Lawmakers confirm fish board members, fight game members

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Saturday, April 16, 2016 9:27pm
  • News

JUNEAU — The third time was the charm for Gov. Bill Walker’s attempts to fill seats on Alaska’s Board of Fisheries, but one of his appointments to the Board of Game was rejected by lawmakers on Friday.

A joint session of the House and Senate on Friday unanimously agreed to approve the governor’s nominees to its fish board, but that unity fell apart when board of game members came up.

Each board consists of seven members serving three-year terms. The boards set fishing, hunting and trapping regulations in the state and set allocations between user groups.

For the three candidates to the fish board, it brings an end to a saga of candidates that have resigned, faced criminal charges, failed to be confirmed by the Legislature or stepped down prematurely from the board.

Two of the three fish board appointments are newcomers, Alaska Wildlife Trooper Al Cain and guide Israel Payton. Walker named the third, Soldotna conservationist Robert Ruffner, to the board last year.

Ruffner failed to make it out of confirmation in 2015 after members of the fishing industry said he disturbed an unwritten balance between commercial, sport fishing and subsistence fishing representatives.

Lawmakers again emphasized balanced boards when they took up confirmation of two appointees to the game board.

One former hunting guide, Guy Trimmingham, drew opposition due to his support of non-consumptive uses of game, like wildlife photography.

Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said the Board of Game is designed to adopt regulations promoting hunting, trapping and use of the state’s game resources.

Kelly said the game board was not designed to be balanced with wildlife viewers, environmentalists or animal rights activists.

“They always want balance, but then they don’t pay fees. I don’t know of a camera fee that you pay so that you can take photographs of moose,” he said. “We hunters pay fees. We pay fees for the management of a resource so that we can use it and consume it and that’s a good thing.”

Trimmingham also drew opposition from members who said he revealed his lack of knowledge about the state’s advisory committees during his confirmation hearings. The committees are designed to inform the game board’s regulatory process by giving it a cross-section of opinions on game issues from users throughout the state.

Legislators voted 46-12 not to support Trimmingham’s nomination.

The other appointee, wilderness trapper and guide Nathan Turner has been on the board since 2010.

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, said Turner’s background as a guide ran counter to the interests of other hunters.

“This resource belongs to all 700,000 of us,” Gara said. “The board should reflect the interest of 700,000 of us. What I’ve seen on the Board of Game is, with nominees and the membership, three members who are current or former guides.”

Turner was confirmed 45-13.

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