Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/31/2003 01:38 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                SB 155-PREDATOR CONTROL PROGRAMS                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. BRIAN HOVE, aide to the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave the                                                                
following explanation of SB 155.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     SB 155 alters language  within section 16.05.783 of the                                                                    
     Alaska statutes relating to the  regulation of fish and                                                                    
     game.  These  alterations  provide the  fish  and  game                                                                    
     board and commissioner with the  necessary tools in the                                                                    
     management of game populations throughout the state.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     The first alteration  clarifies legislative intent with                                                                    
     respect  to  airborne  predator control  programs.  The                                                                    
     second   alteration   provides  for   game   population                                                                    
     objectives   to   be   taken  into   consideration   in                                                                    
     determining whether  or not a predator  control program                                                                    
     should be implemented.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     As  an   example,  if   the  minimum   game  population                                                                    
     objective  is met,  but  the harvest  level  is not,  a                                                                    
     management  decision -  under current  law -  cannot be                                                                    
     made  even  if  it  is determined  that  predators  are                                                                    
     limiting  the game  population.  The second  alteration                                                                    
     allows  the  board  to use  prey  and  game  population                                                                    
     objectives when making a  determination with respect to                                                                    
     the use of a predator control program.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     Senate Bill 155 makes changes  that will allow the fish                                                                    
     and game  board as well  as the commissioner  to better                                                                    
     manage   wildlife  by   balancing  predator   and  game                                                                    
     populations based on the best science available.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  referred to  the third  paragraph of  the sponsor                                                               
statement,  and asked,  "Now wouldn't  predators  always limit  a                                                               
game population?"                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HOVE said  the intent  is to  not only  allow the  board and                                                               
commissioner  to  consider  predator  populations,  but  to  also                                                               
consider  game populations.  He understands  current law  to read                                                               
that only predator populations are taken into consideration.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS described  the process  as follows:  The Board  of                                                               
Game  meets and  takes testimony  on objectives  and populations.                                                               
The board gets information primarily  from the professional staff                                                               
of  the Alaska  Department of  Fish and  Game (ADF&G).  The board                                                               
then decides whether  or not it wants a  predator control program                                                               
in the  game management  plan. If  it decides  affirmatively, the                                                               
board   sends  a   written  request   to  the   commissioner  for                                                               
certification  of the  testimony given  by ADF&G  biologists. The                                                               
certification  can  only  be  based   on  prey  populations,  not                                                               
predator  populations or  objectives.  He explained  that SB  155                                                               
would allow  the board to use  all of its objectives  rather than                                                               
just one.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  whether the  board would  be precluded                                                               
from establishing  a predator control  program under  the current                                                               
statute  if a  game population  maintains itself  at the  minimum                                                               
level.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  said the board could  put a program in  place, but                                                               
the  program cannot  be  activated without  the  letter from  the                                                               
commissioner,  which   must  be   based  strictly  on   the  prey                                                               
populations and objectives.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked  if that would be precluded  if the prey                                                               
populations were down, but not below the objectives.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said it  would,  as  he understands  the  current                                                               
statute.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  if anything  could be  done before  an                                                               
actual population crash  if a caribou population was  found to be                                                               
very low.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS replied:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     Until   they   come   back,   it's   brought   up   for                                                                    
     consideration  for  that  particular district  -  until                                                                    
     they come  back and  say yes, there  is a  problem, and                                                                    
     it's based strictly on the  prey population, they can't                                                                    
     do anything. If  you saw an imbalance -  let's say that                                                                    
     you  had a  population  that exceeded  the objective  -                                                                    
     let's say you  had 25,000 moose and  your objective was                                                                    
     20,000, and you all of a  sudden saw growth in the wolf                                                                    
     population, and  you could see  it starting  to decline                                                                    
     but  you still  had not  gone below  the objective  for                                                                    
     moose population,  you could not take  - instigate that                                                                    
     predator  control  program  until it  did.  And  that's                                                                    
     basically how I look at  the current statute.... So, it                                                                    
     gives them  the ability  to be able  to see  trends, to                                                                    
     look at  them scientifically,  and to  be able  to make                                                                    
     management decisions  based on  those trends  from that                                                                    
     scientific information.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS noted that Senator Ogan arrived.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  FRENCH  said  this  issue  has  been  the  source  of  a                                                               
wrestling match between  the people and the  Legislature over the                                                               
past four  years. In 1996,  a citizen initiative  banned same-day                                                               
land and  shoot wolf hunting.  In 2000,  the voters did  it again                                                               
because the  Legislature overrode the initiative.  He asked Chair                                                               
Seekins where this legislation fits into the struggle.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said he  believes  this  is a  totally  different                                                               
subject. SB 155  enables the board to make  a management decision                                                               
based  on all  of the  scientific  information about  all of  the                                                               
populations. He  asked where that conflicts  with the initiative.                                                               
He  maintained that  the actions  being contemplated  are already                                                               
allowed by  law. SB  155 will  only allow the  state to  make the                                                               
decision  based   on  predator   populations  as  well   as  prey                                                               
populations.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH asked  whether the board it  could authorize same-                                                               
day hunting  of wolves based on  the large wolf population  if it                                                               
saw large populations of wolves and caribou simultaneously.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
[SENATOR ELLIS arrived.]                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said  that  is   conceivable  if  they  had  full                                                               
knowledge that a spiked wolf  population would affect the caribou                                                               
population.  He  said  it  depends on  objectives.  If  the  wolf                                                               
population does not  exceed the objective that the  Board of Game                                                               
has set for  that district, it would not have  a predator control                                                               
program.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN  pointed out the Legislature  has the constitutional                                                               
authority and  the responsibility to manage  public trust assets,                                                               
which are fish and game.  With regard to Senator French's comment                                                               
about a  wrestling match between  the people and  the Legislature                                                               
over this issue,  he said the people keep  electing a Legislature                                                               
that  understands  its  responsibility   to  manage  the  state's                                                               
resources. While hunting in Unit 13  ten years ago, he saw a herd                                                               
of  about  25  moose  without   one  calf  and  knew  that  moose                                                               
population was  in trouble. SB  155 would  allow the board  to be                                                               
proactive  rather   than  reactive   and  would   allow  cultural                                                               
continuity  for those  people who  have depended  on hunting  for                                                               
generations.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS took public testimony.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR.  JOEL  BENNETT,  representing  Defenders  of  Wildlife,  told                                                               
members  SB 155  creates a  fundamental  change in  the issue  of                                                               
whether or  not the public  can be involved in  same-day airborne                                                               
wolf hunting as  part of a predator control  program. The present                                                               
statute originated  in 1996  in an  initiative. In  1999, Senator                                                               
Pete Kelly's  SB 74  amended the original  statute and  removed a                                                               
fundamental aspect, which was that  a biological emergency had to                                                               
take place  before a  program could  be initiated.  Senator Kelly                                                               
didn't want  to counter the  fundamental sense of  the initiative                                                               
and didn't  want to reauthorize  land and shoot wolf  hunting. He                                                               
wanted  to  preserve  the  fact  that  this  was  something  more                                                               
properly done by  ADF&G professional staff. However,  in 2000, he                                                               
introduced SB  267, which provided for  same-day airborne hunting                                                               
of wolves by  individuals or by agents and in  2000, a referendum                                                               
effort was waged.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENNETT read the first  sentence from the referendum booklet:                                                               
"This  referendum was  referred  to the  voters  for approval  or                                                               
rejection of a law that allows  hunters to fly into an area where                                                               
the Alaska Game Board has established a wolf control program and                                                                
on the same day land and shoot a wolf."                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENNETT commented:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     This is  what the  voters in 2000  took away  again. So                                                                    
     now, I'm hearing that this  was legal all along, but we                                                                    
     don't think  so. We think  it clearly wasn't.  We think                                                                    
     that the  legislative record is  plain, that  the plain                                                                    
     language  of the  statute prohibits  it. We  think that                                                                    
     this  bill specifically  reauthorizes it.  In the  past                                                                    
     three years, there has been  absolute rhetoric from the                                                                    
     Board of Game,  the Department of Fish and  Game or any                                                                    
     other people that  would suggest that we  had this tool                                                                    
     or  that the  state had  this tool  in its  toolbox all                                                                    
     along. This  tool is being  reauthorized by SB  155 and                                                                    
     HB 208.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     Why did  the voters reject  the very thing that  SB 155                                                                    
     is  trying to  reinstitute? Because  land and  shoot in                                                                    
     the hands of  the public has had a  tainted history and                                                                    
     has  had  many   abuses  in  the  past.   A  large  and                                                                    
     substantial  majority of  the public  feels that  it is                                                                    
     not  properly  part of  a  game  management program  to                                                                    
     reauthorize.  It   is  inefficient  to  use   your  own                                                                    
     aircraft to land  or to shoot from the  air. It results                                                                    
     in wounding  and an inability to  retrieve the animals.                                                                    
     There are  accountability problems that have  long been                                                                    
     recognized.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     But mainly  I think...the reason that  the public voted                                                                    
     against this  was that the  department already  had the                                                                    
     tool  - the  authority  to  do this  -  to conduct  the                                                                    
     predator control  program using  aerial means.  That is                                                                    
     plainly authorized  under this statute,  16.05.783. The                                                                    
     department  can engage  in a  predator control  program                                                                    
     using helicopters,  using their own employees,  with or                                                                    
     without  [indisc.]. They  can use  fixed wing.  I don't                                                                    
     think the  Alaska public  would object  to that  if the                                                                    
     program was  justified. But what  they do object  to is                                                                    
     bringing the public  back into it, and  for that reason                                                                    
     we strongly urge rejection of  this bill insofar as the                                                                    
     same-day land and shoot by  agents or by the public has                                                                    
     been reauthorized.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     As to the  second part of the bill,  which would change                                                                    
     the ground  rules in a  transfer, conducting  a program                                                                    
     in an  intensive management area,  we believe  that the                                                                    
     underpinning of  the whole  predator control  system is                                                                    
     that you  address a lower  declining prey  population -                                                                    
     or another  way to say  that is  you have to  address a                                                                    
     problem  before a  controversial  - and  I don't  think                                                                    
     anyone  would disagree  about that  - predator  control                                                                    
     program   is  instituted.   Basically,  if   there's  a                                                                    
     population of  prey animals that's  relatively healthy,                                                                    
     why  would you  institute  a  predator control  program                                                                    
     that would  take state  resources out  of the  hands of                                                                    
     trappers, hunters  and other wildlife users.  The state                                                                    
     would  be   taking  animals  away  from   those  public                                                                    
     interest groups, those user groups.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     I think  as long  as the system  stays with  the ground                                                                    
     rule that  it's a lower declining  prey population that                                                                    
     has  to be  in effect,  and there's  justification that                                                                    
     can be made,  but to do it on the  basis that there may                                                                    
     be a problem in the future seems to be misguided.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  Mr. Bennett  if he  is unopposed  to a                                                               
predator  control program  as long  as ADF&G  personnel take  the                                                               
predators.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BENNETT said  that is  correct. Since  1996 it's  been plain                                                               
that  the  public doesn't  want  to  prohibit an  ADF&G  predator                                                               
control program as long as it is justified.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  referred to  Section  1(a)  of the  existing                                                               
statute that  says, "involving shooting  from the air,"  and said                                                               
it  doesn't  specifically  address  same-day  airborne  land  and                                                               
shoot. He asked  if the Defenders of Wildlife  believes ADF&G has                                                               
the  latitude to  do same-day  airborne hunting  and to  land and                                                               
shoot with its own personnel.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENNETT said  the problem is this statute  has been rewritten                                                               
with  some  of  the  legislation he  referenced  earlier  and  it                                                               
contains some terms  that could be clarified. If  the intent were                                                               
to clarify  that ADF&G personnel  may shoot  from the air  or use                                                               
same-day airborne land  and shoot then the  Defenders of Wildlife                                                               
would  have no  objection. However,  it is  clear that  the first                                                               
sentence  addresses the  public.  The second  sentence starts  to                                                               
address what the  department can do. Adding  same-day airborne to                                                               
the second sentence, providing it  had a clear reference to ADF&G                                                               
employees, would not be a problem.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if Mr.  Bennett believes it is a correct                                                               
statement to say that the  department's ability to shoot from the                                                               
air or land and shoot was not taken away by the initiatives.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BENNETT said  he  agrees that  the  department's ability  to                                                               
shoot from the  air was never taken away. He  said he would argue                                                               
that if  shooting from the air  were allowed, why would  land and                                                               
shoot not  be allowed.  He said  he can't  imagine many  cases in                                                               
which the department would want to  land and shoot and create the                                                               
additional risk  if it had the  authority to shoot from  the air.                                                               
He said it would clarify the  statute to say the department could                                                               
do both things.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Bennett  to reread the sentence from                                                               
the cover of the initiative.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENNETT said  he read it earlier because there  seems to be a                                                               
lapse of  memory about  what the actual  referendum did.  He said                                                               
the suggestion  seems to be  that the referendum  was unnecessary                                                               
because the department had the authority anyway. He read:                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     This referendum would refer to  the voters for approval                                                                    
     or rejection a  law that allows hunters to  fly into an                                                                    
     area  where the  Alaska  Game Board  has established  a                                                                    
     wolf control  program and,  on the  same day,  land and                                                                    
     shoot a wolf.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
He said  nothing could  be clearer  and that  is what  the voters                                                               
rejected. The voters  also rejected a clear  reference to agents.                                                               
He  questioned how  anyone could  interpret the  existing law  as                                                               
permitting the  public to land  and shoot if the  voters rejected                                                               
shooting by agents.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked what year that initiative was voted on.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENNETT said 2000.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT said  at that time he questioned  the man that                                                               
was involved  in the  ad campaign  on the vote.  There was  an ad                                                               
with  airplane engine  noise and  at the  end, the  screen turned                                                               
black and  a gunshot sounded.   The plane never landed  in the ad                                                               
so it implied the wolf was being  shot from the air. The man said                                                               
he was involved in the making  of the commercial and would supply                                                               
Senator Therriault with a copy, but  when he followed up, the man                                                               
refused to  give him a copy.  He said he believes  the reason the                                                               
man  refused was  because the  commercial was  so misleading.  He                                                               
said he  thinks most people  rejected that proposal  because they                                                               
thought it would allow unfettered shooting from an airborne                                                                     
plane.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT said  that  legislators are  constitutionally                                                               
mandated  to manage  the resource.  He  asked Mr.  Bennett if  he                                                               
believes the  state should be  precluded from trying to  manage a                                                               
caribou or  moose population  that is  very low  but maintaining,                                                               
when it  can be scientifically  proven that a very  high predator                                                               
population is the cause.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENNETT replied:                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Well, I  think it  goes back  to the  fact that  we all                                                                    
     recognize  the limited  resources  of  the state,  that                                                                    
     these programs are expensive  to administer and monitor                                                                    
     and [are]  controversial. It seems to  many people that                                                                    
     they  should  be  used   only  in  circumstances  where                                                                    
     there's  a  clear problem.  Again,  back  to the  first                                                                    
     initiative, the language is  a biological emergency and                                                                    
     that gave people heartache because  some people felt it                                                                    
     wasn't defined  adequately enough. But the  sense of it                                                                    
     was that  there had  to be something  more than  just a                                                                    
     perceived   problem  that   could  come   about  or   a                                                                    
     borderline situation.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     I  honestly think  that we  have enough  places in  the                                                                    
     state where  there really are  problems that to  go and                                                                    
     try to  expand the whole  system to allow  for predator                                                                    
     control way beyond  that is just unnecessary  and not a                                                                    
     good public  policy. I  think it  has to  be tied  to a                                                                    
     problem. If there's  a problem then take  some steps to                                                                    
     correct  the problem.  But there  are  lots of  factors                                                                    
     that  can  influence  prey  and  predator  populations,                                                                    
     weather and other things that  happen all year long and                                                                    
     just  because  you have  a  relatively  high number  of                                                                    
     bears in an area doesn't  necessarily mean a year later                                                                    
     it's  going  to mean  a  serious  decline for  a  moose                                                                    
     population that  goes below that line  you were talking                                                                    
     about. Other  factors could  switch it  in a  matter of                                                                    
     two or three months so  that the population might start                                                                    
     increasing.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     And plus, I  just don't think -  predator control, many                                                                    
     people have  said, has  to have  a [indisc.]  of public                                                                    
     acceptability. It's  hard enough  to get the  public to                                                                    
     accept  a  predator  control program  where  there  are                                                                    
     serious problems. To  try to do it where  there are not                                                                    
     serious problems I can't imagine getting that level of                                                                     
     public acceptability.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  OGAN  pointed  out  that  according  to  the  initiative                                                               
sections of the Constitution, the people  can put an issue on the                                                               
ballot by  initiative, it can be  amended at any time  and it can                                                               
be repealed by the Legislature  within two years of the effective                                                               
date.  He  asked  Mr.  Bennett  why  that  was  included  in  the                                                               
Constitution.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENNETT said  it was included as a check  and balance. It was                                                               
to guard against  an imbalance of laws passed by  the people that                                                               
could never be  modified or repealed. He said it  was part of the                                                               
mix to provide a give and  take. He pointed out that a referendum                                                               
has  different rules  than  an initiative.  Some  people say  the                                                               
referendum that  passed in 2000 had  a two-year life when  it did                                                               
not,  because a  law could  have been  passed a  month after  the                                                               
referendum passed to change it back.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:10 p.m.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN  said, according  to the  Constitution, a  law could                                                               
have been passed that amended it,  but the amendment could not be                                                               
a repealer. He  said he believes that provision  was added during                                                               
the  Constitutional Convention  because of  the recognition  that                                                               
the population  should be able to  bring an issue to  the voters,                                                               
but  that   the  Legislature  might  have   different  or  better                                                               
information. He said initiatives are  driven by popular and often                                                               
emotional  sentiment.  He  believes  the  constitutional  framers                                                               
recognized  that the  Legislature had  the ultimate  authority to                                                               
manage the resources  and other issues in the  state. He believes                                                               
the  Legislature  is  well  within its  bounds  to  reconsider  a                                                               
repealer   and  legislators   will  have   to  answer   to  their                                                               
constituents at the next election.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS called Mr. Rosier to testify.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  CARL ROSIER,  testifying  on behalf  of  the Alaska  Outdoor                                                               
Council  (AOC), told  members he  was the  commissioner of  ADF&G                                                               
under  the Hickel  Administration  and he  worked  for ADF&G  for                                                               
nearly 30 years. He made the following statement:                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     The  Outdoor  Council  is a  statewide  association  of                                                                    
     about  40  outdoor  recreation   groups  with  a  total                                                                    
     membership   that   exceeds    10,000   Alaskans.   The                                                                    
     organization  promotes good  conservation  of our  fish                                                                    
     and  wildlife resources  and their  habitat, protection                                                                    
     of the public access,  and fair allocation of resources                                                                    
     among  Alaskan users  of those  resources. The  council                                                                    
     supports the  provisions of SB  155, and  its companion                                                                    
     bill, HB  208. These  bills deal with  clarification of                                                                    
     airborne or  same-day airborne as  a tool  for predator                                                                    
     control  in problem  areas identified  by the  Board of                                                                    
     Game that  require controlled measures for  recovery of                                                                    
     low or declining prey populations.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     You  as a  Legislature have  the benefit  of supporting                                                                    
     one of the  finest boards of game  that I've personally                                                                    
     observed  in many  years. The  newly appointed  members                                                                    
     are solid,  long term Alaskans that  have been managers                                                                    
     of the  resource, carried  out businesses  dependent on                                                                    
     the resource,  and know and appreciate  the benefits to                                                                    
     all  Alaskans   from  well-managed  game   herds.  It's                                                                    
     unfortunate  that  this  new board  has  been  somewhat                                                                    
     hamstrung  by direction  that  helicopter control  will                                                                    
     not be  approved by the  third floor.  Helicopters are,                                                                    
     by far, the most  efficient, humane and economic method                                                                    
     for conduct of  a controlled program. I  would say also                                                                    
     that we are focusing here  on a controlled program, not                                                                    
     a  hunting  action  in  which   fair  chase  becomes  a                                                                    
     consideration.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     The areas the current  board has identified for control                                                                    
     efforts for game management are  Unit 13, 16B, and 19D.                                                                    
     All three  areas have  experienced tremendous  drops of                                                                    
     over 70 percent in moose  densities during the last ten                                                                    
     years. Units 13 and 19D  have had board plans gathering                                                                    
     dust on the  shelf for several years.  These plans were                                                                    
     never  permitted  to  be implemented  by  the  previous                                                                    
     administration with the  resultant continued decline in                                                                    
     the moose  population. Action at this  time is critical                                                                    
     to  just maintain  the populations  at current  levels.                                                                    
     There  will be  many years  before the  moose herds  in                                                                    
     these areas will  even come close to  producing a level                                                                    
     that will meet even minimal human use of the herds.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER gave the following three suggestions to strengthen                                                                   
the legislation and better protect the individuals that may                                                                     
choose to participate in a board approved control program.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
   · on line 8, page 1, insert "in identified game management                                                                   
     units" following the word "shooting"                                                                                       
   · on page 1, line 10, insert "harvest management objectives                                                                  
     adopted" following "based on"                                                                                              
   · create a new section (a)(3) that reads, "Prior to taking a                                                                 
     wolf, wolverine, fox or lynx, either airborne or same-day                                                                  
     airborne, a person must obtain a permit issued by the                                                                      
     commissioner."                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ROSIER said  that a  policy of  intensive management  over a                                                               
broad  area of  the state  is necessary.  Passage of  SB 155  and                                                               
ensuing actions  will get the  state back on  that path. It  is a                                                               
small step in  the right direction, but this is  not a short-term                                                               
program. Predator control as a tool  of game management must be a                                                               
long-term  policy  to  maintain   the  healthy  populations  that                                                               
existed in the past.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asked  Mr.  Rosier  what  happened  to  the  game                                                               
management and predator  management plans that he  said have been                                                               
in effect in some districts for quite some time.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ROSIER said  it  is his  understanding  that the  governor's                                                               
office stepped in  and precluded the department  from going ahead                                                               
with the implementation of the plan.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said  the current statute says the  game board must                                                               
go  through the  process  and  then ask  for  a  letter from  the                                                               
commissioner.  He asked  whether the  commissioner didn't  answer                                                               
the  board's request,  which  made  them consider  that  to be  a                                                               
pocket veto or whether the problem was funding.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER  said his  feeling is  that the  lack of  response was                                                               
considered  to be  a pocket  veto by  the commissioner's  office,                                                               
which was directed by the third floor.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  if the  current  commissioner could  pocket                                                               
veto a predator control program by not writing that letter.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER said that is correct.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  asked when anyone authorized  airborne hunting of                                                               
wolves in Alaska last.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER said he did not  know, but ADF&G felt strongly that it                                                               
had that authority  in the early 1990s when  he was commissioner.                                                               
However, it didn't  happen then and it hasn't  happened since. He                                                               
surmised that the  last time a program was authorized  was in the                                                               
1980s.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT referred to Section  1(a) and asked Mr. Rosier                                                               
if the  existing language "a  predator control  program involving                                                               
shooting from  the air" would  have covered same-day  airborne as                                                               
well as taking from the air.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER said it would.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELLIS  asked Mr. Rosier  when the Governor  precluded the                                                               
use of helicopters for predator control.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER said it happened since  the new board met in Anchorage                                                               
this month.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELLIS asked if the Governor did that by executive order.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER  said his understanding  is that the  helicopters were                                                               
taken off of the table before the board took action.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELLIS noted  that Mr. Rosier stated  that helicopters are                                                               
the  most efficient  means and  asked why  the Governor  would do                                                               
such a thing and whether it was for public relations reasons.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER said  he didn't know what would  motivate the Governor                                                               
to do that  in view of the promises he  made during his campaign,                                                               
but it bothers him.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asked if  ADF&G  currently  uses helicopters  for                                                               
darting, tagging, and scientific research.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER said it does.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked if that is a humane process.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER replied, "Absolutely."                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked,  "So, it wouldn't be any  more harassment to                                                               
a wolf  or a predator that  you were using a  helicopter to shoot                                                               
it from the air than it would be to dart it?"                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER replied:                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     I  don't  believe  so,  not   from  a  helicopter,  Mr.                                                                    
     Chairman.  I think  that -  again, it's  the efficiency                                                                    
     factor there in terms of  making sure that you kill the                                                                    
     animal, there's no suffering on  the part of the animal                                                                    
     and  so  forth.  And  once  you get  in  there  with  a                                                                    
     helicopter you've  got a stable  platform that  you can                                                                    
     in fact really do controlled work with.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     I  think  that's  the  key to  this  whole  thing,  Mr.                                                                    
     Chairman, is that we're  not talking about recreational                                                                    
     taking.  We're talking  about a  job that  needs to  be                                                                    
     done  in   terms  of  game  management   in  which  the                                                                    
     predator-prey relationship  is in fact modified  to, in                                                                    
     fact, produce  additional prey animals.  Ultimately out                                                                    
     of  that  action you  in  fact  end  up with  a  better                                                                    
     program  for  all  users  of  the  state,  not  just  a                                                                    
     handful, but  all of the  users because you've  got the                                                                    
     increased  populations in  most  cases,  and we're  not                                                                    
     talking about maximizing. But, if  you've got more game                                                                    
     populations out  there the  viewers are  going to  be a                                                                    
     lot happier,  the camera people  are going to be  a lot                                                                    
     happier, and so is the hunter, so...."                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked Mr. Rosier  if airborne hunting is  the most                                                               
humane way to euthanize a predator.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROSIER said it is.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS called Matt Robus to testify.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MATT ROBUS,  Acting  Director of  the  Division of  Wildlife                                                               
Conservation, ADF&G, told members that  AS 16.05.783 is a statute                                                               
that  prohibits  same-day  airborne   hunting  or  trapping  that                                                               
involves  shooting  during the  same-day  airborne.  At the  same                                                               
time, the  first part of  that statute allows a  predator control                                                               
program to  be set up. That's  a distinction that is  often lost.                                                               
The first  is a recreational  pursuit by  a hunter or  a trapper.                                                               
The  second is  a  state  program meant  to  reduce the  predator                                                               
population. The  statute contains  two basic pathways:  the first                                                               
is under  paragraph (a), covered by  SB 155. This bill  makes two                                                               
specific  changes  to  the  first  part  of  the  statute,  which                                                               
controls the same-day airborne taking  of wolves, wolverine, fox,                                                               
or lynx.  Both of  these changes  would address  ambiguities that                                                               
are  present  in  the  current  language  describing  a  predator                                                               
control program  authorized under  this law.  ADF&G sees  this as                                                               
more of a clarification of  the existing statute than a wholesale                                                               
change in its effect.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS  said the  first change, on  lines 7 and  8 on  page 1,                                                               
would make the  language in paragraph (a) the same  as that which                                                               
occurs  in subparagraph  (a)(2)  on  lines 8  and  9  on page  2.                                                               
Paragraph (a) allows for airborne  shooting as part of a predator                                                               
control  program;  subparagraph  (a)(2) implies  that  a  broader                                                               
array of  methods is contemplated  by the statute, that  is, both                                                               
aerial shooting and  other forms of same-day  airborne take, such                                                               
as land  and shoot  hunting. ADF&G  believes that  conforming the                                                               
language in  both places in  the bill will clarify  that predator                                                               
control programs can employ any of these methods.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ROBUS explained  that the  second change  in the  bill would                                                               
modify the phrase,  "prey population objectives" on line  10 to a                                                               
more general  statement. For each  prey population  defined under                                                               
the  intensive  management  law  -  moose,  caribou,  or  deer  -                                                               
populations  considered  important  for   high  levels  of  human                                                               
consumption, the  Board of Game  and ADF&G have been  tasked with                                                               
establishing  both a  population and  harvest objective  for each                                                               
population.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 03-13, SIDE B                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS  said for  each population  the objectives  are linked,                                                               
but  differ in  their  relationship to  each  other depending  on                                                               
factors   of   each   herd's  particular   situation,   such   as                                                               
productivity.  The  Board  of Game  would  normally  request  the                                                               
commissioner  to  make a  finding  under  paragraph (a)  when  an                                                               
identified  intensive  management   population  falls  below  its                                                               
population objective,  and predation  is implicated as  a primary                                                               
cause  of  decline or  of  limiting  recovery. However,  in  some                                                               
cases, a prey population could  meet its population objective but                                                               
not  its harvest  objective. In  those  cases, predation  control                                                               
measures may  be an appropriate  tool to change the  situation to                                                               
allow a herd  to meet its harvest objective.  Under AS 16.05.783,                                                               
a  strict  reading  of  the  existing  phrase,  "prey  population                                                               
objectives"  could be  interpreted  to  prevent the  commissioner                                                               
from making  a finding  as outlined  in paragraph  (a) in  a case                                                               
where a herd met the population  objective but failed to meet the                                                               
harvest objective.  Adopting the proposed language  would clarify                                                               
that the  commissioner could  make a finding  based on  either or                                                               
both of those objectives established in regulation.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS said this statute  is complicated and confusing because                                                               
of its  history. However, ADF&G's  understanding is  that however                                                               
the  existing language  came about,  the present  law does  allow                                                               
non-department   people  to   participate  in   predator  control                                                               
programs  established by  the state.  The second  pathway in  the                                                               
law, paragraph  (b), exempts ADF&G personnel  from the procedures                                                               
contained in paragraph  (a).  If ADF&G personnel  are exempt from                                                               
the  procedures in  the second  part of  the law,  it raises  the                                                               
question of the need for the  first part of the law. ADF&G worked                                                               
with the Department  of Law and their understanding is  that if a                                                               
predation  control program  would benefit  from the  use of  non-                                                               
department staff,  then the first  part of the law  that contains                                                               
the  complicated procedures  would  have to  be  followed to  get                                                               
there.  The referendum  removed agents  in two  places, but  only                                                               
from  the second  pathway, which  had  the effect  of making  the                                                               
second  pathway pertain  only to  ADF&G  personnel in  conducting                                                               
predator control  actions. He  opined the changes  in SB  155 are                                                               
more of a "tweak" than a wholesale change.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
He referenced  the pocket  veto discussion  and pointed  out that                                                               
under  the second  part  of  this statute,  there  is no  finding                                                               
required by the ADF&G commissioner.  He said that ADF&G works for                                                               
the executive  branch and  there are  times when  the Legislature                                                               
makes  a  strong  request  but the  department  carries  out  the                                                               
instructions from the  executive branch. In the  area of predator                                                               
control, it repeatedly puts ADF&G in a difficult spot.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  asked  Mr.  Robus if  he  was  referring  to                                                               
Section 1(a)(1) and Section 1(a)(2) of SB 155.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ROBUS  replied,  "...I'm saying  that  paragraph  (a)  under                                                               
16.05.783 would  be the first  pathway and down below  that there                                                               
is a ...."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS clarified  that in  the statute  itself, paragraph                                                               
(b)  says "This  section does  not apply  to an  employee of  the                                                               
department  who,  as  part  of  a  game  management  program,  is                                                               
authorized to shoot or assist...."                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if all  involved agree that the original                                                               
statutory  language in  paragraph (a)  that read,  "... involving                                                               
shooting..."  meant land  and shoot  or taking  from the  air and                                                               
that is the vague language that needs clarification.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS said that is correct.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked Mr. Robus if  his assertion is that,  as far                                                               
as  ADF&G  is  concerned,  no   predator  control  programs  were                                                               
implemented   because  of   political  reasons,   not  biological                                                               
reasons.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS said there was  no one consistent reason. Sometimes the                                                               
decision  was  political,  in  others  ADF&G  did  not  have  the                                                               
biological evidence  deemed necessary. In the  early 1990s, ADF&G                                                               
conducted a  ground based predator  control program  in Fairbanks                                                               
Unit 20A  that had  all of  the disadvantages  of a  ground based                                                               
predator control system.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked Mr. Robus if  he is aware of any situation in                                                               
which ADF&G provided  biological facts to the Board  of Game that                                                               
were incorrect.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS  said ADF&G always  does the best  it can to  give good                                                               
information  to the  Board  of Game.  One  problem with  wildlife                                                               
management  is that  ADF&G often  has just  partial data  because                                                               
data  collection is  expensive.  He noted  there  was one  survey                                                               
conducted in  Unit 19D East  in the  late 1990s that  happened to                                                               
come in with a very low  moose population result. When ADF&G flew                                                               
a  more expensive  and extensive  survey the  following year,  it                                                               
found the previous estimate was incorrect.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS   asked  if  one  could   assume  the  information                                                               
transmitted  to  the  board  is  the  best  available  scientific                                                               
information.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS said it is the best that ADF&G has.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELLIS  asked  Mr. Robus  for  his  professional  opinion                                                               
regarding Governor  Murkowski's decision  to preclude the  use of                                                               
helicopters in  any kind  of future  control program  and whether                                                               
the decision is based on politics or biology.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS said  he has not been  told that is the  policy for all                                                               
future programs.  He was told  that in the existing  situation in                                                               
Unit  19D East  near McGrath,  where a  management experiment  is                                                               
underway to reduce  bear and wolf predation on  moose calves, the                                                               
Governor's Office  passed the word  that helicopters were  not to                                                               
be a method employed at this  time. He said he believes the board                                                               
was told  the same thing.  The board  presented a finding  to the                                                               
commissioner  during  that  meeting   that  provided  a  menu  of                                                               
technical  approaches  and  criteria  by  which  they  should  be                                                               
judged. It is now up to ADF&G  to determine whether it can find a                                                               
combination  of  techniques  that  would meet  the  criteria  for                                                               
humaneness, effectiveness, efficiency and affordability.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:35 p.m.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  said he is  hearing two things. First,  that this                                                               
bill is  a "tweak"  to clear up  a gray area.  The other  is that                                                               
this bill  will allow a  preemptive strike against  predators and                                                               
will  broaden  the  number of  conditions  under  which  predator                                                               
control  programs are  allowed. He  asked  Mr. Robus  if, in  his                                                               
opinion, this  would make it easier  to hunt wolves from  the air                                                               
or to land and shoot.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ROBUS said  no action  has ever  been taken  under this  law                                                               
since  it took  effect. ADF&G  regards SB  155 as  conforming the                                                               
language in two different parts  of the bill to reduce confusion.                                                               
He  heard the  Board of  Game discuss  the second  change at  its                                                               
March meeting. That  is to take out the  phrase "prey population"                                                               
because it  ran up against the  situation where a moose  herd was                                                               
barely  meeting  the population  objective  and  not meeting  the                                                               
harvest objective.  The board  asked the  commissioner to  make a                                                               
finding to  move forward with  a predator control  program. ADF&G                                                               
responded that  because it was meeting  the population objective,                                                               
it felt it could not move  forward with a finding. The board then                                                               
discussed the idea of using  two objectives for management of the                                                               
herd. Under existing law only one  is measured as the basis for a                                                               
finding.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH asked  if it would make it more  likely that same-                                                               
day  airborne hunting  would be  allowed if  the prey  population                                                               
number were raised.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS said  that is one result, but the  commissioner has the                                                               
discretion  to make  or not  make that  finding. ADF&G's  history                                                               
shows that the department is  not careless in asking for predator                                                               
control  programs.  It can't  afford  to  do  many and  with  the                                                               
controversy involved, it will make sure there is a real problem.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS called a three-minute at-ease.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Upon  reconvening  the  meeting,  Chair  Seekins  said  that  the                                                               
committee would take up SB 155 at its next meeting.                                                                             

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