right, none of these nimrods depend on musk ox to live, but they had a subsistence permit.  The permit rules state that you must destroy the  horns.  That rule is there to keep those just interested in a trophy from killing the animal under the guise of subsistence.  Well Judkins and crew tried to bully a lowly F&G biologist to make an exception for them. They wanted trophies.  The biologist refused to play along. They tried to use their power to break the rules. 

Rossi and his kind have abused their special perks of obtaining trophy permits by giving them to Outside hunting lobby groups such as the Sarfari Club to auction off for fund raisers for those organization.  More meat for rich outsiders, less for Alaskans. 

The BoG is about special privileges for guides,  the connected and the rich. 

The BoG took public input about introducing aerial predator control on the Kenai and a whopping 92% of the testimony was against the practice.  Yet the Board’s decision to expedite the slaughter  was unanimous. 
The BoG has an agenda that isn’t tied to facts, ethics, public opinion or sound wildlife management practices. Why does that seem acceptable to the Governor? Why is this OK?

Reason 738 why we’re SOL.

The Alaska Dispatch has had an excellent series of reports about these scandals.  I hope you are reading them:

Smart Alaska Game Board decisions drowned out by bad calls

New allegations surface against disgraced former Alaska wildlife chief

Alaska Board of Game shows affection for any predator control program

State is playing an unscientific game

And some related links:

Aerial control

Political science at Alaska Fish and Game

Rossi investigators examine signature of Kenai hunting guide

This is old, but still applies:

End Aerial Wolf Hunting

Read more here:

1 comment:

Hire Intelligence said...

Since John Graybill has died I got to thinking, David Haeg is available for the Spraker Air Force.

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