Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/29/1996 08:18 AM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 CSSB 247(RLS) am(efd fld)(ct rule fld) - USE OF FISH & GAME                  
 FUND/COMM'R'S POWERS                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 745                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN announced the committee would hear CSSB 247(RLS)            
 am(efd fld)(ct rule fld), "An Act restricting the use of certain              
 funds deposited in the fish and game fund; and relating to the                
 powers and duties of the commissioner of fish and game."                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR ROBIN TAYLOR, sponsor of SB 247, came before the committee            
 to explain the bill.  He informed the committee members he would              
 give a philosophical background as to why the bill is before the              
 committee.  He said the majority of the funds currently utilized by           
 the department are what is called "program receipts."  Those                  
 program receipts come from several different sources and the                  
 primary source is the federal government.  The federal government             
 taxes people who purchases hunting equipment, ammunition and                  
 fishing gear.  There are excise taxes on various sporting equipment           
 that you buy if it is to be used in the field.  He informed the               
 committee that a majority of the budgets of the different state's             
 Departments of Fish and Game, throughout the west, are paid for by            
 the user groups.  It is like our federal highway program, taxes on            
 gasoline and tires, etc., pay a majority of the cost of repairing             
 and building the super highway system that we have in the United              
 States.  It wasn't paid for by someone who wanted to view the                 
 highway or by who someone who thought highways are nice and they              
 liked ambiance of seeing a highway wonder down a valley.  Senator             
 Taylor said if we were to take 50 percent of the funds that the               
 people of Alaska are paying on taxes on gasoline, tires, etc., and            
 directed those monies into surveying parks, none of the repairs               
 would be done to roads and the roads would become almost                      
 impassable.  You are paying a very high amount of taxation for                
 those roads all of which was being diverted.  He said that is the             
 reason for this legislation.  Senator Taylor said the legislation             
 says if you're going take my money and you're taking my money for             
 a given purpose, then use it for that purpose.  He stated there are           
 both criminal and civil sanctions if you don't pay these takes.               
 You're going to use a gun, pointed at my head, to take the money              
 out of my back pocket and tell me it is going to be used for the              
 following purposes.                                                           
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR said the federal laws are very specific.  There is             
 one area of income within the federal law that says you've got to             
 use approximately 12 percent of it to provide access for                      
 recreational purposes.  That is the money we use for building boat            
 ramps.  Senator Taylor said, "You know what they were doing with              
 that before I got here?  It was getting used by the department.               
 And they would stack up on boat ramps about once every three or               
 four years - they would decide where they wanted to build their pet           
 boat ramp and they would go in and they'd build one.  That was 11             
 years ago.  When I got here I said, `Wait a minute, that money is             
 dedicated for that purpose.  Why aren't you using it for that                 
 purpose?'  You know something, we built four boat ramps in the next           
 year.  Now everybody has kind of maintained that stream, we're                
 building boat ramps now so that recreational boaters have an                  
 opportunity to get to a river, other than the Kenai, to stand                 
 shoulder to shoulder on.  If we provided some more access, I                  
 guarantee you wouldn't have the problems that you've got on that              
 combat fishing on the Kenai.  Instead, we won't build roads.  We              
 just force them all to go to the one stream.  We've got hundreds of           
 streams in that area that they could be fishing on, but they have             
 no choice.  You send them all to one stream and then everybody gets           
 upset because they're not catching their quantity of fish so they             
 start stealing money from other people."                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR continued, "What this amounts to is this department            
 for years and years and years has made internal priority decisions            
 and those decisions were, `Oh, we're doing enough for the hunters             
 lets go off now and do something for our echo buddies.  Lets go               
 over here and study wolves for habitat conservation areas so they             
 can take forest base out of the Tongass.  Lets go over here and               
 study something else so they can do whatever they want with it.'              
 We have probably the worst managed game populations in the world              
 right now.  The people of McGrath, last year they took hunter's               
 money, hired a sociologist, sent him to McGrath and spent $40,000             
 doing a study.  What was the study on?  The study was on whether or           
 not the people of that area wanted some predator control.  What a             
 shock.  Just like Representative Nicholia was indicating to you the           
 people of that area know a great deal more about what McGrath needs           
 than any biologist sitting in Juneau seems to understand.  They               
 know for a fact that they haven't had any kind of survival on their           
 caribou or moose population calves for the last three years.  They            
 know they've got a major problem.  They've been begging this                  
 department to come up there and do some predator control.  So what            
 does the department do?  `Why we've got to be nice and boutique and           
 warm and fuzzy and make everybody feel like we're really concerned            
 about the world.  We're not concerned about the people of McGrath.            
 We'll send out you monies, your tax dollars, we'll spend those to             
 send a sociologist out there do a survey.'  They did their survey.            
 The people of McGrath - over 80 percent indicated they wanted                 
 something done about predators now.  So what was the response of              
 this department?  Any of you sit on Finance or do any of you sit on           
 the Finance subcommittee on the Fish and Game budget?  They didn't            
 ask for one thin dime for predator control, but they asked for all            
 the same amount of money in the Habitat Division so they could go             
 off and do more studies.  I imagine we'll probably get five or six            
 more sociological studies done out in the bush where everybody out            
 there says, `Please do something about our declining game                     
 populations.  We need this for subsistence.  We need this meat for            
 our families.  Don't allow the predators to keep eating it all up.'           
 And they'll smile at them and pat them on the head and come right             
 back down here and not ask for dime.  They'll want to have a peer             
 review done by some group in Washington, D.C., on whether or not              
 they should actually go out and upset a wolf.  That's the purpose             
 of this bill."                                                                
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR continued, "Those of us who are paying for the                 
 fiddler are sick and tired of listening to him play the wrong song            
 and this pervades this department.  If you don't think it pervades            
 the department when we first put the bill in and said, `No, you               
 only got to use - are going to use that money for the purposes for            
 which it is dedicated under both federal law and now state law,'              
 because that's all this does is put federal law on to our books and           
 say, `If you're gonna take the money for that purpose, you have to            
 use it for that purpose.'  You know what we got?  A $30 million               
 fiscal note.  Give you an idea how much of it was being misused and           
 is being misused today?  A major percentage of their budget.  Now             
 we can either start being honest with the people of Alaska and                
 putting their money back where it was intended for.  And if you               
 don't like this concept, and I'm sure there are people who don't              
 like the legislature setting any policy that the Fish and Game                
 Department might have to carry out because they seem -- because of            
 fish boards and other things, they seem to have this aura of being            
 able to go out and set their own policies - that the legislature              
 really can't have anything to do with them.  Well if that's what              
 you want and you want to maintain that autonomy to where these                
 bureaucrats can decide how and when they're gonna spend their money           
 and what they're gonna put that money into, then quit taxing these            
 people for it or quit taking those federal taxes.  Send it to a               
 state where they're gonna do something about providing more deer              
 for their population - providing more moose for their people.                 
 Sweden kills 100,000 moose a year - kills.  Sweden isn't much                 
 bigger than Southeast Alaska - a 100,000.  When I asked Mr. Regelin           
 what that number would compare to in Alaska - that's more moose               
 than we have in Alaska.  They harvest that much each year.  They do           
 it through intensive habitat management and they've even got a wolf           
 pack in the north end of Sweden, but it's a real small wolf pack              
 and it doesn't have much impact on those herds.  I'll be darned,              
 I'll bet the Swedes keep it small.  I bet if it started expanding             
 up there, they can go up there and shoot a few wolves because their           
 people want to be able to harvest 100,000 moose a year.  They                 
 probably like the meat.  Their people probably subsist on that and            
 live on that just like ours should be.  I can show you areas in my            
 country where my Department of Fish and Game would not allow us to            
 shoot one single black tailed deer for seven years.  Under federal            
 management, we shot four, per year, per person in that area.  Fish            
 and Game came along and refused to do any predator control in                 
 Southeast Alaska and for seven years around Wrangell you couldn't             
 shoot a deer.  You had to travel over 100 miles to find a place you           
 could shoot a deer.  The only place you can get good deer hunting             
 in Southeast Alaska is where either intensive clear-cut logging has           
 occurred, Prince of Whales which you can shoot six on, or you can             
 go the ABC Islands, none of which have wolves.  And you've always             
 been able to get good deer hunting on those islands because there             
 isn't a bunch of predators out there eating them up."                         
                                                                               
 Number 1275                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS referred to information in the member's file             
 from the Department of Fish and Game, dated April 9, 1996.  He                
 said, "I know you've talked to them already, talked to what were              
 the results of the loss of over $2 million in federal funds.  Maybe           
 you could talk a little bit more."                                            
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR said, "O.K., first will result in the loss of over             
 $2 million in federal funds.  Look at the first fiscal notes on               
 this thing, they were over $25 - $30 million.  So each time we                
 tried to work with with department - say `What's your problem here?           
 Why do you really think it will cause this?'  So we made amendments           
 to put words like `personnel' back into it so they could use funds            
 for personnel purposes and so on.  And literally what you've got it           
 down to now I think, the department will have to speak to this, I             
 think this $2 million in federal match that they're worried about             
 losing may be part of the monies that they're using either                    
 administratively, although I though we'd took care of that one                
 also, but it may be within the Administration where they've got               
 some shared folks they're using.  It may be for some other                    
 purposes, but any amount that they're losing is an amount of money            
 that under federal law they shouldn't be spending.  `Will prohibit            
 the spending of Fish and Game federal aid monies on managing catch            
 and release fisheries.'  I think that's also preposterous.  And how           
 much money do they actually spend on a catch and release fishery?             
 There is only a few in the state and they're the trophy trout areas           
 up north.  You mean that they're not gonna hire the same protection           
 officer to go out there and protect the resource and they can't               
 hire him for going out and looking at bear and going out and                  
 looking at caribou.  They can only him to go out and look at a                
 trout.  I mean are we so specialized now that we'd have people                
 hired to do nothing but just go out and watch catch and release               
 fishermen.  That's the only function they have in life?  I don't              
 think so.  What this amounts to is the department trying to find              
 every nitpicky way they can to come in here and say -- it's like              
 that last bill, I just loved it - come in here and tell you that              
 there wouldn't be an ability to close down any land again around              
 Nenana.  Do you know that the McNeil bear refuge is larger in acres           
 than all of the land ever developed by human beings since we came             
 into this country?  That's how big it is.  They mean to tell me if            
 they wanted to lock up a 10,000 acre chunk around some other town,            
 around some other village.  They couldn't lock that one up by                 
 merely taking 10,000 acres out of the McNeil River bear refuge.               
 The back end of the drainage, for crying out loud might be open to            
 - it's the same arguments that being made here."                              
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR said federal funds are specifically supposed to be             
 within their budget, allocated for rifle ranges and for educational           
 purposes.  It says right in them that they're supposed to be out              
 there educating on hunter education and safety.                               
                                                                               
 Number 1503                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN said the first part talks about certain              
 funds deposited into Fish and Game.  He asked if basically all                
 we're talking about are license fees.                                         
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR said license fees and then there are various tags              
 and tags even on king salmon.                                                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN questioned whether taxes collected on                
 binoculars, tents, etc., are involved in this.                                
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR said that is regulated under federal law.  What he             
 has attempted to do is put the two together to say, "If you're                
 gonna spend the money and it's for a designated purpose, lets spend           
 it for the designated purpose and not for something else."                    
                                                                               
 Number 1661                                                                   
                                                                               
 GERON BRUCE, Special Assistant, Legislative Liaison, Department of            
 Fish and Game, came forward to give testimony in opposition to SB
 247.  He said to understand why the department opposes the                    
 legislation, you need to take some time to look at the history of             
 the funding sources that are being discussed.  Mr. Bruce said there           
 are two funding sources.  One is the federal aid and wildlife                 
 restoration which was enacted as a result of legislation that                 
 passed in 1937.  One of the consequences of that piece of                     
 legislation was that license fees paid by hunters in states had to            
 be dedicated to the the support of a wildlife management agency.              
 In the 1950s, the federal aid and sport fish restoration also came            
 on the books and it carried forward the same kind of program to               
 sport fishing.  There were two basic ideas in establishing this               
 kind of funding system.  Mr. Bruce explained in the period of time            
 before this program came on-line, which is really the foundation of           
 all modern scientific fish and wildlife management of recreational            
 resources in the state, the fish and wildlife resources in the                
 United States, as a whole, were in very bad shape as a result of              
 unregulated hunting and habitat degradation.  There were two basic            
 concepts involved in this funding source.  One was that it would              
 create a stable secure source of funding for these programs.  It              
 mandated that the states who have primary management authority for            
 fish and wildlife set up scientific agencies supported with their             
 license fees and with the federal dollars that came to them on a              
 formula basis.  Mr. Bruce referred to the second purpose, which was           
 just as important in the minds of these people who founded this               
 program, was that to insulate the management of fish and wildlife             
 resources from the the heat and emotion of political life.  It was            
 recognized that at least the history up to that point had been that           
 when fish an wildlife interests and issues conflicted with the                
 agendas of different political groups, nearly always the fish and             
 wildlife resources lost.  This was an attempt, to a certain extent,           
 to buffer the management of those resources from the changing very            
 heated political life.  Mr. Bruce explained that purpose has been             
 very largely successful.  In Alaska, our fish and wildlife                    
 resources are in very good health.  We do have individual pockets             
 of problems that are being worked on.  As a whole, the fish and               
 wildlife resources in Alaska are at historic high levels, they are            
 very healthy.  He pointed out that in the United States many of the           
 wildlife resources that were near extinction when the Wildlife                
 Restoration Act was passed in the late 1930s, and have now been               
 very successfully recovered.  He noted he is talking about the wild           
 turkeys, white tailed deer and some other populations.  The program           
 has been very successful and the two principles he outlined were              
 fundamental in that success.  Mr. Bruce said this legislation                 
 proposes to complete change that, essentially reverse it and make             
 the appropriation process for funding management programs for                 
 recreational fish and wildlife resources a completely political               
 process similar in concept to the way the capital budget is put               
 together where each item -- between the two division's budgets, 340           
 projects would be individually line item appropriated.                        
                                                                               
 Number 1937                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE explained another problem the department has with the               
 legislation is that the state legislation does not mirror the                 
 federal legislation.  He pointed out in the committee member's                
 files is the actual enabling legislation for the federal programs.            
 He said you can see what the purposes are that the federal                    
 legislation was designed to serve.  The purposes are extremely                
 broad and it doesn't talk at all about restricting activities only            
 to consumptive use, which is the heart of the legislation before              
 the committee.  There is a basic disjunction between the two pieces           
 of legislation and what they seek to achieve.                                 
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE explained another concern of the department is that the             
 management of fish and wildlife has to a holistic approach.  You              
 cannot manage just hunting without also managing habitat and                  
 considering some of the other uses that the public demands of its             
 fish and wildlife.  You have to have a total program to be                    
 successful.  This legislation would only authorize the funding,               
 through these two funding sources, of elements of that program.  It           
 would not support the entire range of the program.                            
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE explained the legislation contains some similar                     
 definitions to the definitions that were in SB 77.  He said the               
 department has the same concerns with those objections which relate           
 to high level of human harvest, intensive management and maximum              
 sustained yield.  He said he believes the department has spoken               
 about concerns with those definitions in other pieces of                      
 legislation and they are very similar in this bill.                           
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE referred to the heart of the bill and said it restricts             
 the programs that can be funding by the two funding sources, which            
 is the entire base of the Division of Sport Fishing and the                   
 Division of Wildlife Conservation, to only programs that are                  
 directly related to consumptive activities.  The other is that the            
 line item appropriation nature of the bill.  He said it is                    
 important to realize that the legislature already has the authority           
 to make appropriations by line item.  Mr. Bruce said you have to              
 ask yourself, "Why has the Alaska Legislature, since we became a              
 state over 30 years ago, chosen not to take that approach?"  There            
 must be some good reasons why they have not.  One reason is that              
 the legislatures in the past have considered it wiser to allow the            
 actual budget for the agency to be constructed by the wildlife and            
 fisheries management professionals in the field who work on a day             
 to day basis with these programs.  They are then submitted to the             
 legislature for approval, review, etc., but legislatures have bowed           
 out of getting involved in that level of detail of putting together           
 an agency budget of programs.  These programs go on year after year           
 and require a certain amount of training, background, experience              
 and education to implement and design.  So the legislature, who has           
 after all set up the Department of Fish and Game and hired the                
 professionals to run it, has deferred to these folks to put the               
 budgets together.  The legislature still has the authority to come            
 in if anything is seriously out of line and change the budget                 
 priorities.                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE said the other question is just a practical one with time           
 management from the legislature's standpoint.  "How and when is the           
 legislature going to put together a budget of 360 items?"  He noted           
 that within each of these projects there are a number of other sub-           
 projects.  So it is a very time consuming process.  He stated he              
 really doesn't think the Finance Committee or the subcommittee                
 wants to take on the time commitment and the burden of putting                
 those things together from scratch.  You could say, "Well, they're            
 not gonna put them together from scratch, they're just going to               
 take what the department does, they're gonna look at them and then            
 rubber stamp them."  He questioned what has been gained.                      
                                                                               
 Number 2430                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE pointed out the committee members have a letter from the            
 Alaska Sport Fishing Association opposing this legislation.  He               
 informed the committee that the primary proponents of this                    
 legislation are from the wildlife community and they seem to be               
 prompted by the feeling among some hunters that too much is going             
 to nonhunting programs out of the Wildlife Conservation Division's            
 budget.  In point of fact, less than 5 percent of the entire                  
 division's budget is going toward other activities in those                   
 directly related to benefitting hunters.  That is a very small                
 percentage of their budget.  Mr. Bruce said the department                    
 maintains that is not out of line.                                            
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE explained there was a survey done of Alaska voters.  He             
 said, "We asked them two questions.  The state gets a third of its            
 money for wildlife management from the sale of hunting and trapping           
 licenses and tags.  How much of that money should be spent on                 
 programs for wildlife viewing or other wildlife programs which do             
 not involve hunting?  Only 26 percent of the Alaska voters said               
 `none.'  So 75 percent, roughly, of the Alaska voters favors                  
 spending some money on those programs.  The same question was asked           
 about the federal aid sources of funding and there, less than 20              
 percent said `none.'  18.7 percent said they did not think any                
 money from the federal aid source should be spent on managing for             
 wildlife programs which do not involve hunting.  I guess my final             
 two points involve -- you know, to a certain extent I think we have           
 a family feud here within the wildlife community and I think we've            
 all had fights in our families.  We all understand that one of the            
 primary things to consider when you're in the middle of a fight               
 like that is don't do anything in a short term that is going to               
 damage permanently or....[END OF TAPE]                                        
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-72, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 001                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE continued, "....and it threatens to do permanent damage             
 to a relationship that really has more going for it than it has               
 going against it.  My final point in think involves Senator                   
 Taylor's example of the highway funds, and I'm really glad he                 
 brought it up because I would use the analogy in a little bit                 
 different way.  I would say that, as I said earlier, we believe we            
 have a well rounded balanced and comprehensive wildlife management            
 program and it certainly - the major funding comes from the sale of           
 hunting licenses and tags and then from the federal funds which are           
 not all paid by hunters, but are paid by anybody that buys a hand             
 gun.  It's paid on a national level.  Alaska gets $9 from the                 
 federal funding source for every $1 that our folks contribute to              
 those taxes.  So there is a lot of folks in the rest of the country           
 that are contributing significant money through the federal aid and           
 wildlife restoration funding source for our management programs.              
 But using Senator Taylor's example of the analogy of the highway              
 funds, I submit that not allowing any use of the federal aid                  
 programs and the hunting - the fish and game fund for wildlife                
 viewing is similar to saying in the highway program, `You can't use           
 any of the money for any pedestrian facilities because they're not            
 paying anything to maintain these highways and roads.'  So no more            
 crosswalks, no more sidewalks, no more overpasses, nothing for                
 people who are walking along those roads and I don't think that               
 makes sense.  I don't think Senator Taylor would think that that              
 makes sense.  What we're looking at here is a balanced program, a             
 well rounded program.  We think we have one and we urge you not to            
 pass this legislation out of this committee.  Thank you, I'd be               
 happy answer any questions."                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 183                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN referred to Mr. Bruce saying that the                     
 legislature has bowed out of managing the funds this closely.  He             
 asked if it is not the legislature that gives the authority to the            
 department to do that and if we chose to bow in, that's our option.           
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE said the legislature appropriates all funds spent by                
 state agencies.  What the legislature has done in the past is to              
 provide general appropriations, set general policies and allowed              
 the details to be determined by the agency.  Mr. Bruce said what he           
 is suggest is that has been a practice that has worked well and he            
 doesn't think the arguments that have been advanced for radically             
 changing that are that strong.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 243                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said, "You know you stated in your testimony              
 that we have the authority to change the budget priorities, yet is            
 it not true that in spite of definite budget priorities that the              
 legislature has given the Department of Fish and Game that those -            
 money has been shifted around and moved into other departments that           
 were specifically defunded by the legislature and very directly --            
 would very direct -- direction from the legislature yet,                      
 internally, you guys shifted around and - and furthered what the              
 department's agenda is and not the legislature."                              
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE said he believes Representative Ogan is speaking about a            
 number of the department's reimbursable service agreements between            
 various divisions and the Division of Habitat and the Division of             
 Subsistence last year.  He explained that money was not transferred           
 into the base of those divisions.  That money was provided to those           
 divisions so that they could conduct work which was considered                
 essential to the missions of the other divisions.  In the case of             
 subsistence and habitat, they had programs going on....                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said, "Is that a yes or no answer, please, we             
 don't have time for a long -- have they misdirected funds that the            
 legislature definitely appropriated and used it for something else,           
 yes or no?"                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BRUCE said, "No sir, there was no misdirection of funds."                 
                                                                               
 Number 350                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN said he would like to continue taking testimony,            
 but some of the committee members are going to have to leave.  He             
 said Co-Chairman Williams will continue to take testimony.                    
                                                                               
 Number 423                                                                    
                                                                               
 WAYNE REGELIN, Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation,                   
 Department of Fish and Game, came before the committee.  He said he           
 agrees with what Mr. Bruce has said.  He informed the committee               
 members that in the Wildlife Division they have 180 individual                
 projects that range in size from $10,000 up to about $200,000, and            
 rather than having one BRU for wildlife management, he guesses they           
 would 160.  He said he thinks it would be fairly cumbersome for the           
 legislature and for the division to administer.  Mr. Regelin                  
 referred to a lot being said about how restrictive federal aid                
 funds are and how they can't use them for anything.  He said it is            
 clear and very simple as to what it says in the federal law, "The             
 following are eligible for funding under the Pitman/Robertson Act.            
 Projects having as their purpose the restoration, conservation,               
 management and enhancement of wild birds and wild mammals and the             
 provisions for public use of and benefits from these resources."              
 It says you can use them for any wild animal or wild bird and it              
 doesn't get into any other definitions.  Mr. Regelin informed the             
 committee there are two activities that are prohibited.  It can't             
 be used for law enforcement activities and public relations (PR).             
 It is very broad on how those funds can be spent.  He said the                
 department spends all of the funds on management of hunted species.           
 They use the fish and game fund, which is the license fees, to pay            
 for the programs of last year and are proposing this year that are            
 more for the nonconsumptive use programs such as the wildlife                 
 education programs.  Those were formally paid for with general fund           
 monies.                                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 577                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. REGELIN said he thinks the intent is to make sure that the fish           
 and game fund and the federal aid dollars are used for intensive              
 management programs and no other programs.  It talks about using              
 them for wolf control, habitat manipulation and vegetation                    
 transplanting.  There is a list that states what the funds can and            
 can't be used for.  Mr. Regelin said it is very clear that they               
 couldn't be used for any areas where hunting is not allowed such as           
 the McNeil River and Potters Marsh.  He stated there are a few                
 other things and that is why there is a large fiscal note.  They              
 wouldn't be able to use them for public services people because it            
 is very specific that it has to have a direct benefit back to                 
 sustained yield management.  He said the way he reads the bill they           
 wouldn't be able to fund the people who work in public services.              
 He noted those are the people who answer the phones and meet with             
 the people who come in off the street to talk about hunting and               
 where to go or fishing.  The department would have to stop doing              
 that or use general funds.                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. REGELIN said another thing it would do is preclude the                    
 department from building office buildings when they need to.  He              
 noted one is currently being built in Fairbanks.  Mr. Regelin said,           
 "The other thing that it - why there is a large fiscal note is that           
 what we do -- the federal funds that come in, the Division of                 
 Administration within the Department of Fish and Game assess 6                
 percent of the federal aid to help run the administration of the              
 programs.  The federal aid, we've worked very hard to keep this               
 percentage low.  It's been pushed up in Senate and House Finance              
 Committees before.  Legally, it's under the federal aid rules, you            
 can assess up to 15 percent for indirect costs.  We've kept it at             
 6.  If we did this it would cost our Division of Administration               
 probably I think it's just over a million dollars of those funds.             
 So I think that its, again, it's a trying to mandate that we only             
 spend funds on very specific activities and it removes all of the             
 balance from our programs.  Thank you."                                       
                                                                               
 Number 764                                                                    
                                                                               
 EDDIE GRASSER, Alaska Outdoor Council, was next to come before the            
 House Resources Committee members.  He stated his organization                
 supports the concept of SB 247.  They have some concerns with the             
 way the bill is written.  Mr. Grasser said they also have some                
 concerns about some of the statements that have been made.  On a              
 historical basis, it is true that conservationists supported the              
 Pitman/Robertson Dingel/Johnson (Sp.?) programs, but he would like            
 to point out that those conservationists were pro hunting in the              
 beginning.  These concepts were generated by people like John                 
 Westly Powell, Gifford Pinshow, Teddy Roosevelt, etc.  These people           
 are all pro hunting people.  They're the people who started the               
 biological survey that later led to the Fish and Wildlife Service             
 being instituted.  These people all felt that animals could be                
 restored throughout the country and managed scientifically also               
 here in Alaska for the benefit of the public, but their view of the           
 public included hunters and not just people who wanted to view                
 wildlife.  Mr. Grasser said as far as whether or not the PR program           
 and the fish and game fund program was to insulate the department             
 from politics is rather a dubious argument.  One of the reasons               
 that we're in the state that we're in now, as far as a group in               
 supporting some suggested budget cuts to the department and                   
 supporting bill like SB 247 in concept, is because the anti hunting           
 public has continually closed areas to hunting for their exclusive            
 use and not for the public's use.  He said it seems to him that if            
 we don't take into account all the lands of Alaska, we can't                  
 achieve a balance and he thinks that is where the hunting and                 
 trapping public is coming from.  Mr. Grasser said, "We feel that a            
 balance has been achieved, that we've already closed enough lands             
 to hunting and we don't need to close anymore unless there is a               
 specific reason for doing so.  A prime example of this is the                 
 McNeil River refuge bear closure that happened at the Board of Game           
 this last year.  That was a closure for an exclusive use -                    
 exclusive use of segment of the public.  There are no areas, I                
 would like to reiterate, in this state that are closed to viewing.            
 You can go out to any place in this state and view, but there are             
 places now where you cannot hunt or trap.  There was no biological            
 reason to close the Paint River area to bear hunting.  Bear hunting           
 is a highly desirable species for trophy hunters, it's not                    
 necessarily a subsistence animal or an animal that people in Alaska           
 hunt to put food on their tables, but it's an animal that a lot of            
 people desire to hunt."                                                       
                                                                               
 MR. GRASSER continued, "There is an argument that's been made by              
 the department that there is no way that we could win that battle             
 on Paint River that the world view and the nation view was that               
 hunters were wrong to support hunting in that bear population.                
 Well there is 30 some years of viewing and hunting took place                 
 there.  There is a history that proves that both those uses are               
 compatible.  In our opinion, the department failed to take an                 
 opportunity where we could have used and educational effort to show           
 people that these two uses are compatible.  I think that is what we           
 would have preferred to see happen there.  I'd like to make a                 
 remark.  This public survey that was taken of voters on whether or            
 not people voted or supported using monies from the fish and game             
 fund for PR sources for non-game functions like viewing.  It is               
 also true in that same survey that the same percentage or close to            
 the same percentage of people opposed closing areas to hunting for            
 viewing.  I think that's reflects poorly on the department not to             
 bring that up when they're making the other argument.  I think the            
 last thing I'd like to say is that in the direction of using these            
 funds, a lot of people in the nonhunting or anti hunting community            
 are concerned about hunters control these funds, and especially in            
 the last few months because of our desire to  have these funds                
 expended in a more, what we view, appropriate manner."                        
                                                                               
 MR. GRASSER continued with his testimony, "Besides the PR/DJ                  
 program, the fish and game fund monies that are derived from                  
 licenses and tags, hunters and trappers throughout this nation and            
 in this state have put together private efforts, have nothing to do           
 with licenses or taxes or fees to the government, to raise funds              
 for wildlife populations.  Millions of dollars, nationwide, have              
 been raised this way and expended on protecting habitat and                   
 restoring game populations.  The people that are supporting these             
 viewing areas for their exclusive use and opposed to hunting, they            
 don't do that.  They've never raised money and put it into habitat            
 or wildlife restoration programs to the point that hunters have.              
 There are some instances like the Nature Conservancy where they do            
 by habitat, but in a lot of instances those lands are closed to               
 hunting and, therefore, again an exclusive use.  But most of the              
 real strident environmental groups have put little or no effort               
 into raising money out of the private sector and putting it towards           
 a public purpose.  So here, again, the hunters are the ones that              
 have borne the brunt of restoring wildlife populations and                    
 management goals.  I think that concludes -- again, we support the            
 basic concept here.  I think that there has to be some movement               
 within the state to recognize more appropriate use of these funds.            
 I think that the argument that the department has been insulated              
 from politics on the way these funds and the PR funds are set up is           
 incorrect.  We no longer have predator management to any great                
 degree in this state because of the anti hunting groups that raise            
 all kinds of hell, or whatever you want to call it, whenever we try           
 to do a program.  So, you know, we finally decided I guess as a               
 group that we had to do something.  We were trying to work with all           
 the groups.  We were trying to work within the system, but the                
 people that yelled and screamed and demanded their use be given               
 exclusive usage of these lands were winning consistently.  We were            
 getting nowhere.  So thank you for this opportunity to testify."              
                                                                               
 Number 1180                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked Mr. Grasser if there are any changes he            
 would like to see in the bill.                                                
                                                                               
 MR. GRASSER said there are some, but he would like to write them up           
 and present them to the committee.                                            
                                                                               
 Number 1205                                                                   
                                                                               
 LYNN LEVENGOOD, Executive Director, Alaska Wildlife Conservation              
 Association (AWCA), testified via teleconference from Fairbanks.              
 He said, "It would be probably a statewide (indisc.) of mine if               
 school tax money was spent on a visitors center at the airport and            
 I'm sure that many of the taxpayers, landowners who pay their                 
 property taxes for schools, like visitor centers would probably use           
 it.  But a specific tax base should be spent for the specific use             
 allocated and authorized by law.  Now what Mr. Regelin failed to              
 tell you about the federal legislation is that in the intent                  
 language, much earlier in the federal legislation, it says that the           
 PR program is a -- for PR program, the purposes are intended to               
 benefit the license purchasers, and that's license purchasers and             
 not general people in the state.  There is nothing about SB 247               
 that would preclude Department of Fish and Game from spending any             
 money.  It would only preclude them from spending money generated             
 by license revenue for activities which do not benefit license                
 purchasers pursuant to the federal legislation.  Historically,                
 there has been many instances of misuse of this money.  The state             
 of Illinois tried - actually (indisc.) complaints (indisc.) for a             
 museum and that was ultimately brought to the attention of the tax            
 payers or license holders in Illinois.  Currently, the governor of            
 Maryland is trying to combine the Parks Department with Fish and              
 Game in order to utilize fish and game funds from license                     
 purchasers to fund the Parks Department.  Our current governor, in            
 his CIP (Capital Improvement Program) budget, is trying to say that           
 over $100,000 of license revenue to be spent for an access study              
 into McKinley or Denali Park.  He also is trying to take another              
 approximately $100,000 to print brochures aimed at reducing bear              
 encounters with tourists.  There is active attempt within the                 
 department and within the Administration to steel these funds from            
 dedicated users for purposes that are not clearly (indisc.)                   
 intended to befit licensed purchasers.  The total balance program             
 approach may have been O.K. when there was a significant amount of            
 general funds in the fish and game budget.  That is no longer true.           
 Now the Department of Conservation is being run on license revenues           
 paid by hunters and the matching fees promulgated by the license              
 fees sent by hunters.  So - because nothing in this legislation               
 would restrict fish and game's activities, it would just make them            
 find additional funding source.  If people want a balanced program,           
 great.  Go to the legislature, get some general fund money and have           
 a balanced program.  But the funds dedicated and paid by sportsmen            
 need to be provided for consumptive use activities.  Again, some of           
 the language within the bill does not provide any further                     
 restrictions than the Department of Transportation operates under             
 regularly.  Currently, Fish and Game is one of the few departments            
 within the state which gets a general appropriation and takes the             
 money and spends it where they want to, and we know from last                 
 year's experience that large -- well a million dollars was                    
 appropriated for intensive management purposes and it was diverted            
 and spent on routine salaries and data collections.  So we know               
 that the history of the department for limiting expenditures to the           
 intent of the legislature has not been very good recently.  For               
 that reason, this legislation is needed and I'd ask you pass it."             
                                                                               
 Number 1450                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS said there was nobody further to testify.  He            
 closed the public hearing on the bill.  He noted the CSSB 247(RLS)            
 am(efd fld)(ct rule fld), would be held.                                      
                                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects