Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/16/2003 01:00 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                SB 155-PREDATOR CONTROL PROGRAMS                                                                            
CHAIR  SEEKINS announced  a proposed  committee substitute  (CS),                                                               
version S, to be before the committee.                                                                                          
SENATOR THERRIAULT moved to adopt version S (4/16/03) SB 155                                                                    
as the working document.                                                                                                        
SENATOR ELLIS objected  for the purpose of an  explanation of the                                                               
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said  the  changes in  version  S  are  primarily                                                               
semantic changes  for the  sake of  efficiency. One  paragraph is                                                               
added  that says  when the  Board of  Game authorizes  a predator                                                               
control   program   it   should  establish   predator   reduction                                                               
objectives and limits,  methods and means to be  employed, who is                                                               
authorized to  participate, and conditions for  participation. He                                                               
noted he is still working with  the Alaska Department of Fish and                                                               
Game (ADF&G)  on how to properly  delineate responsibilities. The                                                               
bill goes  to the Senate  Resources Committee so that  issue will                                                               
probably be resolved there.                                                                                                     
SENATOR  ELLIS asked  if  the  intent of  Section  2  on page  2,                                                               
particularly the words "methods and  means to be employed," is to                                                               
allow the Governor's  ability to prohibit the  use of helicopters                                                               
to be overridden.                                                                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS said  it is not; methods and  means are statutorily                                                               
assigned to  the Board of  Game. The language  in Section 2  is a                                                               
reiteration of a truism that  already exists in the statutes. The                                                               
Board of  Game could do that  now for private individuals  or for                                                               
permittees. It cannot compel ADF&G  to use helicopters, gun ships                                                               
and  gunners.  It  does  not change  that  separation  of  power.                                                               
Section (a)  of the original statute  says the Board of  Game can                                                               
do these  things; section (b) says  ADF&G can do these  things so                                                               
it does not touch any of the department's authority.                                                                            
SENATOR ELLIS  asked if  the Governor had  the authority  to tell                                                               
the board that helicopters could not be used.                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS said, as he  understood the Governor's conversation                                                               
with the  board, the  Governor said no  state helicopters  and no                                                               
ADF&G  gunners could  be  used. He  asked  a representative  from                                                               
ADF&G to elaborate.                                                                                                             
MR. MATT  ROBUS, Division of  Wildlife Conservation,  ADF&G, told                                                               
members  he  attended  the  March   Board  of  Game  meeting  and                                                               
participated in  the process as  the board came forward  with its                                                               
findings  and   request  to  the   commissioner.  He   asked  for                                                               
clarification of the chair's question.                                                                                          
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asked,   "Does  this,  in  any   way,  trump  the                                                               
Governor's statement that he is  not going to use helicopters and                                                               
MR. ROBUS said  his understanding, based on  discussions with the                                                               
Department  of  Law   (DOL)  and  the  committee,   is  that  the                                                               
commissioner  still retains  the authority  to decide  what ADF&G                                                               
will or will not implement.                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEEKINS said  he understands the Governor to  mean that his                                                               
desire is  that the methods  and means employed by  public people                                                               
to be at the authorization of the Board of Game, not ADF&G.                                                                     
SENATOR ELLIS  asked if by  "public people," Chair  Seekins means                                                               
members of the public.                                                                                                          
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said he  means  private  individuals, not  public                                                               
officials. If someone  was going to carry out  an aerial shooting                                                               
in a predator control program,  the Board of Game would authorize                                                               
those private individuals  to do so, but it could  not compel the                                                               
state to do so.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  ELLIS asked  why Section  2 is  necessary if  it doesn't                                                               
change the status quo.                                                                                                          
CHAIR SEEKINS said it is  a reiteration of the existing statutes.                                                               
It is  somewhat unnecessary,  but is meant  to clarify.  He asked                                                               
Mr. Robus if he agrees.                                                                                                         
MR. ROBUS  said he only had  a few minutes to  review the working                                                               
document. He appreciates the change  at the beginning of the bill                                                               
because that is a better way  to state the committee's intent. He                                                               
said he  also appreciates the  re-inclusion of  wolverine because                                                               
of their vulnerability to same-day airborne hunting.                                                                            
In  Section 2,  he expressed  concern that  it still  potentially                                                               
sets up  a confrontational situation  in that ADF&G  believes the                                                               
board  already  has  those  powers.   If  the  board  develops  a                                                               
particularly  narrow program,  it would  give the  administration                                                               
very  little  flexibility  in   determining  whether  ADF&G  will                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS  said his intent is  to work with the  chair of the                                                               
Senate  Resources  Committee and  members  of  the department  to                                                               
define that  there is no way  the board can force  the department                                                               
to participate. At the same time,  there should be no way for the                                                               
department to make  it more difficult for the board  to carry out                                                               
its program.                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OGAN commented,  "This is kind of like  the secretary who                                                               
will  disavow  any of  your  actions  if  you're caught  kind  of                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS  said it is  not the intent  of this bill  to force                                                               
the  board  to  do  anything.  If  ADF&G  does  not  do  it,  the                                                               
Legislature can  address the department's budget.  However, there                                                               
is a  separation of  powers in the  Administrative Code.  He does                                                               
not want to cross  that line. At the same time,  he wants to make                                                               
sure the administration  does not have the ability  to negate the                                                               
efforts of the Board of Game to carry out its program.                                                                          
SENATOR OGAN  pointed out that  with regard to the  separation of                                                               
powers issue,  the Board of  Game is  almost an extension  of the                                                               
legislative   branch  because   the  Legislature   delegates  its                                                               
authority to the board.                                                                                                         
CHAIR SEEKINS maintained that the  Legislature, as trustee of the                                                               
resource, has delegated  certain authority to the  Board of Game.                                                               
The  board  should  be  working  cooperatively  with  ADF&G.  The                                                               
Legislature  might anticipate  that  ADF&G would  assist to  some                                                               
degree and  provide administrative support  if the Board  of Game                                                               
authorized  an airborne  hunting  program.  He expressed  concern                                                               
that the  board should not  be able to  issue an order  that says                                                               
that those who are authorized  to participate in this program are                                                               
members of ADF&G and they must use helicopters.                                                                                 
MR. ROBUS agreed that reflects one of ADF&G's major concerns.                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS  said, in effect,  the board will still  be allowed                                                               
to make  that decision but ADF&G  would not be forced  to be part                                                               
of the program except for administrative participation.                                                                         
SENATOR  OGAN asked  Mr. Robus  if he  envisions that  ADF&G will                                                               
give biological  advice to the  board, but ADF&G  employees would                                                               
not fly in planes and shoot.                                                                                                    
MR.  ROBUS  said   version  S  requires  ADF&G   to  present  the                                                               
information upon which  this program is based, so  ADF&G would be                                                               
involved there. As  the board recognized in the  finding for Unit                                                               
19D  in March,  predator management  issues can  be addressed  in                                                               
different ways. Some involve  department participation while some                                                               
do not.  Version S seems  to allow the board  to come out  with a                                                               
very narrow program,  in terms of saying exactly how  it could be                                                               
done,  and  there may  be  times  when  that conflicts  with  the                                                               
administration's desires.  That's the  conversation he  had [with                                                               
the chair] about  where the board's authority to  direct ADF&G or                                                               
recommend to ADF&G intersects with  the department's authority to                                                               
participate or not participate.                                                                                                 
CHAIR SEEKINS added:                                                                                                            
     And  the  accompanying   concern  that  the  department                                                                    
     doesn't say, well, you have to  get a permit to be able                                                                    
     to do this  and the permits are in Barrow  and the hunt                                                                    
     is  in  McGrath.  There's some  responsibility  on  all                                                                    
     parts there to be cooperative  but yet not to cross the                                                                    
     lines of individual powers.                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN  asked if anything  in current state law  prevents a                                                               
predator  control program  that  involves use  of helicopters  to                                                               
identify dens  or areas  where predators center.  He said  he has                                                               
spoken  with a  professional predator  regulator for  the federal                                                               
government who suggested using helicopters for such a purpose.                                                                  
MR. ROBUS said the general answer  is no and unless the person is                                                               
carrying a collection  permit or some sort  of authorization, the                                                               
person  can not  harass or  even disturb  an animal  because that                                                               
would fit the  definition of "taking." An ADF&G  employee doing a                                                               
survey with  a permit is  legal. If  a private person  does that,                                                               
the person could cross the  line from observation to disturbance,                                                               
which becomes a legal problem.                                                                                                  
SENATOR OGAN asked if anything  prevents ADF&G staff from getting                                                               
permits,  locating  dens,  and then  using  helicopters  to  drop                                                               
people  off to  hunt the  next  day. He  said he  is looking  for                                                               
MR.  ROBUS said  if hunting  is involved,  helicopters cannot  be                                                               
used to transport hunters or their  gear or game. If the activity                                                               
is something  other than hunting, possibly  an approved predation                                                               
control program, something like that could occur.                                                                               
SENATOR  THERRIAULT   asked  if   under  the   existing  statute,                                                               
individual  Alaskans  could  participate in  a  predator  control                                                               
program that includes same-day airborne or shooting from planes.                                                                
MR. ROBUS said that is  correct according to his discussions with                                                               
the Department of Law.                                                                                                          
CHAIR SEEKINS  said version S  says the  board can use  more than                                                               
just the  prey population objective  to be  able to do  that. The                                                               
board can also  use harvest or population objectives  for prey or                                                               
predator  in an  area determined  to be  an intensive  management                                                               
SENATOR THERRIAULT said the bill  now contains language that says                                                               
the board  will assert control  over how that  is to be  done. He                                                               
maintains  that  this  legislation   will  not  undo  the  public                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS  agreed and said it  clarifies how it can  be used.                                                               
He  noted that,  hopefully,  Section 2  brings  some portions  of                                                               
existing  statute into  focus  so that  the  state isn't  turning                                                               
everybody with a Super Cub and a shotgun lose to kill wolves.                                                                   
SENATOR ELLIS asked about the term "free ranging wolf."                                                                         
CHAIR SEEKINS said  that free ranging means it is  not trapped or                                                               
confined somehow.                                                                                                               
MR. ROBUS acknowledged that is correct.                                                                                         
SENATOR ELLIS  asked Mr.  Robus if he  supports the  inclusion of                                                               
wolves and wolverines  on the list and whether  they are included                                                               
because those two species are killing moose calves.                                                                             
MR.  ROBUS said  he does  not want  to give  the impression  that                                                               
bears  are not  involved in  some areas.  He commented  favorably                                                               
about  including  wolverines  in  version  S  because  they  were                                                               
removed  from the  previous committee  substitute. Staff  pointed                                                               
out  to  him  that  wolverine,   being  solitary,  having  a  low                                                               
reproductive  rate   and  using  open  country,   could  be  very                                                               
vulnerable  to  same  day  airborne  land  and  shoot  practices.                                                               
Because the first  sentence of this statute  says certain species                                                               
may not be  hunted, it makes sense to include  wolverine. He said                                                               
the fact that  wolves are included is due to  the initiative that                                                               
originally established  the statute. However, everything  else in                                                               
the bill  says in  a predation control  situation, wolves  may be                                                               
taken in  specific ways. He pointed  out that lynx are  not often                                                               
found  in country  where they  would be  susceptible to  same day                                                               
airborne shooting and fox have a higher reproductive rate.                                                                      
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said  he  would  be  hard  pressed  to  find  any                                                               
advantage in  using same  day airborne  hunting to  get a  fox or                                                               
lynx.  However, wolverines could be more susceptible.                                                                           
SENATOR ELLIS asked, "And what's your take on the bears?"                                                                       
CHAIR SEEKINS said they are covered under different statutes.                                                                   
SENATOR ELLIS asked if he intends to address that statute.                                                                      
CHAIR SEEKINS said he intends to look  at it at some point and is                                                               
currently  talking  to  members  of  the  trapping,  hunting  and                                                               
guiding industries and ADF&G about how to control bears.                                                                        
SENATOR ELLIS asked if bears are on the list.                                                                                   
CHAIR  SEEKINS said  he thinks  they should  be, but  not in  all                                                               
SENATOR  FRENCH said  most  of his  constituents  think that  any                                                               
airborne wolf hunting  is banned. The tenor of  their comments is                                                               
that they want this to be  as tightly regulated as possible. They                                                               
do not want one  inch of leeway to make it  easier to do predator                                                               
control from  the air or using  same day land and  shoot. He said                                                               
from a  political perspective, he  sees the Governor  saying that                                                               
he will  not allow  department staff  to participate  in predator                                                               
control using helicopters,  but what he sees coming  is the least                                                               
attractive alternative to his constituents.                                                                                     
TAPE 03-25, SIDE A                                                                                                            
2:43 p.m.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEEKINS said  Senator French's comment shows  a widening of                                                               
the  rural-urban  split.  He  said   that  people  from  downtown                                                               
Anchorage and  those from a  rural community  will be at  odds on                                                               
this issue.  If Senator French's  constituents want to  widen the                                                               
rural-urban split, this  issue provides an opportunity  to do so.                                                               
He said that members of  Senator French's party are supportive of                                                               
this legislation  because they are  unable to put moose  on their                                                               
tables because of  predators. If people in  downtown Anchorage do                                                               
not believe that  is a real problem, they should  talk to some of                                                               
those folks in the rural areas.  He said the rural populations of                                                               
moose have declined and, because  of ineffective predator control                                                               
in  some areas  close  to urban  populations,  urban hunters  are                                                               
hunting  in  the rural  areas.  He  pointed  out that  the  moose                                                               
population  in Unit  13  has  dropped from  27,000  to less  than                                                               
8,000. The wolf  populations are huge in that area.  As a result,                                                               
urban hunters who  used to hunt in  Unit 13 are now  going to the                                                               
rural areas. That  is exacerbating the urban  rural tension. They                                                               
would  not  travel  to  rural  areas if  they  had  a  reasonable                                                               
opportunity to harvest close to  home. The Governor said he wants                                                               
the local  people to  take care of  predator control  rather than                                                               
ADF&G  employees. This  bill will  authorize local  people to  do                                                               
what  the Governor  wants to  have done;  it does  not set  up an                                                               
adverse position to  the Governor's. It allows the  Board of Game                                                               
to  make that  decision in  concert with  the Governor's  desired                                                               
SENATOR THERRIAULT  told Senator  French this bill  is a  step in                                                               
the  direction  that his  constituents  want  to go.  They  think                                                               
airborne hunting is absolutely outlawed:  it is not. They believe                                                               
this legislation undoes the initiative:  it does not. Legislators                                                               
have to educate them. He  directed the woman he corresponded with                                                               
to the  sections of statute to  show her that this  will put some                                                               
controls on a  process she says she does not  like. He questioned                                                               
whether she would  rather have no controls.  Constituents need to                                                               
understand this is a step in the right direction.                                                                               
SENATOR  FRENCH said  it strikes  him that  if the  issue is  the                                                               
declining  moose  population  criteria   already  exists  in  the                                                               
current statute.  The first go  around on this issue  centered on                                                               
increasing the  number of variables  the board  could contemplate                                                               
when  considering airborne  predator  control. He  said the  real                                                               
issue  is that  the  Board of  Game did  not  set the  population                                                               
figures   appropriately.  It   was  suggested   that  the   moose                                                               
population could  be maintained  at a low  level but,  because of                                                               
the rise in  the predator population, it would crash.  He said he                                                               
was  not  convinced   of  that  because  he   believes  the  game                                                               
population  must  be set  with  a  large  enough buffer  to  take                                                               
predation into account. He questioned  how this bill would change                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS replied:                                                                                                          
     ...you may have a  population objective in a particular                                                                    
     area and  you're maintaining that  population objective                                                                    
     but,  because   of  predation,  you  have   no  harvest                                                                    
     objective  that  you can  look  for  in being  able  to                                                                    
     maintain that  population objective. So  you're cutting                                                                    
     back on  the size  that can  be taken.  You're removing                                                                    
     non-resident  hunters from  the equation.  You're doing                                                                    
     other things that can help  you maintain the population                                                                    
     objective but  you now are  not able to meet  a harvest                                                                    
     objective. So  this would give  you the  opportunity to                                                                    
     eliminate the competition to be  able to meet a harvest                                                                    
     objective. Am I correct there?                                                                                             
MR. ROBUS said  another way to say it is  that, under the current                                                               
system, the board  has only one trip wire that  enables it to set                                                               
up  a  predation  control  program  -  that  is  if  an  ungulate                                                               
population identified  for intensive management  descends through                                                               
its population objective. If an  ungulate population is above its                                                               
population objective,  but for various  reasons is in  a downward                                                               
trajectory, this  flexibility to  choose several  objectives from                                                               
which  to work  should allow  the board  to take  some corrective                                                               
measure to try  to recover the population to the  lower limit. He                                                               
said  it  is  important  that  this is  only  tied  to  intensive                                                               
management populations of ungulates  that have been identified as                                                               
very important  for high levels of  human use. He said  the March                                                               
meeting of  the board demonstrated  that, when decisions  must be                                                               
based  on  a  single  objective, wildlife  management  gets  very                                                               
complicated.  Giving  the  board  flexibility to  look  at  other                                                               
objectives  makes  sense  because   other  factors  affect  those                                                               
ungulate populations.                                                                                                           
SENATOR OGAN  commented that  he hunted  moose in  Unit 13  for a                                                               
number of  years, but he  quit 10 years  ago because the  herd he                                                               
was hunting  had 20 to  30 cows and not  one calf. He  could tell                                                               
back then that the population was in trouble.                                                                                   
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  moved  CSSB  155(JUD)  from  committee  with                                                               
individual recommendations and the attached zero fiscal note.                                                                   
SENATOR ELLIS objected.                                                                                                         
CHAIR SEEKINS  called for a  roll call  vote. The motion  to move                                                               
the  bill from  committee passed  with Senators  Therriault, Ogan                                                               
and  Seekins  voting in  favor,  and  Senators French  and  Ellis                                                               

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