Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/29/1996 08:18 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.