Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/09/2003 08:10 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 155-PREDATOR CONTROL/AIRBORNE SHOOTING [Contains discussion of HB 208, the companion bill] Number 2014 CHAIR FATE announced that the final order of business would be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 155(RES), "An Act relating to predator control programs; and providing for an effective date." The committee took an at-ease from 1:40 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked the sponsor to explain changes from the original bill version. Number 2081 SENATOR RALPH SEEKINS, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, explained that wolverine had been included again at the department's request. He told members, "We felt that it was important that wolverine, who can be cumbersome and probably be ... at threat in the wild from any kind of airborne hunting, should be protected." SENATOR SEEKINS also said the process was changed around such that the Board of Game would get input from scientists in the division; would decide to make this an intensive management area under current statute; and then would authorize a predator control program that included airborne and same-day-airborne shooting. The board would have the prerogative to determine who the participants could be, and should establish the following: predator-reduction objectives, limits, methods and means; who is authorized to participate; and the conditions for participation of individuals in the program. SENATOR SEEKINS said this basically eliminates "the second bite of the apple" by the commissioner. It is a Board of Game process with the best scientific input coming from the department. "And once the department provided that information, it was not necessary for the commissioner to recertify the information that his staff had already brought to the board in order to make that decision," he explained. He opined that this decision [under the bill] will be as apolitical as it can be, done by the board members and based on sound science. Number 2236 SENATOR SEEKINS elaborated in response to remarks from Representative Wolf: What we're trying to do here is, we do have a statutorily appointed Board of Game. ... We, as trustees, the members of these bodies, the trustees of the resources of the state of Alaska, including wild game, ... have set up a statutory process in the Board of Game so that they can look at and have a public process to take a look at all of the reasons ... for having methods and means ... of harvest, et cetera, for wild game in the state of Alaska, to comply with our ... constitutional requirement to manage for sustained yield. What we've said was, those decisions should be made based on the best available science, should not be made based on politics. We should be managing this resource scientifically. So what we have ... in our process today is testimony that comes to the Board of Game, including testimony from our own experts, our scientists that tell us population objectives, carrying capacities, bull-cow ratios - all these things that can come into play to determine, "Are we meeting the constitutional mandate for sustained yield or not; if there's a problem, then help us to identify the problem and show us" - and it has to be here - that the board shall have had to have determined, based on information provided by the department in regard to ... an identified big-game population, ... that they haven't met the objectives - that could be a harvest objective; that could be ... a population objective; it could be both on predators or on prey - and that a cause for the failure is predation. Number 2368 SENATOR SEEKINS continued: It has to be an identified cause, scientifically, and then that ... it's a reasonable expectation that ... a predator control program could aid in the achievement of those objectives that could get us there. ... Then they have to design how the best possible way ... to carry out that ... predator reduction would be. There's some control all the way through. And we've tried very hard to make sure, then, that the Board of Game understands they just can't say, "Well, we need to reduce predators here." They have to show why. And they have to show what the result will be. And then they have to establish how many. They have to establish the methods and means to be able to do it, because in different parts of the state, different types of methods and means can be effective or not effective. And then they have to determine who can participate and then, on top of that, the conditions for participation. So we've said, "Along with you making this decision, you have some responsibility to the people of the state of Alaska to make sure you're doing it properly." And so we're ... kind of expanding not only the opportunity, but also the responsibility. This does not preclude the department from being able to handle their own parallel (indisc.--coughing) if they so wish. This just allows them to say, "Here's a problem, here's a solution, here's a way it can be done," and to authorize private individuals ... to assist, as [Governor Murkowski] has said; he'd like local folks to be able to carry out ... the predator control ... programs as much as possible. And I think that this accomplishes that, and it ... keeps it out of the political arena. Yes, [Board of Game members] are somewhat-political appointees, but they're confirmed ... by these bodies, and so they ... now would have that decision-making authority. Number 2474 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked about the effect of the bill on the bear population. SENATOR SEEKINS answered, "If a bear is a predator, they have the responsibility and the right to determine ... how to control it. And I believe a bear is a predator. In fact, I think bears have a greater effect in many areas on mortality rates for moose calves than wolves do." Number 2502 REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE referred to page 2 [Section 2]. She asked whether the Board of Game will have authority over all this, including "who can shoot, who can fly," and what methods will be used. SENATOR SEEKINS answered in the affirmative. He said that's consistent with [the board's] authority in statute now, and this is a reiteration of other rights and responsibilities it has in statute. Number 2546 REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE asked Senator Seekins for clarification about the numbers relating to wolf and moose populations. SENATOR SEEKINS offered an example from Game Management Unit 13. Pointing to an area on a wall map, he mentioned the Parks Highway, Denali Highway, Richardson Highway, and Glenn Highway, saying it's basically contained within that boundary between the two major population areas of Alaska. He said: At one time in the late '80s, early '90s, the moose population - the reproductive base of that population - was about 27,000. Today it's less than 8,000. A number of years ago, the Board of Game said, "This is now an intensive management area," and authorized predator control programs. But under the last administration, for political reasons stated that way - not assumed - they decided not to do any kind of predator control program in there. ... The harvest by humans has stayed below a thousand. Something's killing those animals. And the biologists say it's wolves and bears. ... And they say we need to have a predator control program. The wolf population is 900-plus roughly, depending on when you measure it. The ceiling that's been established by the board is around 200. The bear population exceeds 1,500-1,600 grizzly bears in that area. The population is way over the net. SENATOR SEEKINS referred to charts of wolf and moose population trends for Unit 13. He indicated nothing has been done other than private hunting to meet the department's population objective of 200 wolves. Number 2698 SENATOR SEEKINS expressed concern about failing in managing the resources that are Alaskans' public-trust assets. He said 80 percent or more of moose calves born in this area are dead before they're four weeks old. Highlighting the number of predators, he said they can't even be counted and can't be caught without a predator control program of some kind. He offered his belief that the Board of Game has to authorize this because the mandate is that the highest and best use, by statute, is for human consumption. He added: I submit to you that ... if we were just to take one- third of what we could have produced out of there, we would triple the harvest of moose in the state of Alaska in the high years - triple it. And if those people from Anchorage and Fairbanks and the highly populated part of the state were able to have a reasonable opportunity to harvest close to home, they wouldn't be going to Ruby or to Rampart or other parts of the state to hunt. Not only do we solve the problem by controlling our populations of game close to -- the problem of managing for sustained yield, we take the pressure off the rural communities, which I think is a secondary benefit of equal importance. So give people a chance to harvest close to home - we'll solve some of the other issues of the state as well. SENATOR SEEKINS said it's a real problem and that nobody will dispute these numbers from the department, which are taken from their own reports. He noted that for some, the trend has been "extended one year," but said they're straight-line trends, with no reason to believe it won't continue. Number 2900 REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE asked about gestation periods for moose and wolves, and how many young are born a year. SENATOR SEEKINS answered that there is a high twinning rate in moose, though he didn't have the figures, and said wolves can have three to six or more pups up to twice a year. In Unit 13, "from myself and other people who do hunt and travel in Unit 13," he said it is rare to see a moose calf that survives into the fall. TAPE 03-42, SIDE B SENATOR SEEKINS said these populations are always either declining or increasing. Number 2940 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF voiced wholehearted support for the bill. He said Alaska's constitution clearly states and explains the sustained yield principle for maximum benefit of the residents of Alaska. He remarked that this bill isn't a hunting opportunity, but a predator control program. SENATOR SEEKINS said by telling the Board of Game it has the right to determine who participates, "we would believe that they would have the responsibility to make sure that the people who did it were responsible people, not just opening it up to anybody." He reported that he'd met the day before with two members of the department, another Senator, and a man from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Senator Seekins said the USDA has a division or office that assists other states with predator control, and that the man is a certified aerial gunner who said other Western states use airborne-hunting predator control programs. Citing the idea of taking care of the problem efficiently, effectively, and humanely, Senator Seekins offered his belief that this can be done with [SB 155]. Number 2815 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked why the governor doesn't do this predator control now. SENATOR SEEKINS answered that the current statute says predator control can only be based on the prey population objective, and then must be certified by the commissioner. This bill allows the Board of Game to use all population objectives, including harvest objectives. He explained: You may have a population objective that's fairly stable, but you're not able to harvest anything for human use because it's being overharvested by predators. But under the current law, you could not do anything about that. The McGrath area, if you'll recall, was (indisc.) down. It had ... a population objective of, let's say, a unit of three, and they reduced it to a unit of one so that they could meet the population objective. So now you couldn't do anything until you could show that the prey population didn't meet the objectives. So we want to roll back into that the ability to look at ... harvest objectives as well as predator population objectives. This now allows them to look at all their objectives and come up with ... a harmonious program. And now, the governor himself, I don't know why the governor does not choose what he does not do. ... I have not heard anyone from the Department of Administration say that it was based on any kind of scientific principle. And so, to take that kind of political pressure off of any ... governor, no matter who it is that's in office or what party they're from in office, I think this should become an apolitical and science-based decision. By doing that, we don't put anyone in a position where they have to worry about the headline in the paper related to their activity; it's as this governor asked it to be, early, to be science-based, and as he's asked it to be, to be primarily carried out by people that live in the communities where it's necessary. Nowhere else in statute, on any fish or game regulation, does a commissioner or a member of the administration have any kind of veto power ... on a program authorized by the board. And we're now making this part of the statute consistent with every other statute. Number 2665 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO suggested there had been a thought that tourism tended to drive some decisions. He referred to a graph relating to predator populations and noted that there is a steady increase in the predator population in spite of a declining prey population. He asked whether that reflects that wolves can get along on other prey and wait. SENATOR SEEKINS replied that if they're killing moose, they're also killing caribou and will "eat them down until they're gone, and then they'll start eating each other." He said 30 percent of wolves killed in Alaska today are "killed by other wolves for dinner." SENATOR SEEKINS offered an editorial from that day's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, saying it gives a sense of how people from Interior Alaska support "science-based control." REPRESENTATIVE WOLF recalled from high school that wolves are the only predators that will eat mud to survive, because of all the nutrients. Number 2530 MATT ROBUS, Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, reminded members that he'd testified on the original HB 208, companion bill to SB 155, and had said the language originally proposed was a technical tweak to the existing statute to overcome the issue that "high-centered" the department and the Board of Game in trying to implement a predation control program in the McGrath area this year. By contrast, [CSSB 155(RES)] is now a fairly substantial change to that statute. He offered the department's view of what it does. MR. ROBUS addressed Section 1. He said it allows the Board of Game to establish a predation control program that utilizes nondepartment personnel. The existing statute has a fairly cumbersome process whereby the Board of Game listens to the department give its scientific information; crafts a draft program; then must request that the commissioner of ADF&G make a finding based on three criteria: whether predation is creating a decline in the ungulate population; whether reversing or reducing the predation will allow that ungulate population to improve; and whether aerial methods are necessary to reduce predation. Section 1 streamlines this process fairly significantly in that it takes the commissioner finding out of the process. MR. ROBUS reported that much discussion and debate in Senate committees related to whether the executive branch retains authority to make decisions on whether programs are going to be implemented. He told members: We believe that there is still a significant role in decision making within the department and the administration because this bill does not affect the fiscal authority of ... the commissioner to run the department. And also there is a federal airborne- hunting Act that disallows people from conducting this type of activity unless the state issues a permit certifying that they are engaged in an activity to protect a wildlife population. So the state still will have a significant role, no matter what is done with this statute. Number 2350 MR. ROBUS turned attention to Section 2, which also had received quite a bit of discussion. He said the Department of Law has advised [ADF&G] that the Board of Game already has the authorities listed in Section 2. He said: We asked [Senator Seekins], the sponsor on the Senate side, to consider making the language more flexible in that we didn't feel it was wise to have the board mandated to establish all four of these things every time there's a predation control program. We thought that allowing some flexibility would make it more likely that a program would actually be implemented by the executive branch. MR. ROBUS acknowledged that Senator Seekins and his staff had worked with [ADF&G] quite a bit on Sections 1 and 2. He offered the belief that some pretty significant improvements in the language have been achieved through the committee process to date. Number 2306 MR. ROBUS advised members that the current version, on balance, because the commissioner is entirely removed from the process, is unacceptable to the administration. He noted that the original bill left the commissioner in the process. With the assistance of the Department of Law, therefore, [ADF&G] had worked up a possible amendment that is intended to be a "compromise position between those two poles"; he indicated this proposed language had been given to the committee. MR. ROBUS explained the intent of the proposed amendment: after the Board of Game comes up with a predation control program and submits it to the department, the commissioner would have a finite, short period of time within which to justify why it should not be carried out; if no response was forthcoming in that short time, the program would go forward. He added, "We think this addresses the pocket-veto issue that Senator Seekins ... has voiced, and which, I think, based upon the way the statute's written, is a valid thing to be concerned about." MR. ROBUS told members: I want to emphasize that the situation at McGrath was purely a technical inability for the commissioner to make a finding, as requested by the Board of Game, because the population objective for that particular moose herd was reduced as part of a compromise during [an] adaptive wildlife management team process that was underway out there several years ago, in an attempt to get some sort of redress for the wildlife management situation in Unit 19D East, where the moose population is at low levels and not recovering and we judge the predation as a significant reason for it. CHAIR FATE asked that questions be held if possible and that testifiers speak for two minutes only. Number 2175 JESSE VANDERZANDEN, Executive Director, Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC), began by saying AOC represents about 50 outdoor clubs - approximately 12,000 hunters, fishers, trappers, and public access advocates. Testifying in support of SB 155, one of AOC's top priorities this session, he said the bill isn't about fair chase or ethics, providing trophy moose hunters with bigger moose racks, eliminating wolves, or being against predators. He opined that these are myths perpetuated by people who seek to "put wolves on a pedestal" and thereby create sympathy for them at the expense of other wildlife species; he said this undermines the integrity of wildlife management and every Alaskan who wishes to utilize wild food for sustenance. MR. VANDERZANDEN offered that the bill is about asserting the state's right to manage wildlife in a scientific manner for the benefit of its citizenry; helping the state meet its statutory and constitutional obligations to manage wildlife for sustained yield; and putting wildlife management "back into the hands of professional managers who know it best - people in the field, ... close to the ground, who know what's going on day to day, year in and year out." He cited population levels, predation impacts, habitat conditions, other conditions, use patterns, and "a myriad of factors that must be accounted for in managing wildlife for sustained yield." MR. VANDERZANDEN said the narrowly focused bill limits airborne or same-day-airborne predation management to only areas where big-game populations are depressed and predation has conclusively been determined to be a factor; it requires Board of Game authorization to conduct airborne or same-day-airborne management within the context of an approved wildlife management plan founded upon the recommendations of professional managers. He said these plans are regularly scrutinized and commented on by the public "in one of the most open and deliberative public processes in the nation." MR. VANDERZANDEN indicated this practice is available in most states, and should be available in Alaska, given its challenging topography. He said it ties predation management to population objectives, which seek to establish how many moose and predators exist in a long-term sustainable manner in a certain area. He told members that predators are part of the management equation - conserved for, accounted for, and managed for. They are not managed against. It's not a question of how wolves are managed, but how wildlife is managed. Noting that population objectives also account for human harvest, he concluded, "We urge you to put Alaskans who utilize wild food for sustenance, who share a strong conservation ethic for nature's predators and prey, and [who] rely on individual responsibility, back into the management equation by passing this bill today." Number 1958 DICK BISHOP testified on his own behalf in support of SB 155, which he said makes clear, when allocating big-game prey for various uses, that the buck stops at the Board of Game. The board is bound by the same sideboards as ADF&G: wildlife must be managed on the sustained yield or self-perpetuating principle, and sustained yield includes hunting and trapping. He said the board and department are obligated by law to provide for "continued, important hunting opportunities"; the board is obligated to make allocations among various uses, and relies on the department's data and professional advice regarding the condition of the particular population and what sort of management would enable the board to meet its obligations. MR. BISHOP said SB 155 provides authority for the board to use more of the available management methods to fulfill its responsibilities. Its decisions still must be based on information and interpretation provided by the department; implementation of predator-prey management through the use of aircraft also requires ADF&G's cooperation in order to meet conditions of the federal airborne-hunting Act. He said the paradox in predator-prey management is that while Alaska is huge, only 10-20 percent is available for active management of predator-prey systems or even of habitat. He explained: Federal nonmanagement on 50 to 60 percent of the state, state-closed areas, urban areas, and barren lands combined make up 80 to 90 percent of the state lands. But then the 20 percent of Alaska where management can be done has become critically important to those who pursue the Alaskan tradition of hunting, whether for food, for cultural values such as my own, or as guides who make a living serving the interests of our visitors. MR. BISHOP concluded by saying SB 155 will help the state fulfill its constitutional mandate of managing on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses, for the maximum benefit of the people. Number 1808 PAUL JOSLIN, Conservation Biologist, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, expressed concern that SB 155 would allow members of the public who can afford it to again be able to play "cowboys in the sky, chasing wolves across the landscape." He said it is barbaric; raises public safety issues; and is inexcusable, even if done in the name of predator control. Noting that proponents of same- day-airborne hunting of wolves argue that it's necessary, he said the opposite is true. He told members: We are now killing more wolves than ever. And I have provided each of you with copies of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game harvest summary records on wolf take in Alaska over the past 25 years. From these records, you can see for yourself that it has been steadily increasing, from about 600 wolves a year to now over 1,500 wolves a year, which is a whopping increase of nearly 150 percent. This trend appears to be continuing. In the winter of 2001-2002, 1,741 wolves were listed as killed. The increase has come about largely because hunters have better equipment in the way of semi-automatic weapons and fast, reliable snow machines that can outpursue any wolf on open ground. I attend a lot of Board of Game meetings. And having personally heard the testimony of many snowmachiners talking about the number of wolves they take, I'm especially concerned. In one individual case I'll never forget, ... the fellow bragged about how he single-handedly chased after and shot some 18 wolves. Pursuing wolves on a snow machine is now legal on about 20 percent of state land. MR. JOSLIN said enacting legislation that returns Alaska to a time in the past when there were "cowboys in the sky" is wrong. If anything, legislation should be enacted to stop the legalized but unfair chasing of wolves on the ground and the steady increase of killing of wolves in Alaska until more is known about its impact on Alaska's natural ecosystems. MR. JOSLIN contended that this isn't about logic and science, but about dealing with entrenched attitudes about wolves by people in power. He disagreed that wolves reproduce twice a year, and he said wolves aren't vermin. "The voters of Alaska know that, and they have told you twice that they are not about to support you when it comes to allowing the public to use aircraft when it comes to killing them," he said. "Why isn't that message getting through?" MR. JOSLIN said Alaska has lost its preeminent position as the wild-frontier state with the highest density of wolves in America because of the antiquated attacks on predators. He told members that Minnesota, for example, proudly proclaims that its hunting industry is able to coexist with a population of wolves that is 2.5 times Alaska's per square mile. He asked that more wolf-related education and a whole lot less killing be done. Number 1537 JENNA WHITE testified as follows: The failure of a democratic government, when representatives of the people vote in favor of regulations that are in opposition to the will of the people that elected them: the public already clearly voted to disallow the practice of aerial and land-and- shoot hunting of wolves by the public. One cannot be an expert on all subjects, and the breadth of information in the world today is overwhelming. And the systems have been devised so that the most qualified individuals make decisions pertinent to their area of expertise. Establishment of regulations that can have tremendous impact on wildlife populations should be administered by biological professionals. Nonetheless, certain [legislators] and Board of Game members ... will acquire personal gain by acting as wildlife management professionals. These same individuals are active members of a group which tells that [moose] numbers are plummeting by astronomical accounts. For example, it has been claimed in Unit 13 [that] the moose population has dropped from 27,000 to 7,000 in a decade, and that in Unit 19D the moose density has fallen from 3 to 4 per square mile to 1 per square mile, a 75 percent reduction. It has further been stated that this is not a fair- chase issue, but a scientific management issue. And this is exactly the point: that science is being manipulated to suit their own desires. The scientific reality is that the true population estimates for moose and many species are not known in most parts of the state because these surveys are expensive and time-demanding. Previous high estimates of moose numbers in the 1980s are pure speculation based on no scientific data, and were the result of long-term state- and privately sponsored wolf bounties, extensive aerial and land- and-shoot killing, and poisoning. For example, in the previously mentioned Unit 13, where intensive predator control has been adopted, ADF&G biologists do not know the extent of the moose population because this area is very large and encompasses much topographical variation. And the area simply has not been censused. Number 1390 MS. WHITE continued: But in a recent ADF&G discussion item concerning the review of predator-prey status in Unit 13, it was stated that, quote, there are about 22,000 moose in Unit 13 and an overall density of 0.9 moose per square mile, or a density of 1.4 moose per square [mile in areas] below 4,000-foot ... elevation. And this is considered a relatively high-density moose population for Interior habitats. This number certainly is not written in stone. But it is nowhere near the "7,000" number purported by supporters of this bill. The report goes on to state that moose populations now appear comparable to levels observed in the early 1980s. Simultaneously, the most recent study showed that the wolf population has decreased by some 27 percent in Unit 13, due to extensive hunting and trapping. ... The real problem is, ... localized hunting overhunting has reduced bull ratios to as low as 9 bulls ... per 100 moose in certain areas. And this has reduced the resiliency ... of the herd and the overall availability of moose to take. MS. WHITE concluded that overall, this is a scientific issue that needs to be resolved by professionals who have integrity and are looking out for the welfare of wildlife and habitat, instead of "playing politics." Number 1279 VIC VANBALLENBERGHE told the committee he is a former member of the Board of Game appointed in 1985 by Governor Sheffield and in 1996 and 2002 by Governor Knowles. First discussing the public's using airplanes to take wolves, he said that while he was on the Board of Game in 1985-87, the board began to address problems related to this issue; the board acted first in 1986 to restrict land-and-shoot hunting because the practice had numerous problems in relation to hunters' shooting directly from the air or hazing and harassing wolves, both of which were illegal under state and federal law. He said that led to a series of well-publicized court cases in Alaska and public outrage over the practice. MR. VANBALLENBERGHE offered his belief that whether or not land- and-shoot or same-day-airborne hunting is done as predator control, it is a bad practice that the public still strongly opposes. Highlighting the 1996 initiative and 2000 referendum dealing with this issue, he said they demonstrated the strength of that opposition. He opined that passage of this [SB 155] may result in yet another referendum vote to overturn the legislature's action. MR. VANBALLENBERGHE said, second, the bill cuts the commissioner, and hence the governor, out of decision making on wolf control. Emphasizing that the Board of Game isn't an elected body, he said only the governor, who is elected, can see the broad public policy issues involved in controversial issues like wolf control and can make the ultimate decision, through the commissioner of ADF&G, as to whether these practices should proceed. MR. VANBALLENBERGHE referred to Mr. Robus's testimony and said there is a legal problem in that Public Law 92-159, the airborne-hunting Act passed by Congress, requires state fish and game agencies, rather than boards of game, to issue permits for aerial control. Thus [SB 155], by overriding that process, generates some serious and perhaps intractable problems that need to be rectified. Number 1031 ROBERT FITHIAN, Executive Director, Alaska Professional Hunter Association (APHA), who is a master guide and "eco-tour" operator, said APHA represents Alaska's oldest tourism-related industry, the guided sport-hunting industry, which contributes more than $120 million "new" dollars to Alaska each year and contributes to ADF&G's annual wildlife conservation budget. Referring to the state constitution, Article I, Section 1, and Article VIII, Sections 3 and 4, he told members: During the past decade we have seen a steady and continual decline in the cow moose populations in Alaska of at least 55 percent. The annual calf- survival rate is under 7 percent. Only 3.5 percent of the surviving calves are female, and fewer of that percentage are living to be of recruitment age to replenish the declining populations. The average annual harvest rate of moose statewide currently is as follows: 86 percent die by predation, 10 percent die of natural mortality, and 4 percent by human harvest. What these facts prove is that if we stopped all human harvest of moose today, a year from now we will still have fewer moose. Hunting and human harvest is having no significant effect on the state's moose population. Let me advise you on another commonly overlooked fact here. If the facts were known regarding our Dall sheep and, in many areas, our caribou populations, and they had ... an important role throughout the main river corridor communities of Alaska as meat-and- subsistence species, you would find that their plight is as bad as our moose. It's a terrible representation of the stewardship of these resources. It's important for you to note that during the past 10 years the nonresident sportsman has lost opportunity to hunt on over 50 million acres of public lands that are open to sport hunting, due to the continual reducing numbers of Alaska's moose, sheep, and caribou populations and the mandate's of the state's subsistence law. Only two times in the history of our state have we seen such detriment dealt to our precious wildlife populations as we have in the past 15 years. These two instances were the near-extinction of the sea otter by the Russians and the demise of Alaska's wild salmon during the territorial years. ... Number 0846 MR. FITHIAN concluded: The APHA warrants that what Alaska will gain by passage of Senate Bill 155 and the administration's mandates of management of Alaska's wildlife populations for abundance will do far more benefit for Alaska's tourism industries and ... the vision that the world has of Alaska than any boycott can do us harm. It's time for us to stand up for Alaska and the vision that the world has of our state, a vision of incomparable wildlands and bountiful populations of wildlife. Our civil, constitutional, and moral stewardship requirements need to be adhered to. The APHA urges you, for the sake of our precious wildlife resources and the people of rural Alaska, to support this bill. CHAIR FATE asked people on teleconference who had written testimony to provide it to the committee. Number 0772 REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA pointed out that she didn't have the handout Mr. Joslin said he'd provided. Number 0750 CHAIR FATE closed public testimony, asking people to stay on teleconference for questions. He announced his intention of moving the bill from committee this day. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked Mr. Robus to address a topic raised in a letter in committee packets from Jenny Pursell [in opposition to SB 155, dated May 8, 2003] that says under SB 155, aerial predator control can be declared by the Board of Game without the backing of ADF&G. MR. ROBUS responded: Our reading - and one thing that may not be clear - is that under the existing statute, let alone what's before you, the public can be involved in predation control programs ... involving same-day-airborne or airborne hunting if this complicated process is gone through that I mentioned before. The ... Board of Game, under the language in ... SB 155, would be able to go ahead and put together a predation control program and hand it to the executive branch without the involvement of the commissioner. But, as I said before, in two ways the department still would have some authority and some say in whether or not a program went forward. And one is that the board does not have any fiscal authority over the department, and the commissioner still controls the purse strings for what happens and, therefore, can direct that something either be done or not done. And then, secondly, the provisions of the airborne- hunting Act means that ... if nondepartment people are involved in predation control activities involving aerial methods, the state must, as we read it, issue a permit to protect people from federal prosecution ... under that law. People can be made legal if there's a state permit that says that they're participating in a program to protect a wildlife population. And in this case it would either be moose or caribou or one of the ungulate populations identified under the intensive- management law. MR. ROBUS added that he hadn't read the letter, but thought he'd answered Representative Masek's question. Number 0522 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK reiterated that the letter says the board can declare aerial predator control without the backing of ADF&G. MR. ROBUS replied, "I think that's true. But, again, the department and the administration would still retain the final say as to whether or not to implement that program." REPRESENTATIVE MASEK referred to oral testimony and to written testimony to the Board of Game from the board's March 6 meeting [in packets]. She paraphrased from a letter from Lewis F. Egrass of McGrath that says [original punctuation provided]: "Just last night March 5th on Alaska State news, Paul Joslin stated that their survey showed that 75% of rural Alaskans opposed predator control. I have contacted all the villages in this area and none of them have any knowledge of this survey." Representative Masek said she just wanted to put that on record. Number 0362 CHAIR FATE asked about the allegation that the moose count isn't accurate and has no scientific basis. MR. ROBUS responded: It's true that there's a lot of art in the science of wildlife management. And it's true that these surveys are expensive. And we have to try to hopscotch around the state, and there are a lot of areas that we don't survey every year. But we try to keep hopping around and checking up on places from time to time. And the department is among the leaders in the world in developing aerial survey techniques, and we have done what we can to try to develop ways to do the best job we can of estimating - not directly counting every last one, but estimating moose populations and other wildlife populations in the state. CHAIR FATE asked whether the figures are valid. MR. ROBUS replied: I believe they are, Mr. Chairman, although ... depending on where you're looking specifically, we may have less scientific data than in other places. But in places where we've got significant management problems, we try to allocate our resources so that we do fly high-quality surveys and do the best job we can under the conditions. ... We can still be foiled by weather conditions or other anomalies, but we have, we believe, valid results and estimates that are as good as you can get under the circumstances. Number 0187 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG referred to one of the graphs in the packet. He said some game management biologists and resource managers have mentioned that the 1988 number was an anomaly, that taking out the bottom and top numbers would give more of an average, and that shooting for an all-time high isn't feasible. MR. ROBUS responded: You make a good point, and the department is on record repeatedly as trying to make sure that population and harvest objectives that are established are reasonable and ... achievable. ... There's no doubt and no argument from the department that we don't have a management problem for ungulates in Unit 13 and Unit 19D and several other places. But in trying to correct those problems, we need to be careful that we aim towards objectives that can be sustained, and ... don't create more problems when we get there. Anybody who knows the history of the Nelchina caribou herd knows that populations do fluctuate the way ... Senator Seekins mentioned. And we have to be careful, when trends are going up, not to stimulate something that gets so high that it creates damage. TAPE 03-43, SIDE A Number 0001 MR. ROBUS noted that [the graph] has some error associated with it; it's an estimate. He explained: If you draw the type of error bars that we have around our estimates, you might find that that line is a lot less lumpy than it appears here. And if we had no snow on the ground that winter, it would be very hard to find moose during a survey anyway, so we'd get a low estimate. So I think what you need to look at - and what wildlife biologists get used to doing - is instead of worrying too much about the absolute place where that point is, you look at the general line. And that general trend for moose in [Unit] 13 is definitely down over the long term, and we agree that we've got some serious management concerns there that need to be addressed. Number 0071 REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA recalled that the environments in which moose live must be specifically beneficial for them; they need to be able to reach what they forage on, for example, and a growing forest can actually outgrow the range which moose can reach. She asked whether there has been any kind of change in the environment [in the game management units being discussed]. MR. ROBUS replied: One thing that is often forgotten is ... that the habitat is constantly changing everywhere in the state. And numbers of animals in the woods or tundra or wherever are also constantly changing. And the challenge of wildlife management is to try to keep things in balance and at adequate levels so that people can use the wildlife in the various ways they do. And, yes, our area biologists ... become very familiar with the areas, and we know that there are situations where habitat is the primary problem for ungulates. But there's a whole variety of factors ... that affect ungulate populations or any wildlife population, predation being one of them, habitat quality and quantity another, disease, parasites - you can on and on; weather is a big one for moose. And so that's why the current statute and the ... bill in front of you talks about ... the board having to making the judgment that predation is a significant cause for a depressed ungulate population, because it doesn't do any good to remove predation or reduce predation if that's not what's causing the depressed moose herd or caribou herd. So, obviously, we need to look at make sure that predation is a problem, and ... not something else controlling the situation. Number 0329 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG said this bill seems to want to take authority from the governor and the commissioner, and give it to the board. He asked whether that is a real situation, since the governor, in the end, controls the purse strings of the board or even the department. He surmised that if a governor didn't want predator control, it wouldn't happen, regardless of this bill. MR. ROBUS offered his belief that [Governor Murkowski] has stated repeatedly that he's in favor of predator control; has voiced a policy that certain techniques will not be employed at this time; and is very interested in having predator-management problems addressed by local people, as opposed to department staff, in part because of the cost to the state involved in a staff effort. In further reply, he reiterated that the administration presently finds the bill unacceptable because of the commissioner's diminished role in Section 1, which is the process whereby the board produces the predation-control plan. CHAIR FATE recalled that the governor, in a speech to the joint session, had talked about active management, which Chair Fate said connotes "active management including, if needed, predator control." REPRESENTATIVE MASEK commented that almost everyone in the Senate had voted for this bill and urged moving it forward to the House floor. Number 0562 REPRESENTATIVE MORGAN told members he is from the Unit 19 area and is very familiar with Unit 19D; he's been involved in predator control since 1998 and pushed legislation at that time for predator control. He said the moose population is going down. Representative Morgan told how bears change their eating habits as they become more expert, going from eating the entire carcass in the spring to only eating the fattest parts. Similarly, he said, elders have told him that wolves become very persistent and expert at catching [moose], and know what parts to eat. He recounted being told by someone that he'd run into four moose [carcasses] for which the only parts eaten were the nose; tongue, which has a lot of fat; heart and kidneys, which have a lot of fat; and rump. Then they move on. Number 0727 REPRESENTATIVE LYNN emphasized the responsibility of legislators to be responsible stewards of the natural resources, including animal populations. He said these [wolves] aren't mythical Disneyland animals, but a "four-legged natural resource that needs to be managed with the best scientific knowledge that we have, in the most practical, commonsense way to do it, for the benefit of all of us." He said he believes that active management is required and that he will support the bill. Number 0815 REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE moved to report CSSB 155(RES) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG objected for discussion purposes. He told members he believes in predator control, but said on this issue he's been troubled because both sides seem to get stymied in rhetoric and locked into positions. He said he looks for good, scientific data and hears conflicting information from both sides. Referring to the top of page 2, he indicated concern that it seems to amend statute with regard to the philosophy of predator control for objectives. He also expressed concern about taking authority away from the governor in theory in the bill, when the governor actually has it in the end. He indicated that whether one agrees with a governor or not, there are larger public policy issues involved in a lot of what the legislature does. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG also noted that two ballot issues which passed [relating to same-day-airborne hunting] were big public policy calls. Indicating the need to further educate the public, he said that all he's hearing is "bears and wolves versus moose." Referring to Representative Cissna's discussion of habitat issues, he said there are water issues and [effects from fires] as well, and yet he never seems to hear dialogue about what is happening out there on the ground. He explained that he hasn't been satisfied that an answer has come forward, and said he doesn't think [this bill] does it. Number 1051 CHAIR FATE said he didn't presume to be an expert, but offered his belief that ADF&G has ample evidence that in some areas - though it may not be the total cause of diminution of the ungulate population - "it has been the balance that has caused the decrease." He said he knows of times when a deep snow coupled with cold has probably been much more devastating than wolves to the game population; however, wolves on top of that can just about devastate an entire moose population in an area. He agreed in part with Representative Guttenberg, but offered his assessment that in some areas it really is predation that has caused the diminution of the herd. CHAIR FATE stressed the desire for active management, saying there has been too much passive management where people have just said to let nature take its course. He recalled hearing from elders that there have been times of starvation as well as times of plenty. "We're trying to keep away from those times of starvation," he concluded. Number 1171 REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA said she'd talked to people in her area and believes they understand that in some areas it's important to have predator control, even though they'd voted strongly in favor of banning aerial wolf control. However, they'd told her it should be professional. She also expressed concern that she hadn't seen the proposed amendment [mentioned by Mr. Robus], and said she'd like to hear debate over the problem that the administration has with the current version. Number 1268 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG withdrew his objection. CHAIR FATE asked whether there was any further objection. There being no objection, CSSB 155(RES) was reported from the House Resources Standing Committee.