Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/20/1996 03:40 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 247 USE OF FISH & GAME FUND/COMM'R'S POWERS CHAIRMAN LEMAN brought SB 247 before the committee. LYNN LEVENGOOD , Executive Director, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Association, testifying from an airplane enroute to Dallas, Texas, said the association is dedicated to the restoration of an abundance of all wildlife in Alaska. He stated his support and urged the committee's support of a proposed Resources CS, because it is good for Alaska's wildlife and will benefit all Alaskans who seek renewed abundance. The legislation recognizes that currently nearly 100 percent of Alaska Department of Fish & Game's game division budget is provided for by purchases of hunting and trapping licenses. It strengthens current statutory language which requires that the spending of these user groups' provided monies must directly benefit the purchasers of those licenses. Mr. Levengood said passage of the bill would prohibit the raiding of Alaska's Fish & Game fund monies for developmental research on an additional road access into Denali National Park, an expenditure which is currently contained in the administration's 1997 CIP budget. Passage of the legislation would also prevent the unilateral shifting and diversion of monies within the Department of Fish & Game. He said the legislation was refocused after it was discovered that last year's legislative appropriations of over $900,000 to the Department of Fish & Game for intensive management projects was spent largely on existing routine data collection, and more recently, that the administration's $300,000 external review of approved Board of Game projects is scheduled to be paid for by license revenues. SB 247 will direct funding into the propagation, restocking, transplantation, and habitat projects that will directly increase Alaska's wildlife population. Speaking to changes made in the committee substitute, Mr. Levengood said it will clarify some of the objections to the prohibition of funding in areas where federal programs are being instituted; that language was eliminated. Also, it eliminates a restriction in administrative funding for projects that are approved under the theme provided for in the bill, so it provides additional funding for administrative projects. Number 345 SENATOR TAYLOR , prime sponsor of SB 247, thanked Mr. Levengood for his assistance in working on the concept of the legislation. He added that the first change in the committee substitute was to provide that there be something in statute at least mandating or requiring the department to provide and cooperate with sportmens' organizations across the state, whenever possible, to increase game populations and to introduce new populations where suitable. CHAIRMAN LEMAN thanked Mr. Levengood for his testimony, and then stated SB 247 would be aside and the committee would continue taking testimony on SB 223. SB 247 (USE OF FISH & GAME FUND/COMM'R'S POWERS) CHAIRMAN LEMAN brought SB 247 back before the committee to take additional testimony on the legislation. OLIVER (BUD) BURRIS , testifying from Fairbanks, outlined several programs where hunters' monies have been spent on nonhunting activities. He said during that time the Department of Fish & Game should have been planning for increased human populations and increased numbers of hunters and fishermen, but in the last decade, mismanagement has been responsible for less hunting opportunity and reduced harvest. This has resulted in reduced license sales in the state. From 1984 through 1993, resident license sales dropped 15 percent and nonresident hunting license sales dropped 20 percent. He said active management is desperately needed to increase wildlife populations, to increase harvest, and to increase hunting and fishing opportunities. BILL HAGAR , testifying from Fairbanks, said the department has testified many times that they want the politics out of fish and game management, and SB 247 will do this, as well as to help the department do a better job. PETE SHEPHERD , testifying from Fairbanks in support of SB 247, said over the years he has witnessed a mounting influence of changing public values in the attitudes of the ADF&G leadership towards those who provide the operational revenues. He said it is unconscionable that the fish and game funds are being used in ways that subvert the interests of the paying hunting population. TAPE 96-34, SIDE A Number 010 NOEL PUTMAN , representing the Ketchikan Sports and Wildlife Club and testifying from Ketchikan, voiced support for SB 247 and the proposed amendment. He said the Department of Fish & Game has got way off base during the last few years with fish and game management, and most of the money from the sale of licenses seems to be going into research, or going into the hands of people that would like to see the end of consumptive use within Alaska. He said SB 247 would see to it that that would end, and he urged it passage. Number 030 TONY RUSS , speaking on behalf of the Alaska Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep from Wasilla, stated their support for SB 247. They support conservation of and proper management of wild sheep in Alaska for the purpose of putting more sheep on the mountain. The recent trends or politically based decisions about wildlife management and disregard for the opinions of professional wildlife managers employed by the state compels them to support the bill. CARL BRENT , representing the Alaska Bowhunters' Association and testifying from Wasilla, voiced their support for SB 247, both for political reasons and for the benefit of all the fishermen, hunters and trappers within the state. JEFF PARKER , a sport fisherman testifying from Anchorage, urged the committee to hold the bill over to delete the portions that relate to fish. He believes it will cause a loss of federal revenues, both on the fisheries side and the game side. He said all of the sport fish budget is comprised of money from the fish side of the fish and game fund and a three to one match of federal monies. That money is not used presently in the majority of four things contained within the bill. It is used for things like research and onground management. About one-third of the money is used in hatchery programs, and what the bill effectively does is it cranks up the hatchery side of managing the sport fish budget, and it cranks up the harvest side, but it eliminates, for example, being able to spend money on mark recapture programs and population estimates for rainbow trout that are under catch and release regulation. Those mark recapture programs and those population estimates are the fundamental basis of about 30 of our very high quality rainbow and steelhead fishery management programs in the state, and suddenly spending money to sustain those programs is eliminated. He said years have been spent in protecting wild stock management in this state, not hatchery stocks. He believes all of the sport groups throughout the state will support deleteing fish from the bill. Number 160 BILL PERHACH , a volunteer with the Alaska Environmental Lobby, testified in opposition to SB 247. They believe the bill focuses on consumptive use of wildlife resources at the exclusion of other uses. The bill eliminates state funding of any project designed to provide direct benefits to Alaskans engaged in non consumptive use of the state's wildlife resources. They believe Alaskans have the right to expect the state's natural resources to be managed for the benefit of more than one interest group. He also pointed out that the bill does not provide immunity from civil actions to members who serve on the Board of Game. Number 225 EDDY GRASSER , representing the Alaska Outdoor Council, expressed their frustration by the general trend away from traditional management of wildlife resources, and their concern about the lack of equity that the nonhunting or anti-hunting groups bring to the table when discussing management of wildlife resources. He said they fail to recognize that large portions of Alaska are set aside for nonmanagement regimes, or, in a lot of cases, several millions of acres are set aside where hunting can't take place at all. Because of that, and because of the trend away from traditional management, the council supports SB 247. They believe the legislation will provide the perimeters to the department under which they need to operate to get back to traditional management. Number 260 GERON BRUCE , Legislative Liaison, Department of Fish & Game, stated the department's opposition to SB 247 because it would fundamentally change the way the management of fish and wildlife resources for personal and recreational use is conducted by restricting the manner in which the two most important sources of funds used to manage wildlife and sport fishing resources can be used. These two funding sources are the federal aid funding and the revenues received from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses and tags. The federal aid program requires that state hunting and fishing licenses and tag fees be dedicated to the support of the sport fishing and wildlife management programs conducted by the state. The motivation to dedicate these funds to fish and wildlife management involved more than just a desire to establish a predictable source of funding; it was also a conscious attempt to insulate fish and wildlife management activities from the changing winds of political life. SB 247 has two major impacts upon the present way of managing fish and wildlife. The first is that it takes the decision-making authority on how the available funds should best be spent to manage fish and wildlife away from the biological staff trained to make those decisions and basically provides it to the legislative body. This not only takes the decision-making authority out of the hands of professionals but it also limits the ability of the staff to respond during the year to changing circumstances and priorities. The other impact about which the department is concerned is the strict limitations on what the fish and game fund and federal funds can be spent for under this legislation. It removes the ability of the department to use fish and game funds and federal aid funds to accomplish many of its functions, and without all those functions, the department cannot conduct an effective management program. Mr. Bruce said that while the Legislature is trying to reduce the general fund budget for the state, and the governor is also looking for ways to cut general fund spending, this legislation will increase it by about $30 million a year. Mr. Bruce also noted the department is opposed to the definitions of "high level of human harvest", "intensive management", and "maximum sustained yield" that are contained in SB 247. Number 380 There being no further testimony on SB 247, CHAIRMAN LEMAN closed the public hearing and adjourned the meeting at 5:45 p.m.