Elaina Spraker: Not so fast, Mr. Pettyjohn, on characterizing Safari Club International

In an article in an Alaska political blog, SCI Member and Advocate Elaina Spraker rebuts attacks on SCI’s Alaska Chapter and the organization as a whole. The original piece is written in support of expanding State ownership of current federal lands. The original piece mischaracterizes SCI as fearing state ownership of public lands. Nothing can be further from the truth, as SCI has been in court in Alaska for over five years defending State authority to manage wildlife, and SCI routinely advocates for State management authority and preserving and expanding hunting access to federal lands. Mrs. Spraker defends SCI’s track record on these issues, and SCI’s role as standing up for all hunters in Alaska. Background on federal ownership of lands in Alaska: In 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act resolved land issues between the federal government and Alaska Natives by committing up to 44 million acres (180,000 km2) of land to Alaska Natives in exchange for $963 million. Other land ownership issues were resolved by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, which established more than 100 million acres of federal land in Alaska as new or expanded conservation system units, while also challenging federal land managers to balance the national interest in Alaska’s scenic and wildlife resources with advancing the economic and infrastructure development interests of Alaska’s people, and protecting Alaska’s distinctive rural way of life. Read the full article below.

As we enter into a prickly political season, campaign rhetoric will do its best to persistently persuade. It may be difficult to determine the truth in issues that are important to us. 

In a recent commentary penned by Fritz Pettyjohn, (Must Read Alaska, April 27, 2022), he labeled Safari Club International as a group of wealthy trophy hunters.

He further stated “the organization fears that under state ownership, residents would be given a preference in the taking of fish and game. As non-residents, their access could be restricted, so they lobby against any transfer to the states. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. is an active member of the Safari Club and was the keynote speaker at its 2020 convention. He has convinced his father to take the Safari Club’s side against the states.” 

Furthermore, he states an absurdity — that Sarah Palin is “perfectly positioned” to change former President Trump’s mind.

This example of deliberate gullibility is dangerous because it perpetuates a misrepresentation of an organization that has been on the frontlines for decades defending states’ rights, our hunting heritage, and access to federal public lands.

The State of Alaska would be quite a different place if SCI had not intervened in the many legal challenges where anti-hunters, extreme environmentalists, and career bureaucrats continually try to fulfill their utopian vision of turning Alaska into a the world’s largest park. There is no other conservation organization in the world that fights harder for our state to protect their authority to manage fish and wildlife, and leads the planet in conservation efforts.

Many Alaskans who are deeply involved in hunting belong to SCI as subsistence, personal use, and sport hunters. The president of the SCI Alaska chapter is John Sturgeon, whose landmark Supreme Court case upheld the State of Alaska’s authority on navigable waters and addressed federal overreach. 

The president of the SCI Kenai Chapter is Ted Spraker, a state career wildlife biologist and the longest serving member of the Alaska Board of Game, who spent most of his career battling federal overreach issues.

Longtime Kenai/Soldotna state advisory chairman, Mike Crawford, sits on the SCI national leadership board. The commissioner of ADF&G and director of Wildlife Conservation are past SCI board members.

The common denominator of all four of these individuals is SCI, also their lifelong dedication to the Alaska way of life and wildlife conservation.

The entire Alaska congressional delegation has a longstanding partnership with SCI in holding the federal government accountable for their statutory commitments to Alaska and Alaskans, fighting for access of federal public lands, management of fish and wildlife, and traditional activities. In 2018, the SCI national organization awarded U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan with the prestigious Legislator of the Year Award for his outstanding commitment to Alaska in his efforts to overturn the Obama-era rules that would have diminished the State of Alaska’s authority to manage its own fish and wildlife. The late Congressman Don Young would attend the SCI national convention regularly and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who sits on the Senate Resource Committee, works closely with SCI on states’ rights issues.

Today we are faced with the Federal Subsistence Board, a group of unelected bureaucrats systematically shutting down millions of acres of federal public lands in Alaska, to both rural and non-rural Alaskans and non-resident hunters, threatening Alaskans lifestyle and food sustenance. And guess who’s on the frontline fighting this issue alongside the State? SCI.

Not only is Fritz Pettyjohn’s article uninformed, it also lacks a complete understanding of the historical context in ANSCA and ANICLA. And while I agree with Mr. Pettyjohn that the federal government has not honored many of these commitments under ANSCA, ANICLA and the Statehood Compact, federal land management agencies have repeatedly and systematically disregarded the law and dismissed most of these promises. It took three very seasoned lawmakers – Sens. Ted Stevens and Mike Gravel, and Congressman Young – to prevent the land-grabbing bureaucrats and environmentalists from getting complete federal control of Alaska when ANILCA was being ratified.  

One conversation between former President Trump and former Gov. Palin will have no impact on, or transfer federal lands to the State of Alaska. That would take an act of Congress and then some.

Elaina Spraker is an Alaskan hunter, conservationist, NRA instructor, and member of Safari Club International.

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