Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/28/2003 01:05 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 208-HUNTING SAME DAY AIRBORNE CHAIR FATE announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 208, "An Act relating to hunting on the same day airborne; and providing for an effective date." Number 1016 JIM POUND, Staff to Representative Hugh Fate, Alaska State Legislature, testified that HB 208 would make some changes to existing statute in that it gives additional authority to the Board of Game to evaluate the management of the resource for sustained yield, rather than [managing] on just a prey population basis. He explained that current statute only allows for this very limited means for making a determination, even though many other factors actually play into a total evaluation of prey situations. MR. POUND said the bill also adds language to allow the commissioner of [the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G)] to permit airborne or same-day-airborne shooting for predator control if it is determined by the Board of Game that predation is a key to the problem. Currently, this form of management may only be done from an in-flight, moving aircraft. Mr. Pound said these changes give the appointed experts on the Board of Game and the commissioner [of ADF&G] valuable, effective tools in an effort to manage game for sustained yield. He urged the committee to support HB 208. Number 0866 REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE asked if an agent of ADF&G would be doing the shooting and how the agent would be defined and chosen. MR. POUND offered his understanding that it could either be an agent of ADF&G or an individual who is permitted by the commissioner; it would be a special permit. REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE asked for clarification regarding those responsible for doing the shooting. She said this really concerned her. Number 0761 BLAINE HOLLIS, Assistant Attorney General, Natural Resources Section, Civil Division (Juneau), Department of Law (DOL), testified that with regard to the agency issue, [DOL's] view is that it really doesn't change the status quo on that. He said with regard to the two changes to the bill, one would clarify whether both land-and-shoot and airborne shooting are allowed, whereas currently there is some question about whether land-and- shoot would be allowed. He said DOL's view is that probably the best reading of the current statute is that both are allowed currently, but the bill would clarify that and remove a potential ambiguity from the statute, clarifying that both types of predator control, land-and-shoot and aerial, are available to the department pursuant to subsection (a). MR. HOLLIS said the second change that the bill would make is to clarify that in addition to just considering prey population objectives, the board and the department could also look at harvest objectives and the other objectives that are specified in AS 16.05.255(g), whereas currently there is some ambiguity about whether they are just limited to looking at prey populations or whether they may also consider harvest objectives. The bill would make those two clarifications, but it doesn't really go to the question - assuming that a predator control program is implemented under subsection (a) - of who could engage in it. MR. HOLLIS said the language in the statute currently provides that a person may. It is [DOL's] reading of the statute, in its current form, that it is not limited just to department employees, and that if a program were instituted pursuant to [subsection] (a), the department could authorize agents or other persons to participate in such a program. CHAIR FATE, sponsor of HB 208, offered his understanding that [persons participating in the program] would be agents of the department. MR. HOLLIS, in response, said that's if it's how the department structures it. Number 0592 REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE said this is a very big thing to her. She asked who those persons [participating in the program] would be, how many there would be, and how often they could participate. MR. HOLLIS, in response, said the reality is that the statute, in its current form, doesn't really limit that, and [DOL's] view is to largely leave that to the department to determine and fashion an appropriate predator-control program to address the needs. There is a limitation in the second section of the statute, to just department employees, but that's for a different type of program; that's a separate type of game management program. The type of program contemplated under subsection (a) is really two different ways of dealing with predator control. Under current law, only departmental employees are allowed to engage in management programs that involve aerial shooting without going through all kinds of steps that are outlined in [subsection] (a), but [subsection] (a) contains no limitation on who may participate. He said in DOL's view, it essentially leaves it to the department and the board to structure a program to meet the appropriate needs on the ground at the time. Number 0478 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF offered his understanding that one of the former governors of Alaska used to be an agent in predator control for aerial wolf hunting. He said it was set up at that time to be done through an agent that worked within the department. Representative Wolf related his understanding that the department, commissioner, and Board of Game would have the ability to structure it as an agent for the department who would be authorized to engage in predator control through this bill. MR. HOLLIS suggested that the statute in its current form does that; he said he doesn't think the bill changes that. The two things that the bill seeks to change don't really go to the question of whether an agent may participate in the program. The two changes in the bill go to the following: one, whether the shooting can be both land-and-shoot and aerial or just one of them; and, two, the type of population objectives that the board and the department can look at in deciding whether to implement [such a program]. Neither of those changes really addresses who may participate in the program. Mr. Hollis offered his view that current law would be unchanged by this bill with regard to that issue. Number 0316 REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked if there is a provision in the bill regarding the harvesting of pelts from animals shot through this program, and if so, who would own those pelts. He indicated his concern is that the pelts are not wasted. MR. HOLLIS said he didn't think those issues were addressed either in the bill or in current statute. CHAIR FATE said it isn't addressed in this bill or meant to be. He said he suspected it would probably be dealt with another by another section of the statute. REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked if this subject was covered in another area. CHAIR FATE answered that it will be covered because there are other statutes that cover the treatment of hides and the trapping and sealing of those hides, but they are not in this particular section. Number 0180 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO turned attention to page 2, sub- subparagraphs (i) and (ii). He asked if there are diseases that can spread from predators to prey or if that would be unusual. MR. HOLLIS deferred the question to ADF&G. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO remarked, "If the answer was yes, then would it be a situation where we would want to eliminate predator and prey to eliminate the disease ...." MR. HOLLIS said he really didn't know the answer to that, but it's not an issue that is affected by this bill. He said that is a reflection of current law and it wouldn't be changed. Number 0093 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said another way to control predators is with [Compound] 1080, a poison used in bait. He asked if that was still in use, prohibited, or no longer available. MR. HOLLIS said he didn't know. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said it was pretty effective but also pretty devastating in that predators would lose their hair, walk in circles, whine and yell, and then die a miserable death. Number 0004 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked if the bill allows the public [to participate] in same-day-airborne shooting. TAPE 03-20, SIDE A Number 0001 MR. HOLLIS, in response, said his view is that the law already allows that. This bill would clarify that a person authorized pursuant to an appropriate program could either engage in shooting from the air or could engage in land-and-shoot, if that were deemed necessary and appropriate. He said the bill clarifies that both options are available for a predator-control program. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked if Ballot Measure 6, voted on in , would be contradicted or overturned by this bill. Number 0109 MR. HOLLIS said he thought people who may testify later would say so, but that is not [DOL's] view. He said his understanding is that the 2000 referendum did not affect subsection (a); it affected only subsection (b), a different approach that would authorize departmental employees to engage in airborne predator control without having to go through all of the steps specified in subsection (a). The 2002 referendum removed the word "agent" from that section, he said; although prior to the 2000 referendum, subsection (b) authorized not only department employees but also agents of the department to engage in that type of activity under subsection (b), and it removes that. Mr. Hollis said DOL's view is that removing that essentially created the situation whereby only departmental employees can operate under subsection (b), but it didn't impose any limitation on who a person is under subsection (a). Number 0217 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA asked how [ADF&G] has used subsection (a) historically. MR. HOLLIS deferred the question to [ADF&G]. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA asked if the historic use of that section would play any part in the determination of whether this bill might run up against the initiative [as a matter of law]. MR. HOLLIS remarked, "No; ... more than two years has passed. ... There's a couple of ways of looking at it. You could say it's only an amendment or even if it were somehow viewed as a referral, it's been more than two years." Number 0274 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA asked, if it were inside the two-year period, whether the courts would look at the historic facts of how the department had used [subsection] (a) to make that determination. MR. HOLLIS, in response, said the court would look at factors like how the department had implemented the section in perhaps discerning the intent of the statute. He said he was unsure of whether [the court] would look at that in terms of deciding whether the constitutional limitation on amending or repealing a referendum is implicated. CHAIR FATE said because of time constraints, public testimony would not be closed during this meeting and would be continued during the next hearing on the bill. Number 0476 DOROTHY KEELER testified in opposition to HB 208. She provided the following testimony: It's hard to believe that this hearing is not taking place in the 1800s, when the only good wolf was a dead wolf. Fortunately, the world population has become better educated since then and we are counting on their revulsion of what this bill allows to end aerial predator control with a tourism boycott, just like it did in 1993. My husband, Leo, was on the McGrath Adaptive Management Team, and has all the studies [ADF&G] paid for that did not support predator control. We both felt it odd that none of those studies were posted on the ADF&G web site. Rest assured, however: the media can find them posted on ours. John Blackstone from CBS News, "Eye on America," covered our work to protect the McNeil River bears twice in 1995. He covered our work to protect the Toklat wolves in 1999, and stories of that effort are still posted on the CBS News web site. He stands ready to help us spread the word on this. I am currently freelancing for CBS News. That's why I have filmed, on TV-quality broadcast video, every Board of Game meeting and testimony concerning that issue. That is why I am filming this hearing as we speak. That is why we created a web site devoted to this issue and have showcased it on four of our other web sites, two of which currently rival the daily traffic of KTUU, Channel 2, web site. Number 0641 Since reason and logic have apparently been abandoned, we are fighting this with the only weapon left to us - world opinion. Are you really prepared for the tourism boycott that your actions are leading to? This bill, if enacted, will launch a tourism boycott that will make the one in 1993 tame by comparison, crippling our fragile economy. Actually, due to the speed and reach of the Internet, and the studies by ADF&G that prove that overhunting is the cause of the decline - and just look at the bull-cow ratio in McGrath to verify that - I feel the outcome will be swifter and far more damaging. Choosing to start predator control to increase moose numbers is like using DDT to increase crop yield. Both are guaranteed to work for the short term, but the long-term consequences, both planned and unexpected, will not be worth the cost. The worldwide traveling public will see to that. However, it's not too late to void this fiasco. I urge you to vote accordingly. MS. KEELER, in response to a question from Chair Fate, said she and her husband are wildlife photographers who have specialized in filming the Toklat wolves, the McNeil River bears, [other] bears, eagles, and wolves throughout Alaska. Ms. Keeler clarified that she was referring to her and her husband's photographic work. Number 0798 ROD ARNO testified. Mr. Arno noted that he has been attending the Board of Game [meetings] for the last 10 years representing the Alaska Outdoor Council, and has been a professional hunter for the last 30 years. Expressing support for HB 208, he suggested the bill will help the state achieve economic stability through resource development while increasing the opportunity for 29,000 Alaskan hunters to provide moose for their families to eat. MR. ARNO said the change from prey population's being the "trigger" to harvest objectives - as well as those prey population objectives - is important for the Board of Game. For example, 10 years ago, GMU [Game Management Unit] 13 had a population of approximately 23,000 moose; after 10 years of no predator control that population has fallen below 10,000. Furthermore, he said under AS 16.05.255(g) the population objective is set between 20,000 and 25,000 moose for that area. MR. ARNO said the problem of just going by population objectives is the difficulty in counting each moose. He suggested that this bill would make it much easier to record the reported harvest. He said the reported harvest objective for GMU 13 is from 1,200 to 2,000 moose, whereas the average 10 years ago for GMU 13 was 921 moose. Today, he said, that's fallen down to 430 [moose], which is below the level that the board determined necessary of 600 [moose] for subsistence use. Furthermore, the board estimates 3,000 subsistence moose hunters in GMU 13 [will be competing for] 150 subsistence permits. He suggested that the bill will provide a better record for the Board of Game to recognize that those harvest objectives are not being met. Number 1005 MR. ARNO said since the Knowles Administration stopped all predator control, 56 percent of moose populations identified for intensive management by the board are declining. He suggested it was important for the legislature and for Alaskan voters to keep in mind the fact that airborne wolf hunting and land-and- shoot wolf-hunting tools are banned in 60 percent of the state because of federal laws; he said there's another 20 percent of the state where predator control, due to habitat limitations, urban centers, and economic infeasibility, "says we won't do it." Mr. Arno indicated that this bill would provide the Board of Game with the tools to do predator-prey management in 15 percent of the state, at the most. He suggested airborne wolf control and land-and-shoot wolf hunting are defensible tools for predator-prey management. He again urged the passage of HB 208 from committee. Number 1082 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked Mr. Arno if any consideration had been given to hunting wolves for bounties. MR. ARNO said yes; in fact, legislation had been introduced to do just that. He noted that bounty hunting existed prior to statehood, and that he had been hunting since 1966. Mr. Arno said prior to the board's ban on land-and-shoot [hunting] in 1991, what worked adequately was having trapper's licenses, liberal bag limits, and seasons in place to allow persons to go out in their own aircraft and do land-and-shoot hunting. Mr. Arno said those hides were sold for up to $400 each, which adequately paid for those few people who were proficient at land-and-shoot wolf hunting. Until the land-and-shoot ban in 1991, he said that method alone, without the bounties, was enough to keep wolf predation down. Number 1225 ROBERT FITHIAN, Executive Director, Alaska Professional Hunter Association, testified that the [hunting] industry annually contributes well over $100 million to Alaska. He said Article I, Section 1, of the state constitution defines the inherent rights of the state's citizens, including the right to life, liberty, happiness, and the rewards of their own industry; it also states that all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights. Furthermore, it closes with a statement that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people of the state. He remarked, "It's very unique to see that the first section of our constitution lays out our rights but then closes with a stewardship requirement for us." MR. FITHIAN read Article VIII, Sections 3 and 4, to the committee. He remarked, "It's sad to sit and look back on Alaska and see where the tides of special interests advocating for environmentalism by regulatory strangulation and natural science have taken us to." He suggested this has contributed much to the lack of natural resource economy, to pitting user groups against each other, and to the decay of the way of life of the people that depend on the state's wilderness and wildlife resources to sustain themselves. MR. FITHIAN said these tides have also left a high mark for nonprudent stewardship of the state's resources. He suggested that it is important [for user groups] to turn together and work to help cement policies for governing the industry based on common use, proven science, and constitutional mandates. He suggested that it is important to note that in any geographical areas of the state where the survival rate of moose, caribou, or Dall sheep born annually falls below 10 percent, there's a minimal chance at recoupment of these species. MR. FITHIAN told members that the end result of this situation is that status quo management policies will continue to pit user groups against each other, and people dependent on wildlife will be the losers. He said HB 208 is a start in the right direction to relieve this situation and is not just a bill that adversely affects the wolves of Alaska. The population of wolves in Alaska has never been threatened or endangered, he suggested. Urging the committee to support and pass the bill, he said HB 208 provides sustainability to Alaska's residents and the people who depend on wildlife resources as a way of life. Number 1425 CHAIR FATE announced that HB 208 would be held over and that public testimony would resume on [4/2/03].