Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/03/1996 02:05 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 247 "An Act relating to the fish and game fund; amending Rules 79(b) and 82(b)(2), Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure; and providing for an effective date." Senator Robin Taylor was invited to join the committee and testified on behalf of the bill. He referred to CSSB 247() work draft and explained the amendments that it contained. He said these were significant changes but had assurances from Department of Fish and Game they would not oppose these amendments. Senator Frank asked that Senator Taylor reiterate his advocation of the "preservation" feature. Senator Taylor commented on his visit to the 4-H program being put on in conjunction with the local gun club to receive training and instruction on how to handle a firearm, clean it, how to walk with it and carry it. Over seventy youngsters showed up from the community with their families. They had commented on the difficulties of getting a rifle or pistol range constructed and then to make sure it was protected in the future. He said the drafters had suggested the use of the term "preservation". Senator Rieger referred to another phrase used by the sponsor "manipulation of habitat" and asked that it be described for the committee. Senator Taylor said the best example was the AWACS crash at Elmendorf. Because the Department of Fish and Game and the Anchorage Airport Authority failed to do anything about a significant known risk of geese to aircraft, and had refused to do any habitat manipulation at the end of the runway which had been recommended over fifteen years before by both FAA and pilots, when that flock of geese took off all those people were killed. Habitat manipulation could very easily have changed the make-up of that area immediately off the end of the runway by making it an area not preferred by water fowl. Habitat manipulation can be helpful for human beings and also the animals. Mr. Geron Bruce, Department of Fish and Game was invited to join the committee. He said it was important to understand the effect of this bill on wildlife in a whole. The Federal Aid and Wildlife Restoration Act, passed in 1937 formed the basis for all modern scientific fish and wildlife management that the states conduct. It is a federal program that collects money at the national level and then sends it back to the states on a formula basis. As a requirement for receiving that money the states have to dedicate their revenues from their hunting and fishing licenses. The primary motivation for this act was the wildlife in the country was in a very depressed state due to unregulated hunting and major habitat degradation. Therefore, the state dedication of the license fees had to go to support a management fish and wildlife agency. Two basic ideas behind this legislation were to provide a stable and continuous source of funding for fish and wildlife management, and to put fish and wildlife management on a scientific basis by setting up state agencies that were staffed by professionals in the field. This has had a major impact resulting in wildlife populations and sport fish populations that were depressed at the time. This bill would have a major impact on the way this act works. At this time budgets are built based on scientific training and programs which are in turn based on a multiple year goal. Each item would be a separate appropriation with constituents and legislators from different parts of the state competing for the particular programs they wanted to see funded out of the available monies. This would present many difficulties for maintaining any consistent long term program that was trying to achieve specific goals over a number of years. This also causes a concern with the consequence of the budgeting process. In addition there are major concerns about the particular fiscal impacts to this legislation. He referred briefly to the testimony presented before the House Resources committee. Kevin Brooks, Department of Fish and Game was invited to join the committee. He said he was testifying particularly on the impact to his division. It would seriously affect the ability to provide centralized services for personnel, accounting, budgeting and procurement. Another major item would be administering the licensing program. This legislation would not allow for the cost of administering the licensing program. There is approximately $1.3 million in fish and game funds of which over $700,000. is paid directly to the vendors for selling licenses. Since FY 92 the division's entire budget was general funds. Presently the division is one third fish and game funds, one third federal funds and one third general funds. The licensing program has been the most heavily affected. Rates for administrative costs of running the programs, getting people paid and paying the vendors are negotiated with the federal government. There are a number of federal programs and grants the division is involved with which are required by statute. He said these were indirect by nature and would be prohibited as the bill is currently written. The net effect would be just under $1 million in lost federal receipts that is collected and $1.3 million in lost fish and game funds. Senator Taylor asked which form of the bill was being referred to and Mr. Brooks advised it was the CS. Co- chairman Halford advised Senator Taylor to be thinking of either amendments that could be presented or possible conceptual amendments. Sarah Hannan, Alaska Environmental Lobby was invited to join the committee and testified in opposition to the bill. She said she was not opposed to hunting and fishing but asked that one should consider what is implied in the bill. A hunting or fishing license is not a user fee. It is a regulatory permission to harvest a resource that is collectively owned and belongs to all. There needs to be a more comprehensive measure for equitable distribution, including a series of user fees for non-consumptive users. The majority of Alaskans that appreciate fish and wildlife are not licensed sport fish/hunters. She said the sole reason for this bill was because the sponsor did not agree with management decisions made by the department of fish and game and therefore wanted to intimidate them. This is manipulative, short-sighted management that is bad public policy. The issue of wolf management and predator control comes in a variety of legislation this year and in all cases this is strongly opposed. Fish and game management should be based on science. She said this bill would only further increase animosity between the legislature and the department and encouraged the committee to not pass this bill out. Senator Taylor advised he would work with the department on an amendment if one is necessary and would present it on the floor. Senator Frank moved work draft CSSB 247() and it was adopted for work purposes. He then moved CSSB 247(FIN) and without objection it was reported out with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note from the Department of Public Safety, zero fiscal notes with fund sources changes from the Department of Fish and Game, Administrative Services, Wildlife Conservation and Sport Fish divisions.