Legislature(2001 - 2002)
03/15/2002 03:32 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 205-CONTROL OF NUISANCE WILD ANIMALS CHAIRMAN JOHN TORGERSON called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to order at 3:32 p.m. and announced SB 205 to be up for consideration. MS. JANEY WINEINGER, staff to Senator Green, sponsor, explained that this legislation would provide authority to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to issue permits and licenses for the control of nuisance wild birds and other mammals. Senator Green fully supports the proposed committee substitute (CS) and amendment. This legislation would provide for licenses for commercial exterminators and permits for homeowners, corporations, agricultural enterprises and other entities who are plagued by nuisance wildlife. It would also allow ADF&G to collect bivalves for use in connection with aquatic farms and to collect wild fur animals for the improvement of genetic stock. Sometimes senior citizens or others want to control pests but want to hire someone else to do the job. This bill gives the authority to ADF&G to issue permits or licenses for such work. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON asked for examples of nuisance wild birds and nuisance small mammals. MR. ROBERT DORAN, Wasilla resident, said that he supports SB 205 because it gives ADF&G the authority he believes it should have had from the time the department was established to effectively manage wildlife in Alaska. It also provides an opportunity for those wishing to pursue a career in animal damage control, a fast growing business in the Lower 48. Based on population growth and development in Alaska, he sees a real need for this service. As an example, Mr. Doran said that beavers construct dams in culverts, which has resulted in flooded rights-of-way. He told members: In no way whatsoever do I wish to give anybody the impression that I simply desire free reign to capture anything and everything 365 days a year. My own personal business would be conducted based on specific requests of companies, etc. who for whatever reason do not wish to deal with conflicts involving wild animals. Again, these conflicts range from property damage, possible threats to public health and safety or even cases in which a bird or animal becomes inadvertently caught in a structure or within a confined area. MR. WAYNE REGELIN, Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the department supports this legislation. It provides ADF&G with the statutory authority to provide a license to a person for a commercial operation to take care of nuisance wildlife or to issue a permit to an individual or another agency to control nuisance wildlife. He added: It corrects a deficiency in our permit system, because right now we can't issue a permit for this purpose. We can for science or education or public safety, but we are prohibited from doing it and there [are] not many loopholes for us to do it where wildlife is causing a real problem for some people. We like the idea that a person that might need some help doing this that's old or just doesn't want to do it themselves can hire someone to do it. Maybe someone can make a living or supplement their income at least. He said he was referring to small animals, birds and porcupines, beaver, squirrels in attics and that type of thing. The effective date would allow the Board of Game time to provide definitions and guidance. He said the proposed amendment will allow ADF&G to give the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF) a blanket permit for a season or area if it has continual problems that ADF&G can't resolve. He remarked, "I think it's probably wise to keep wildlife permits under the purview of ADF&G and work real closely with DOT on where they need [to use them.]" 3:45 p.m. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON said he has heard that DOTPF is tired of the bureaucratic tangle it has to go through now to take care of damage caused by beavers alongside the road "that ADF&G has put on them." SENATOR ELTON asked how the process works now. MR. REGELIN replied that many people take care of the problems themselves, but a lot of them call ADF&G and ask for permission to get rid of nuisance animals. ADF&G can't give permission (to kill a squirrel, for instance) and has to send a biologist out to do it. SENATOR ELTON said this bill didn't seem to take care of that problem. He questioned, "This authorizes somebody to do it, but who authorizes the act in the first place?" MR. REGELIN replied that ADF&G usually sends a biologist to take care of the problem; this bill would allow ADF&G to call someone with a license to take care of it. He explained, "We don't have to get involved and they probably have to pay a couple of bucks and the squirrel or bat or whatever it is is out of their life." CHAIRMAN TORGERSON asked, for the purpose of clarification, if he could call the commercial guy directly to shoot a problem squirrel or would he have to apply for a permit at ADF&G and then hire the guy to do it. MR. REGELIN replied that ADF&G's intent is: The person that has the license to do this commercially would have broad authority to do it within guidelines that we provide so we won't have to be in the equation. You would just call the person… He said that this would probably only happen in the more populated areas. SENATOR ELTON continued to try and clarify and said: I guess what I'm hearing is you can pop a porcupine any time you want. The only issue that this bill addresses is who pops the porcupine. MR. REGELIN replied, "Right now there is no season or bag limits on porcupines and you're not supposed to shoot them. You only let people shoot them if they're causing a real problem…" SENATOR ELTON said, "It allows a private individual to make a decision on whether you take out the porcupine, whether you move the porcupine, so the department wouldn't make that." MR. REGELIN said that an individual can hire a person or come to ADF&G for a permit. If the individual asks for a permit, ADF&G will provide advice. The department does not want to kill animals unnecessarily. He added: But an individual has to call us and say I've got this problem; how can I fix it? And then we give them a permit to do it. The people who are in this to earn money, we would give them some broad authorities and work closely with to make sure they could do this and we would urge them - like with porcupines - you can usually move them a ways down the road and be done with it. Beavers - you usually have to kill them. That's part of the reason to keep the department in it. It becomes an issue of what do you do with the animal and the fur. SENATOR ELTON asked if a definition of small mammals would be included in the regulations and whether it would include wolves. MR. REGELIN replied that ADF&G will make sure it doesn't include wolves and coyotes, because that gets into a different arena. He said he is reluctant to list all the species because one could be inadvertently forgotten. The definition could say, "species like squirrels" or "nothing bigger than a beaver." SENATOR WILKEN moved to adopt the committee substitute to SB 205, (Utermohle, 3/14/02, Version C). There were no objections and it was so ordered. SENATOR WILKEN moved to adopt amendment 1, which reads as follows: MR. FRANK RICHARDS, an engineer at DOTPF, informed members that articles in the Daily News Miner said that road crews spend a considerable amount of time in the summer and fall taking care of culverts that are blocked by mammals. This is a big concern, because when beavers block culverts, water dams up allows infiltration, ice growth and degradation of the embankment and the surface. DOTPF supports the amendment but is concerned about granting authority to the commissioner for the control and taking of beavers only. In state-owned airports, DOTPF has fairly extensive hazing programs for wildlife, primarily birds. He said, "I hope this bill would not prevent us from continuing with our wildlife hazing programs, because that is a major safety concern to the FAA and the department as an airport operator." CHAIRMAN TORGERSON noted that Mr. Regelin said DOTPF doesn't need this amendment; it can just get a blanket permit. He asked if that is how it would work or whether the committee should go forward with the amendment. MR. RICHARDS responded that currently DOTPF gets individual permits, including permits for the airports. DOTPF must first get a federal permit for airport work before it can get a state permit. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON asked Mr. Regelin if this will affect the airport bird situation. MR. REGELIN replied that the way the bill is now it wouldn't affect airports. He explained, "As soon as they get a federal permit, we issue one. We have the authority to do that now in Public Safety and we do it in each airport." CHAIRMAN TORGERSON asked how ADF&G could raise Mr. Richards' comfort level about being able to handle the beaver problem without going through what DOTPF had to before. MR. REGELIN replied that now ADF&G sort of stretches its authority on beaver. It doesn't have authority but issues permits because of the public safety issue with flooding. He noted: This gives us the authority we need and now we can issue by region or by however you want it organized and do it one-year at a time. I don't think they're going to abuse it and if he sends me a letter asking for it, we'll issue him a permit. MR. RICHARDS said DOTPF's working relationship with ADF&G on permits is good. He stated, "As he indicated for the federal permits for the airports it is pretty much a rubber stamp." He stated if DOTPF can easily get a permit, whether it be on a yearly basis or for individual actions, that would be satisfactory for beaver control. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON asked if the committee should consider changing the language to authorize the commissioner of ADF&G to issue the commissioner of Transportation and Public Facilities the right to take beavers that interfere with culverts. MR. REGELIN replied that would be fine and, "That way when I'm gone, it still happens." SENATOR THERRIAULT said one of his concerns is that often the Fairbanks person who would issue the permit in ADF&G is out on a field trip for a week. He explained: It's just near impossible. When you're trying to deal with this in the fall before freezing, before the dams are frozen in the culverts, you have a limited window of time. He also expressed concern about getting a carcass to ADF&G. MR. REGELIN said they could do it region by region, but he worries about having a permit that will say to bring the carcass to ADF&G if possible. He clarified: I think we all need to be very cautious about the wanton waste of wildlife and just killing beaver and not using the fur and some people like the meat. You know, sometimes you just can't do it. So, we would ask them to do that if it was possible…. Part of the reason we've done it on a case-by-case basis through the area biologist is because we didn't have the blanket authority. We'll issue these out of the Juneau office just to DOT. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON asked, "Fish and Game may issue yearly permits and then go on with authorizing the commissioner of DOT…" SENATOR THERRIAULT said that would be a step in the right direction, but he is still concerned. He related how he has tried to find people to give beaver meat and pelts to, but the problem is if you get the beavers before the dams freeze up, the pelt is not in a usable condition. You have to find a trapper that's willing to take the animal, freeze it and use the carcass for other trapping purposes, but that's limited too, because a trapper needs the freezer capacity to do that. He said: What you end up with is DOT personnel standing in a five-foot culvert pulling the brush out knowing full well that the beaver will be back that night and it will be even fuller the next day. MR. RICHARDS commented, in regard to wanton waste, when DOTPF has received permits from ADF&G, it would do the trapping or have someone do it for them. DOTPF has been able to provide for the disposal of the pelts. Senator Therriault's concern would be a problem in rural areas. It would then be a burden on the department to have to bring a carcass back to a central location for disposal. SENATOR ELTON said he was still struggling with the issue of having a permit, but getting the authority from the department to do it. He explained: We're focusing now on giving the Department of Transportation the ability to do this when it seems to me if we create a system like this, why should we expect the department to do it. Why shouldn't we expect them to act like any other private landowner - pick up the phone and call somebody that's licensed to do it and have them do it. MR. RICHARDS responded that in certain locations DOTPF can hire others to come in and take the animal under their permit. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON said he wanted to hold this bill with the amendment pending to provide more time to work on the language.