Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/20/1996 03:40 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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              
 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.                     

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