Legislature(1997 - 1998)
02/19/1997 01:40 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL 26 "An Act relating to big game tags for wolves; and providing for an effective date." DAVID STANCLIFF, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN, noted that HB 26 addresses the need to provide wildlife specialists with the proper management tools in areas identified as needing intense management. In light of Ballot Initiative #3 being approved, he suggested that it was more important to pass HB 26. Without sufficient latitude, it would be difficult for the Department of Fish and Game and the Board of Game to meet the requirements of sustained yield management under Article VIII of the State Constitution. Mr. Stancliff continued, to maintain a healthy population of moose, caribou, and sheep for both human and natural harvest, the Department and Board of Game have few choices once hunting has been reduced or eliminated. HB 26 would provide increased incentives for non-resident hunters who consider the purchase of a big game tag to harvest wolves. Those hunters are generally under the supervision of a professional guide which requires a more closely monitored entry into the field. Together with more stringent reporting requirements of animals both taken and shipped, would provide the Department a well controlled tool in attaining the scientifically established population goals for a given area. He noted, of the 10,000 nonresident who typically hunt in Alaska annually, less than 3% purchase tags for harvesting a wolf. The main reason for low tag sales is that the opportunity to harvest a wolf is remote. Consequently, most hunters are unwilling to pay a large sum of money with such poor odds. Mr. Stancliff thought that by establishing a more reasonable price on tags, the Department should see a significant rise in sales placing more dollars into the Fish and Game Fund while also increasing the incidental take of wolves. He concluded that HB 26 would provide a wider latitude for the Board of Game in making adjustments to meet the needs of both human and secondary utilization of our important ungulate resources while increasing the revenues for better management. Mr. Stancliff urged the Committee's support of the legislation. 4 In response to Representative Therriault's query, Mr. Stancliff responded that the fees would be applicable to resident and resident non-aliens. The legislation would reduce the fee for non-resident hunters from $175 to $30 dollars, reducing big game fee wolf tag fee for non- residents from $250 to $50 dollars. He noted at this time, there is no fee for residents. Co-Chair Therriault asked how the fiscal note had been calculated. Mr. Stancliff replied that last year, consensus had been reached with the Department of Fish and Game, that the requested level not be prohibitive for big game hunters to pick up a tag. The Department attempted to calculate revenues generated if 50% of the non-residents hunters purchased tags. Representative Grussendorf stressed that tags are necessary in order to monitor the harvest of wolves within relationship to the game management. WAYNE REGELIN, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF WILDLIFE CONSERVATION, DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, stated that a count of how many wolves had been harvested would be provided when having the hides sealed. The hide can not be exported out of the State without being sealed and at that time the information being documented. Representative Grussendorf asked if that would be true for State residents. Mr. Regelin advised Representative Grussendorf that there is good reporting of numbers of wolves harvested. He reiterated that in order to export the hides to have them tanned or to be sold, they must be sealed by the Department. The hide can not be sold if it is not sealed. Co-Chair Therriault asked the Department's position on the proposed legislation. Mr. Regelin stated that the Department of Fish and Game supports the legislation. The wolf population in Alaska is under-utilized and the legislation would provide more opportunity to sportsmen to harvest wolves without damage to that population. MICHELE DRUMMOND, ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL LOBBY (AEL), KODIAK, spoke against the proposed legislation. She informed Committee members that the reduction cost of tag fees for hunting wolves would not increase revenue. She suggested that the bill was clearly a voice against the will of the people and their vote on Proposition #3. Co-Chair Therriault countered that there could be an increase in revenue because the fee would be lower and the 5 tags would be easier to purchase. He added that in his district, Proposition #3 failed. Representative Grussendorf asked if there were any areas within the State where a smaller wolf population exists. Mr. Regelin confirmed that the wolf population throughout Alaska is healthy with between 7,000 and 10,000 wolves in the State. The average yearly harvest is 1,100 wolves. He emphasized that the bill is not a predator control bill. The legislation will provide more opportunity to harvest a resource that is abundant. Mr. Regelin added, the only area of concern would be on the Seward Peninsula. The wolf population there is kept at a lower level because of the reindeer industry. In response to questions by Representative Grussendorf, Mr. Regelin advised that 60-70% of the wolf harvest is taken by trapping. Representative Mulder MOVED to report HB 26 out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. HB 26 was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a fiscal note by the Department of Fish and Game dated 1/31/97.