Hunting Conservation photo

Seven weeks ago, Chad Love of Field Notes posted an article describing the resignation of Alaska Fish and Game’s Conservation Director, Corey Rossi, after Rossi was charged with 12 violations related to an illegal black bear hunt in 2008.

Now, Anchorage Daily News reporter Richard Mauer has uncovered Rossi’s radical plan to privatize some of Alaska’s hunting and wildlife:

Six weeks before he learned he was under criminal investigation for violating his department’s hunting rules, state Wildlife Division Director Corey Rossi told his staff about a pet project — unprecedented in Alaska — to give private landowners special rights to hunt big game, even out of season, and to be able to sell those rights to whomever they want.

Such a plan echoes the message of the controversial group Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, which is not surprising, since Rossi served on the board of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife-Alaska before his appointment to the state wildlife agency by then-Governor Sarah Palin. In the Anchorage Daily News story, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife founder Don Peay says that it’s time to “revisit” the widely accepted principle in the United States and Canada that game is a public resource.

Peay described that egalitarian doctrine, found in Alaska’s state constitution and laws throughout the West, as “socialism.” It offers no economic incentive for landowners to kill predators, improve big game habitat and even provide food and water for target species.

Read the entire story here.

As a conservation writer and hunter, I am fascinated by this story. Since 1842, Americans have created the world’s most successful model of wildlife management, based on the notion that wild game belonged to the people, held in trust by the states. We flatly rejected the Old Europe ideas of big game belonging to the King, and peasants and serfs forbidden to enter the royal forests upon pain of death. The effort to create a new way of wildlife management was a powerful part of the American experiment in democracy and liberty.

By 1876, there were already over 500 sportsmen’s clubs across the US fighting for conservation laws and policies to rebuild the dwindling wild game herds and outlaw market hunting, and, in the 1900s, to enact self-imposed taxes like the Pittman-Robertson Act, or the migratory bird stamp, to fund the restoration of the wildlife and habitat. It worked.

What we created is now known as the North American Model of Wildlife Management. We live on the last continent on earth where hunting is popular among outdoorspeople from every walk of life, from the wealthy to the financially destitute. I’m not sure how that equates to socialism. I’m still studying on that one.