Alaska wildlife woes raise red flags "outside"

 

Anyone who cares about wildlife should pay attention to a scandal unfolding in Alaska.

Earlier this month, Alaska Fish & Game Division of Wildlife Conservation director Corey Rossi resigned under allegations that he systematically falsified bear hunting records and violated guiding regulations shortly before being appointed to the agency in 2008. If convicted, Rossi is guilty of defrauding the people he was appointed to represent and undermining the wildlife resource he was sworn to defend.

That may be Alaska’s mess for Alaskans to clean up. But Rossi’s fall exposes a cancer that is spreading through America’s wildlife management: cronyism and big money undermining the foundation of North American wildlife management.

North America’s wildlife is the envy of the world. Our wildlife management is based on the principle that wildlife belongs to everyone equally. By comparison, in Europe wildlife belongs to the rich and royal, who have hoarded the resource since the day of Robin Hood.

In North America, heroes like Theodore Roosevelt forged a different story with a far better outcome: wildlife is managed as a public trust using scientific principles for the common good.

Then along come folks like Rossi. Rossi was appointed to head a wildlife agency with zero credentials in biology, but a wealth of political connections. Once in office, he began rewarding those connections. The system is legal, but it stinks like an old bait bucket.

Big game licenses now mean big money. Hunters have developed fair plans – such as lotteries – for sharing the resource with everyone equally. But a group of well-heeled hunters, allied in groups such as Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, have increasingly persuaded legislatures to let them in on the action. They are given tags to auction off, often at five or six figures.

States agencies get a cut of the money, but just how much varies from state to state. The money is big, but accountability is poor. The tags essentially give the rich a chance to cut to the front of the line and avoid the rules others must abide by.

Once appointed to high office within AF&G, Rossi handed four “governor’s tags” to an outfit he once presided over  -- Alaska Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife – to auction off. He also championed Sportsmen for Fish  & Wildlife’s biologically dubious anti-predator policies.  

Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife cheered Rossi as “one of our own” when he took office. So far, they’ve been silent on his fall. Rossi’s apologists in Alaska, true to form, say it’s all a plot by "outside" vegetarians and animal rights activists.

Meanwhile, SFW promotes crackpot schemes of predator control (coyotes in Utah, bears in Alaska) that are unethical, unscientific and generally a colossal waste of money.

Director Rossi was caught in his own snare. But all wildlife enthusiasts – hunters and non-hunters alike – must make sure that our wildlife management is run by sound science, not political hacks out to make a killing.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Ben Long is an author, outdoorsman and conservationist in Montana. He is senior program director for Resource Media.

Robin Hood image courtesy Flickr user Sam Leivers.

Image of elk in Girdwood, AK, courtesy Flickr user Princess Lodges.

High Country News Classifieds
  • BACKCOUNTRY FILM FESTIVAL MANAGER
    Boise-based Winter Wildlands Alliance is looking for an experienced and highly motivated individual to organize our annual Backcountry Film Festival and Tour and coordinate additional...
  • LAND CONSERVATION MANAGER
    SUMMARY Leads, administers and manages the land conservation, conservation easement stewardship, and property management activities of the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department within...
  • CLEAN ENERGY PROGRAM ATTORNEY, NEVADA
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Staff Attorney who is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Deschutes River Conservancy in Bend, Oregon
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.