Areas like Denali National Park allow nature to be preserved which is great, so long as there are also areas that allow for the maximum benefit of Alaskans as stated in the state’s constitution. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

Areas like Denali National Park allow nature to be preserved which is great, so long as there are also areas that allow for the maximum benefit of Alaskans as stated in the state’s constitution. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: The problem with caricatures

While people are usually up for a good fight, things seem to get particularly heated this time of year. It’s cold, it’s dark, our team’s out of the playoffs, so online we go to make anonymous posts on community Facebook pages lashing out or oversharing.

“Recognize this car? It was…by the…and I…”

Call out culture at its finest.

We show off our recently acquired PhDs in environmental science, history and economics — earned from the University of Facebook, TikTok College, Instagram State or all three.

Hunters and anglers are no exception. We argue about the latest attempt to close areas to non-federally qualified users. We debate whether or not the road to Ambler would be a significant detriment to habitat and wildlife populations, or if, like the Haul Road, it might end up being a tremendous opportunity to open up access to Alaskans.

As usual, I am conflicted. The world doesn’t work in clean Us vs. Them battles and that’s a good thing. Arguments are pitted as being Conservation vs. Preservation, but both philosophies are open to individual interpretation and vary based on geography. This is why so many people are noticeably quiet regarding certain issues. It’s not as easy to pick a side as some would make us think.

To non-hunters, hunting can very much look like antler bingo. All players checking off what they have, and comparing themselves to those who win the prizes, sponsorships and notoriety by having more.

This is the caricature that is created to influence people to join anti-hunting causes. But caricature creation is not limited to one group. The oblivious non-hunting caricature isn’t representative of the entire non-hunting population, neither is a non-resident stereotype.

Knowing this allows us to differentiate between reality and a catastrophized world in which everything and everyone is a threat unless their worldview aligns perfectly. It’s difficult to navigate at a time in which compromise is seen as weakness and people scrutinize words and phrases, ignoring intent, attempting to see if this person is friend or foe.

Listening is not a crime. You’re not a traitor for asking questions of your team and the other team. It allows us to find holes in our arguments and better articulate our own worldviews or change them if need be.

It also allows us to better recognize real threats from perceived threats. To be sure, there are both, and the ability to focus attention and meaningfully participate in productive advocacy better allows an environment of helpful change.

Many times the biggest threats end up being an inability to be flexible and feeling just in breaking the rules or prioritizing self without scrutiny. I get to circumvent the laws because I am right and I am helping us avoid an existential threat.

If we make everything an existential threat, then we start to justify breaking the same rules we feared the other side would. We become a reflection of what we hate.

There are people who will take advantage of people willing to engage in good faith. But not everyone, and it’s difficult to sniff out who is who when we create caricatures.

As we continue through the season of fish and game proposals, it’s instructive to read and ask questions. Some proposals are every bit as self-serving and bad as they seem, but some aren’t. And even if I think something is scienceless and unnecessary, doesn’t mean anyone has to agree.

We’re all Alaskans until people start talking about fishing and hunting. Then we subdivide ourselves. Commercial vs. subsistence. Local vs. non-local. Born here vs. not. If we want to get things done in a productive manner, we need to never forget we’re neighbors too.

More in Sports

The Nogahabara Dunes spill into a lake 35 miles west of the village of Huslia as seen from the back seat of a Super Cub piloted by Brad Scotton of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based in Galena. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Sand dunes a unique Alaska landscape

NOGAHABARA DUNES — From a molded seat of sand dug into the… Continue reading

Fly fishing for salmon in the saltwater might reduce the opportunity to get quick limits, but there’s nothing like it. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Silvers on the fly

A school of a few dozen fish moved slowly through the teal… Continue reading

A common aerial wasp forages on cow parsnip flowers. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Cow parsnip flowers

Cow parsnip is known in our field guides as Heracleum lanatum, although… Continue reading

A roadside daisy displays a fasciated center. (Photo by Deana Barajas)
On the Trails: An odd plant malady, a clever duck, and more

I recently learned about a mysterious, relatively rare affliction of plants called… Continue reading

Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau (right) takes a selfie with WSOP legend Phil Hellmuth in the background. (Photo provided by Alaska Sports Report)
Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau and Mario Fata consistently cashing in at World Series of Poker

Anchorage pro Adam Hendrix remains Alaska’s most prominent poker player, but don’t… Continue reading

Heidi Reifenstein reaches Father Brown’s Cross to complete the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run on Saturday, setting a new women’s record for the 3½-mile race with a time of 37 minutes and 40 seconds. (Photo by Jeff Gnass)
A mother of a mountain: Heidi Reifenstein sets new women’s record for Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run

Longtime Juneau resident returns to peak form after taking break from racing while raising kids.

The Nogahabara Sand Dunes in the Koyukuk Wilderness Area west of Koyukuk River. (Keith Ramos / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Alaska Science Forum: Mystery of the glass tool kit in the sand

From space, the Nogahabara Dunes are a splotch of blond sand about… Continue reading

After a morning hike, a satisfying breakfast for under $20 hits the spot. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Food for thought

To my left is a man with a thick British accent who… Continue reading

A bumblebee pollinates the flower of shy maiden, which will turn upward soon afterward. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Flowers, showy and otherwise

The spring and summer flower show at Cowee Meadows (way out on… Continue reading

Athletes compete in a swim event at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center on Sept. 16, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: It’s OK to say an athlete failed at obtaining a goal

During the telecasts of the 2024 Olympic trials commentators stated that around… Continue reading

A brush turkey on a mound the size of a car ( photo by Doug Beckers /CC-BY-SA-2.0)
On the Trails: Nest-building by male birds

Most birds build some sort of nest where the eggs are incubated.… Continue reading

Insects like these flies clinging to a tent seem to be in ample supply in Alaska’s boreal forest. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Insects of Alaska forest humming along

Recent long-term studies revealed a three-quarters reduction of insects in parts of… Continue reading