As we enter into a contentious political season, campaign advertising will do its best to be persistent and persuasive. It will be difficult to determine the truth in matters that are important to us.
In a recent TV ad titled “Never Forget,” Put Alaska First, liberal super PAC and supporters of Mark Begich present a false interpretation of House Bill 77, a legislative bill, streamlining the Alaska Department of Natural Resources permitting process, by stating the bill would result in a loss of hunting opportunity. This example of deliberate dishonesty is dangerous not because it perpetuates a misunderstanding of a small bill that did not pass and did not threaten hunting opportunity, but because it indicates a larger attack on the truth. It would lead the viewer to believe that Mark Begich supports hunters and Dan Sullivan, who sponsored the bill and is a U.S. Senate candidate challenging Begich, is not in support of hunters. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As a hunter who is engaged in wildlife conservation issues, works closely with upper level staff of the Alaska Department of Fish wildlife conservation, and has direct access to the Board of Game, the ad came as a surprise. Those who are deeply involved in hunting issues struggled to find the connection between the bill mentioned in the ad and hunting.
The association of HB77 to the loss of hunting opportunity can only be made in the same way that the ADF&G commissioner could decimate a fish stock or game population by using the authority of an emergency opening or closure. This authority exists and is necessary for a commissioner to manage, but it is not exercised in a vacuum. In reality, the chances of this kind of harm are forbidden and further protected through the open public and regulatory process the State of Alaska has set in place.
Like most legislative bills, HB 77 needed careful vetting and parts of the bill warranted public input. Dan Sullivan demonstrated leadership in attempting to reduce obstructive regulations not only for his department, but for the Alaskan people. Alaska has the most open public processes in the nation; we are blessed with the opportunity to interact with our public officials and have a voice in the process. For hunters, the danger of abusive administrative authority is from federal agencies. When Alaska hunters traveled to Washington, D.C., with concerns about loss of hunting opportunity on public lands, in contrast to what the ad would have us believe, Mark Begich did not respond as a senator who supports hunting or hunting opportunity.
The message from Mark Begich to these hunters was clear: “Hunting opportunity is in the hands of the federal government, it’s their land and fighting them will be useless.” In attempting to unravel how HB 77 could be construed as to affect hunting, the connection was not as easily made as the connection between those individuals who were critical of HB 77 being the same individuals who offer their support to Mark Begich.
As an active and engaged hunter, HB 77 did not come under my radar as an issue facing hunters. SB 77, a bill that removes the requirement for youth hunts to start prior to the beginning of school and HB 375, relating to the crime of trespass, are two bills that directly affect hunters. Federal over-reach, however, is the biggest threat to hunters in Alaska, and we have first-hand experience in the way in which Mark Begich aligns himself with federal policies that have taken away hunter opportunity that is a foundation of our communities and offer a key to our future sustainability both economically and culturally.
When an advertisement suggests Mark Begich supports Alaska hunters because he opposes a bill related to permitting that was supported by his Senate opponent, it reminds me of a quote from Winston Churchill, “A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.”
I hope Alaska hunters are not caught with their pants down on this one.
Elaina Spraker is a life-long Alaskan, hunter and conservationist. She is the director of Kenai Peninsula Women on Target and involved in other youth and women’s programs on the Kenai Peninsula.