Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 124

02/02/2005 01:00 PM RESOURCES


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 76 BIG GAME SERVICES & COMM. SERVICES BD TELECONFERENCED
Moved Out of Committee
*+ HB 107 ATTY FEES: HUNTING/FISHING INTERFERENCE TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
HB 76-BIG GAME SERVICES & COMM. SERVICES BD                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS announced that the  first order of business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL NO. 76 "An  Act relating to the Big Game Commercial                                                               
Services  Board  and  to  the  regulation  of  big  game  hunting                                                               
services  and  transportation  services;  and  providing  for  an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:13:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
HENRY  WEBB, Staff  to  Representative  Ralph Samuels,  clarified                                                               
that  HB  76 re-establishes  the  sunsetted  Big Game  Commercial                                                               
Services  Board  which  oversaw   the  professional  hunting  and                                                               
transporting industry.  Functions of  this board are currently in                                                               
the  Division of  Occupational  Licensing.   When  the board  was                                                               
allowed to  sunset in the early  1990s, the powers of  the former                                                               
board  were watered  down.    Mr. Webb  said  that  this bill  is                                                               
designed to  "put some backbone  back" into the oversight  of the                                                               
professional hunting  industry.   An audit report  in 2003  and a                                                               
request  from the  Board of  Game  were the  incentives for  this                                                               
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:15:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. WEBB  stated that  an identical bill  died in  committee last                                                               
year.   The  re-created board  will be  made up  of two  licensed                                                               
guides,  two licensed  transporters, one  member selected  by the                                                               
Board  of Game,  one  representing private  landholders, and  one                                                               
representing  the public.   He  said the  board will  be able  to                                                               
establish a code of ethics.   Violations of federal law will come                                                               
under oversight  of the board, and  the board will be  allowed to                                                               
implement training courses  for assistant guides.   The bill also                                                               
raises civil  penalties from  $1,000 to  $5,000, and  it requires                                                               
guides  and transporters  to  obtain  permission before  entering                                                               
private, state, or federal land to conduct business.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:17:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. WEBB  explained that guides  will be limited to  three guide-                                                               
use areas  within a  calendar year,  and the  board is  given the                                                               
authority  to  amend  the  guide-use   areas,  allowing  a  guide                                                               
additional  areas if  the areas  are part  of a  predator control                                                               
program.   He  said  the  board will  also  be  allowed to  adopt                                                               
transporter-use areas.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:17:59 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked if HB 76 is the same bill from 2003.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. WEBB answered yes.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked what the  rationale is for only three                                                               
guide areas.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. WEBB  said it keeps  people from switching around  during the                                                               
year.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ELKINS  inquired if  a guide selected  three areas                                                               
would the areas be exclusive to that guide.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. WEBB responded  that guides would not be able  to move out of                                                               
selected areas but they would not be granted exclusive rights.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked why that is important.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. WEBB said  he would defer to  the ADF&G.  He  added that many                                                               
of the provisions  in the bill have been worked  out in detail by                                                               
the  department,  the  Division of  Occupational  Licensing,  the                                                               
Department of Public  Safety, the Board of Game,  and the guiding                                                               
industry.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:20:54 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  asked if the  $5,000 fine is in  line with                                                               
civil penalties that other boards have the authority to impose.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. WEBB deferred the question  to the Department of Occupational                                                               
Licensing.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OLSON  expressed that the transporter  section has                                                               
loose  language,  and  he  wondered  if  the  reporting  will  be                                                               
mandatory for transporters.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS said  it will be mandatory, and  that the report                                                               
is one of the points of the legislation.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  wanted a  definition of a  transporter and                                                               
if the language excludes people  who transport hunters as a favor                                                               
or for shared fuel costs.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:23:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WEBB  referred  Representative  Seaton  to  the  definitions                                                               
beginning on page 20 of the bill.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS  said persons taking  friends out and  air taxis                                                               
are not regulated under this legislation.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. WEBB pointed out that line 17 defines an air taxi.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:25:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON   wanted  re-assurance  that   friends  or                                                               
someone who  is only compensated  for fuel won't be  considered a                                                               
transporter.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS  said that  the definition  of a  transporter is                                                               
the same  today as it  is in the  bill, and  he added that  "if I                                                               
take you  out in my  cub to go caribou  hunting and we  split the                                                               
cost of the gas, that is certainly not the intent" of the bill.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:27:13 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PAT  DAVIDSON, Legislative  Auditor, Legislative  Audit Division,                                                               
told the committee  that the purpose of the  division's audit was                                                               
threefold:  1)   to  determine  the   impact  of  not   having  a                                                               
professional  guide  and  transporter   licensing  board  on  the                                                               
enforcement   of    guiding   statutes,   2)   to    assess   the                                                               
appropriateness of the  current fine limit, and 3)  to assess the                                                               
adequacy  of the  current reporting  requirements for  guides and                                                               
transporters.   She reported  that current  oversight is  done by                                                               
various land managers,  such as the state,  National Park Service                                                               
(NPS),  United States  Fish and  Wildlife  Service (FWS),  United                                                               
States  Forest  Service (USFS),  and  Bureau  of Land  Management                                                               
(BLM).   All agencies have  expressed a desire for  a centralized                                                               
regulatory board.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIDSON said  client surveys showed that  there are consumer                                                               
protection  issues  with  the  industry.     The  audit  division                                                               
concluded that  statutory changes  to include best  practices are                                                               
warranted for  consumer protection  and safety.   She said  a re-                                                               
established  board  would  provide   a  more  dynamic  regulatory                                                               
regime,  and it  would enhance  professionalism in  the industry.                                                               
She recommended  that a new board  create competency requirements                                                               
for licensure.   Regarding  fines, she  said, the  research found                                                               
that  they were  once  set  at $30,000,  and  currently they  are                                                               
limited to $1,000.   Big game hunts are expensive,  she said, and                                                               
the financial reward  for the violation does not  compare well to                                                               
the fine if one gets caught.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:31:54 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
RICK  URION,   Director,  Division  of   Occupational  Licensing,                                                               
Department of  Commerce, Community, & Economic  Development.  The                                                               
bill is  a good  start for  addressing the  many problems  in the                                                               
commercial hunting industry.   But, he said, the  bill is lacking                                                               
in enforcement,  and he would  like to work with  the legislature                                                               
as the bill moves along.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:33:25 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked why  the legislation limits guides to                                                               
three hunting units.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. URION responded that because  wildlife is a limited resource,                                                               
restricting  hunters   to  three   areas  allows   some  control.                                                               
Establishing the  units before the  hunts occur  helps regulators                                                               
know  where people  are  and  improves the  quality  of the  hunt                                                               
because guides can learn where other guides are.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ELKINS  asked  if  the  size of  the  fine  is  a                                                               
deterrent to violations.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. URION said  it depends on the "size of  the person's wallet."                                                               
Other  fines are  considerably higher,  he said.   A  realtor was                                                               
recently fined $25,000.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON requested  a definition  of transportation                                                               
service,  again wondering  if friends  can  take friends  hunting                                                               
without being regulated.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:36:19 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. URION said "we will make sure" that will not happen.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:36:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PAUL JOHNSON,  Guide, told  the committee that  guiding is  a big                                                               
industry economically, and it is  particularly important in rural                                                               
Alaska.   He stressed that  "it is time  to move forward"  on the                                                               
bill.  He explained how the  limit of three hunting areas came to                                                               
be in  the 1970's,  and that  it is  a very  carefully determined                                                               
"piece of the  puzzle."  He said this bill  was put together with                                                               
a task  force, and it doesn't  change the definition of  who is a                                                               
transporter.  This has been a  long process, he said, and we need                                                               
to move forward.  "It is the  best thing for the residents of the                                                               
state," he opined.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:40:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked about the bill's history.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHNSON said that in different  years the bill got held up in                                                               
different places in the legislature.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
BOBBY  FITHIAN, Executive  Director, Alaska  Professional Hunters                                                               
Association, Lower  Tonsina, Alaska,  has owned a  family guiding                                                               
business for twenty years.  He  stated that HB 76 is about giving                                                               
proper stewardship  to one of  Alaska's earliest industries.   He                                                               
added that standards are weaker than  at any time in history, and                                                               
integrity  has  diminished.    He  stated  that  winners  in  the                                                               
existing industry are the users  who care little for wildlife and                                                               
are only in  the business for the  money.  He and  his wife guide                                                               
in  order to  share Alaska's  wildlife,  but at  this point  they                                                               
don't see it as a viable  business to transfer to their children.                                                               
Mr.  Fithian believes  the bill  is a  significant start,  and he                                                               
supports it.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:44:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS asked how much a brown bear hunt costs.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. FITHIAN  answered that industry  standards range  from $9,000                                                               
to $16,000.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO asked  Mr. Fithian  why he  can't pass  his                                                               
business to his son.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. FITHIAN responded  that his three sons have  been guides, but                                                               
they recognize  that there is  no economic sustainability  in the                                                               
industry in the way it is currently being managed in the state.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO said  he  was concerned  that  there was  a                                                               
legal block to prevent parents  from passing on their business to                                                               
their  offspring, but  "what  you're  saying is  it  is just  not                                                               
economic  for  a  son  to  assume the  work  you  are  doing--and                                                               
survive."                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. FITHIAN said "the legal block is stewardship."                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR   RAMRAS  asked   how  the   bill  makes   the  business                                                               
sustainable and viable to pass on to the next generation.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:47:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. FITHIAN  discussed the history  of the guiding industry.   He                                                               
said  there  is  no  accountability   on  certain  federally  and                                                               
privately  managed  lands  and   that  licensing  standards  have                                                               
relaxed.   "One  operator, many  times,  is using  nine, or  even                                                               
twelve different"  areas, he reported,  and there is no  limit to                                                               
the amount of  guides for the hunting  units, creating situations                                                               
where guides are "working over the  top" of others.  He said this                                                               
diminishes  the clients'  experiences,  and over  time they  will                                                               
"start taking their dollars some place else other than Alaska."                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON referred to  written testimony from another                                                               
guide  requested that  subsection  (f) be  taken  out because  he                                                               
thinks  the  predator  control  allowance  will  cause  problems.                                                               
Representative  Seaton asked  how critical  that provision  is to                                                               
Mr. Fithian.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:50:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. FITHIAN replied that it is  a complex question.  He said that                                                               
the bears that  are sought for predator control are  not the ones                                                               
sought  by  non-resident hunters  because  they  are often  small                                                               
bears,  nocturnal  bears, or  sows  with  cubs.   The  additional                                                               
hunting  area allowed  by the  provision "does  not create  a big                                                               
horizon for us."   He said that "those of us  that have tried" to                                                               
find the bears "that are  supposedly killing these animals--we're                                                               
not finding them."  He added  that for guides who are given these                                                               
extra areas, "it isn't going to  be a winning economic boon."  He                                                               
warned that  he thought  the provision could  become an  abuse of                                                               
the three-area system.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:52:18 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   SEATON   asked   if  the   provision   will   be                                                               
ineffective.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FITHIAN answered  that  "we have  yet to  see  a benefit  of                                                               
additional guides  selecting an  intensive management area."   He                                                               
gave  an  example  where  guides  that  have  hunted  in  a  now-                                                               
designated  intensive  management   area  are  having  difficulty                                                               
finding the  number of bears that  they were able to  find before                                                               
the  area was  listed as  such.   He said  that ADF&G  might help                                                               
answer Representative Seaton's question.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:53:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  SAMUELS said  that the  intent of  the provision  is to                                                               
allow  a guide  to operate  in  one of  the intensive  management                                                               
areas without  having to give  up the  three areas the  guide has                                                               
already selected.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  asked  if   any  provision  in  the  bill                                                               
protected popular areas from being over selected.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:55:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. FITHIAN  said there currently  are exclusive  guide-use areas                                                               
in NPS preserves, FWS refuges, and  on some USFS lands, but it is                                                               
a "free-for-all" on  state lands.  He said there  is one place in                                                               
the current bill  where the board could address that.   DNR could                                                               
work with  the board  and develop an  allocation system  on state                                                               
lands, but the bill doesn't require the board to do that.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:57:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
EMORY CHUCK WHEELER,  Guide, Nome, sees HB 76  as an "enforcement                                                               
bill only,  unfortunately."  He  added that the new  board should                                                               
not  set up  a code  of  ethics because  the Alaska  Professional                                                               
Hunters Association already has one.   He believes that there are                                                               
a "few bad apples,"  but he sees HB 76 as  an infringement on the                                                               
industry.   He said the state  will not get the  money to enforce                                                               
it.   He said  "all the  brown shirts are  now blue  shirts," and                                                               
their focus  is on domestic violence  and drugs.  "We  don't have                                                               
any  law enforcement  for wildlife  anymore," he  said, and  that                                                               
there is no money in the legislation for enforcement.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:00:28 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DICK ROHRER, Guide, Kodiak, encouraged  the committee to pass the                                                               
bill out of committee today.  He  said he has been a guide out of                                                               
Kodiak for a long time.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:01:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MATT ROBUS,  Director, Division of Wildlife  Conservation, Alaska                                                               
Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G),  said the details of this bill                                                               
have been  worked on by  the legislature, ADF&G, the  Division of                                                               
Occupational  Licensing, the  Department of  Public Safety,  and,                                                               
perhaps, DNR  and that the Alaska  Department of Fish &  Game and                                                               
the  Board of  Game  are  supportive.   He  said  that since  the                                                               
sunsetting of the previous board  there have been user conflicts.                                                               
The  Board  of  Game  has had  trouble  solving  the  complicated                                                               
problems, he  said, and  creating the new  board would  allow the                                                               
two boards to  specialize in their areas of expertise  and form a                                                               
cooperative system.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:05:13 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  asked  if  Mr.  Robus  thought  that  the                                                               
additional  guide-use areas  allowed under  the predator  control                                                               
provision will be used, and if ADF&G wants it in the bill.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ROBUS  responded  that  the provision  was  one  of  several                                                               
scenarios for  reducing predators  in areas where  prey densities                                                               
are depressed.  The Board  of Game liberalized brown bear hunting                                                               
with a year-round season and  liberal bag limits, with little, if                                                               
any, effect  on the ungulate  herds.  The  trick, he said,  is to                                                               
attract more  hunters to areas  where bears are  not particularly                                                               
desired by them, and this incentive  of a fourth area might help.                                                               
He said there  is no track record of it  working, but he believes                                                               
ADF&G would want to keep the provision in the bill.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:08:02 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked about  aerial wolf hunting as related                                                               
to this provision.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS answered  that such programs are  not termed "hunting."                                                               
The department  does it  through a  permit system  whereby people                                                               
"become agents of  the state to conduct control  programs," so it                                                               
would be  unlikely that  the department  would issue  permits for                                                               
guided wolf  hunts.  He  said that the  economics of a  bear hunt                                                               
are higher than a wolf hunt and would be more successful.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  if the  provision would  allow more                                                               
than four areas for a guide.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS said he didn't know.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  RAMRAS asked  if the  former commercial  guide services                                                               
board was an effective tool when it did operate.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS believed it was.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:10:28 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked  Mr. Robus if he said  that a predator                                                               
control hunter was acting as an agent for the state.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS said the department  does not consider predator control                                                               
to be hunting, so it is not regulated  as hunting.  He said it is                                                               
a permit  system which can  be carefully controlled.   The agents                                                               
keep animals they  take, but it is  not a hunt.  The  pelt is the                                                               
only compensation the agent receives.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:11:39 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS asked  if someone would make a motion  that HB 76                                                               
move from House Resources.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  to have  some committee  discussion                                                               
first, and  then expressed  his desire to  make sure  the written                                                               
testimony   gets  put   into  the   record.     He  also   wanted                                                               
clarification  of the  difference  between a  normal guided  hunt                                                               
under HB 76 and a permitted predator control operation.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS  explained that  the aerial  wolf control  programs are                                                               
conducted through  a permit  operation that  is separate  from HB
76.  This  bill would allow a  guide into an extra area  if he or                                                               
she wanted  to take  a client into  an intensive  management area                                                               
for a normal  hunt.  This would help bring  more hunting pressure                                                               
on the predators.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:14:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ROB HARDY, Guide, Nelchina Basin,  said he was a permitted gunner                                                               
in the  wolf control program,  and he expressed his  concern that                                                               
the legislation does not do  anything for subsistence users or to                                                               
reduce conflict  between users, or  to reduce  the "unprecedented                                                               
expansion,   congestion,  and   impact  that   the  industry   is                                                               
having..."   He  added that  "it also  does virtually  nothing to                                                               
address dwindling  resources and to slow  the overwhelming growth                                                               
of  the  industry."   He  recommended  that the  committee  adopt                                                               
alternative  legislation or  amendments to  address these  issues                                                               
and to add  "trophy fees" to provide additional  funding to ADF&G                                                               
which could  be used for  the development and enhancement  of the                                                               
resource.  He believes the  industry should pay for the privilege                                                               
to access  animals, and he  proposed a  user fee for  each animal                                                               
that is harvested that would be  equal to or greater than the sum                                                               
of the individual non-resident big game tag...                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  RAMRAS   interjected  and  told  Mr.   Hardy  that  the                                                               
committee  had  a   copy  of  his  written   testimony  and  that                                                               
Representative Seaton was making sure it got into the record.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:18:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS said that this bill  does not do much, but it is                                                               
a first  step to  fix the  industry's problems.   The  bill gives                                                               
authorities to  a board that  can concentrate on the  issues that                                                               
Mr. Hardy brought up.  He said it  is important for HB 76 to move                                                               
forward so  that the board it  creates can move forward  with the                                                               
issues facing the industry.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:20:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS agreed that work  will get done after "hopefully"                                                               
re-establishing   a   big   game    board.      Co-Chair   Ramras                                                               
unsuccessfully    attempted   to    contact   Mark    Wagner   by                                                               
teleconference, and then closed public comment.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  clarified  that  his  question  regarding                                                               
transporters was answered.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:21:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ELKINS moved  to report  HB 76  out of  committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:22:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
There being no  objection, HB 76 [24-LS0332\G]  was reported from                                                               
the House Resources Standing Committee.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 2:22 PM to 2:28 PM.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                

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