Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

04/12/2006 03:30 PM RESOURCES

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
         SB 170-BD/DEPT OF FISH & GAME POWERS & DUTIES                                                                      
CHAIR   THOMAS  WAGONER   announced   SB  170   to   be  up   for                                                               
consideration. He noted the new draft and asked for a motion.                                                                   
SENATOR FRED DYSON  moved to adopt Version  C, Sponsor Substitute                                                               
to SB  170, as the working  document. There was no  objection and                                                               
it was so ordered.                                                                                                              
3:52:07 PM at ease 3:56:03 PM                                                                                               
SENATOR RALPH  SEEKINS, sponsor, recapped the  legislative intent                                                               
of SSSB 170,  which is to increase revenue for  the management of                                                               
fish  and game.  Fee and  license  increases will  be adopted  in                                                               
three stages  beginning on January  1, 2007. The  second increase                                                               
will occur on  January 1, 2009 and the third  increase will occur                                                               
on January 1, 2011.                                                                                                             
The increases will bring resident  and non-resident alien license                                                               
tags and  fees in  line with  other premium  hunting destinations                                                               
and a  new trophy  fee schedule for  non-resident alien  and non-                                                               
resident hunters  is added, which  is also consistent  with other                                                               
premium hunting destinations.                                                                                                   
SENATOR  SEEKINS said  that AS  16.05.130  provides that  revenue                                                               
from the sale  of hunting and fishing licenses, tags  etc must be                                                               
allocated such that they directly  benefit license purchasers. In                                                               
the past the interpretation of  "directly benefit" was stretched,                                                               
but accountability is better now, he said.                                                                                      
SSSB 170  tightens diversion provisions  to ensure that  the fish                                                               
and game fund monies are only  used for programs that enhance the                                                               
abundance, productivity,  or harvest of fish  or game populations                                                               
that are important  for human consumption. It  also requires that                                                               
the legislature receive a copy  of the annual project report that                                                               
is also posted to the ADF&G website.                                                                                            
SSSB 170  clarifies that the  commissioner shall manage  fish and                                                               
game resources  to achieve abundance  for the use and  benefit of                                                               
the people of  the state consistent with the  public interest and                                                               
to achieve maximum  sustained yield. It further  states that non-                                                               
game animals  shall be managed for  the benefit of the  people of                                                               
the state.                                                                                                                      
Certain functions of the subsistence  section are clarified. Data                                                               
will be collected  on subsistence use of fish  and game resources                                                               
and compliance with state fishing,  hunting, and trapping license                                                               
SENATOR SEEKINS explained that SSSB  170 allows the Board of Game                                                               
to  implement intensive  management decisions  without additional                                                               
survey information. It would allow  the use of community advisory                                                               
boards made  up of local people  familiar with the fish  and game                                                               
populations to provide information  demonstrating or confirming a                                                               
need for enhancement or control action.                                                                                         
SENATOR  SEEKINS outlined  bear  control methods  and means.  The                                                               
intent is  to provide a  licensed hunter a higher  probability to                                                               
harvest  a bear  in  an  area where  a  high  bear population  is                                                               
identified as a reason for depressed ungulate populations.                                                                      
SSSB 170 adds a new subsection  related to the sale of mounts and                                                               
trophies.  Senator Seekins  expressed the  view that  a regulated                                                               
in-state  sale  process  of  tagged   mounts  or  trophies  is  a                                                               
reasonable  program that  would have  no threat  to the  resource                                                               
For  resident  hunters only  -  a  non-resident may  accompany  a                                                               
resident only  in areas of  intensive management. The idea  is to                                                               
put more  hunters in  the field.  The limit  is two  persons each                                                               
year, both must  pass the department's hunter  safety course, and                                                               
the resident  cannot receive any  monetary benefit from  the non-                                                               
resident. This  option is  canceled when  the bear  population is                                                               
back within the population objectives.                                                                                          
The military license  fee is for military members  and their non-                                                               
resident  dependents  only  while stationed  in  Alaska.  Senator                                                               
Seekins said  the military and  others in communities  across the                                                               
state broadly support this provision.                                                                                           
4:03:53 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ALBERT  KOOKESH asked  how  he  proposed to  get  hunter                                                               
education personnel into rural Alaska to teach the course.                                                                      
SENATOR SEEKINS replied the course  would be available in offices                                                               
or on the Internet.                                                                                                             
SENATOR KOOKESH commented  it seems odd that someone  who grew up                                                               
hunting  and fishing  in rural  Alaska would  now be  required to                                                               
take the hunter safety course before taking anyone in the field.                                                                
SENATOR SEEKINS  agreed and elaborated  on the purpose,  which is                                                               
to enlist more knowledgeable people to  hunt for bears in an area                                                               
that is under  intensive management. That is the  one interest he                                                               
is  trying  to   protect.  Although  the  intention   is  not  to                                                               
jeopardize  the guide  requirement,  he suggested  that if  there                                                               
were  a  court  challenge  that requirement  would  survive  with                                                               
SENATOR STEDMAN  commented he completed the  hunter safety course                                                               
with his  11-year-old daughter.  There was  considerable hands-on                                                               
weapon handling so he wasn't  sure how effective an on-line class                                                               
would be.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR SEEKINS  acknowledged that is  an obstacle, but  a number                                                               
of   approaches   could   be    employed   to   handle   hands-on                                                               
4:09:58 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELTON referenced  the  letter to  the  president of  the                                                               
Alaska  Professional  Hunters  Association from  Bill  Horn  with                                                               
Birch, Horton,  Bittner and Cherot,  and asked him to  respond to                                                               
the conclusion. It says:                                                                                                        
     To  preserve the  constitutionality  of Alaska's  guide                                                                    
     requirement   for   non-resident  hunters,   we   would                                                                    
     strongly counsel  against authorizing any  exception to                                                                    
     the  guide requirement  or a  scheme  in which  special                                                                    
     residents act  as de facto  guides in  a non-commercial                                                                    
     or quasi-commercial manner.                                                                                                
SENATOR SEEKINS  disagreed that there is  a constitutional issue.                                                               
It is a  statutory issue unless there could be  a challenge based                                                               
on  the commerce  clause. He  reemphasized  he is  not trying  to                                                               
challenge the  guide requirement,  but the  alternative is  to do                                                               
nothing and that isn't acceptable.                                                                                              
4:14:42 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEDMAN said  the assistant  guides that  he knows  have                                                               
become experienced  before taking anyone out  brown bear hunting.                                                               
His perspective  in Southeast is  that he would be  very cautious                                                               
around a weekend hunter who was hunting brown bear.                                                                             
4:16:14 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SEEKINS  said  first,  he  didn't  think  the  areas  in                                                               
Southeast would  be under intensive  management for  bear control                                                               
and second, anyone  who doesn't know what they're  doing ought to                                                               
have a guide. The point is that  there is a problem that needs to                                                               
be  addressed.   This  is  one   approach  to   controlling  bear                                                               
populations in areas  where they are having an  adverse effect on                                                               
the prey populations.                                                                                                           
4:17:40 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEDMAN mentioned  the increased  cost for  licenses and                                                               
commented he  was surprised to see  how few licenses are  sold in                                                               
Western Alaska. He asked if there  would be a mechanism to ensure                                                               
that more people buy proper licenses and tags.                                                                                  
4:18:41 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SEEKINS responded he learned  about the disparity between                                                               
the number  of hunters and  number of  licenses sold a  long time                                                               
ago. The fee  schedule is open for discussion but  an increase is                                                               
clearly needed.                                                                                                                 
4:20:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEDMAN  asked what a resident  would pay for a  bear tag                                                               
and hunting license.                                                                                                            
SENATOR  SEEKINS replied  in  certain areas  the  tags are  given                                                               
SENATOR STEDMAN  said he gets a  brown bear tag every  year so he                                                               
wouldn't have to give  up the bear in the event  he was forced to                                                               
shoot one.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR SEEKINS  said a tag isn't  required in the area  he hunts                                                               
and he's allowed one bear a year.                                                                                               
4:22:54 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEDMAN noted  that  the bill  redirects  fish and  game                                                               
expenditures somewhat  and he questioned  whether it  wouldn't be                                                               
better  to  leave  that  up  to a  finance  subcommittee  or  the                                                               
budgeting process.                                                                                                              
4:23:27 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SEEKINS  replied, historically  the money that  goes into                                                               
the allowable and designated fish and  game fund has been used at                                                               
the department's  discretion. The  sideboards are that  the funds                                                               
are for the  direct benefit of hunters and fishers  and an annual                                                               
report is  prepared to  show how the  funds were  spent. Although                                                               
there  were  difficulties  with  that process  in  the  past,  he                                                               
prefers that approach. If abuse  occurs in the future perhaps the                                                               
subcommittee  process  would be  appropriate;  at  this point  he                                                               
wouldn't suggest it.                                                                                                            
4:27:01 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEDMAN referenced  page 21, line 12 and  asked about the                                                               
fee  or  license   surcharge  that  would  be   used  to  acquire                                                               
easements, rights-of-way,  and land to provide  access to hunters                                                               
and fishers.                                                                                                                    
4:28:05 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SEEKINS  responded there are  times when it  is important                                                               
for the  state to be  able to acquire  land for public  access to                                                               
navigable streams, waters  and state owned land. To  do that it's                                                               
important that owners are paid  fair market value for the access.                                                               
This  creates  a  fund  to  accommodate  that,  but  it  mandates                                                               
4:28:49 PM at ease 4:29:42 PM                                                                                               
McKIE  CAMPBELL,  Commissioner,  Department  of  Fish  and  Game,                                                               
described  the bill  as large  and complex  and the  department's                                                               
response  is equally  complex.  ADF&G has  no  objection to  some                                                               
parts; it  agrees with the  intent - not  the language -  of some                                                               
parts; it  believes some  parts may have  counter effects  to the                                                               
intended cure; and it strongly disagrees with some parts.                                                                       
4:32:15 PM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  CAMPBELL  thanked  the   sponsor  for  including  a                                                               
license increase  and for highlighting the  issue. When inflation                                                               
is  taken into  account  an Alaska  hunting  and fishing  license                                                               
costs  less than  half  what  it did  at  Statehood. However,  he                                                               
believes that the fee schedule  contained in the original bill is                                                               
more appropriate than the proposal in the committee substitute.                                                                 
With regard to  accountability he said the department  owes it to                                                               
the  legislature  and  those who  purchase  fishing  and  hunting                                                               
licenses to be totally accountable  and transparent about how the                                                               
monies  are  spent. When  Senator  Seekins  informed him  of  the                                                               
statutory  requirement for  an accounting,  he  quickly posted  a                                                               
report to  the department website.  This year an  updated summary                                                               
was  published and  detailed spreadsheets  were furnished  to the                                                               
Finance Committee and other interested legislators.                                                                             
With regard to the question  about a definition for "project," he                                                               
assured  members that  the response  to  the question  is not  an                                                               
accurate  reflection of  departmental policy.  The definition  in                                                               
the bill  is reasonable  but, he emphasized,  with or  without it                                                               
the  department  will  continue   to  give  a  fully  transparent                                                               
accounting of  the amount and way  that fish and game  fund money                                                               
is spent.                                                                                                                       
4:35:15 PM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER CAMPBELL said  he has a number of  concerns with the                                                               
bill but the main issue is  on page 3, Section 4, subsection (c),                                                               
which says:                                                                                                                     
     Notwithstanding   other   provisions  of   law,   plan,                                                                    
     strategy,  agreement,  guideline, or  similar  document                                                                    
     that   establishes  or   affects  a   policy  for   the                                                                    
     management of  fish, game or aquatic  resources that is                                                                    
     prepared by  the department shall  be submitted  to the                                                                    
     Board  of Fisheries,  the Board  of Game,  or both,  as                                                                    
     appropriate,  for  the   board's  approval  before  the                                                                    
     department implements the policy.                                                                                          
Currently  the   department  makes  policy,   plans,  strategies,                                                               
agreements, and  guidelines every single day  so that requirement                                                               
is  very  problematic for  two  reasons.  First it  would  likely                                                               
require a  fulltime board, but  the fiscal note assumed  that the                                                               
current volunteer  board would suffice.  Second, any  action that                                                               
didn't go  through the board  would open the department  to legal                                                               
challenge.  He  understands  the  motivation, but  he'd  like  to                                                               
continue working with the sponsor.                                                                                              
COMMISSIONER CAMPBELL  said he is  also concerned  about limiting                                                               
the  transfer  of money  between  projects,  but there  again  he                                                               
understands the motivation.                                                                                                     
4:39:20 PM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER CAMPBELL  expressed agreement with much  that was in                                                               
the  PowerPoint but  the  devil  is in  the  details  as far  the                                                               
language is  concerned. For example  the department  supports the                                                               
provision  about selling  trophies,  but  would adamantly  oppose                                                               
anything that would encourage poaching  for the sale of game meat                                                               
or parts.                                                                                                                       
4:40:24 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELTON asked  if  the Department  of  Law (DOL)  provided                                                               
guidance so  that ADF&G attorneys could  address the implications                                                               
of the different sections in the bill.                                                                                          
COMMISSIONER  CAMPBELL said  yes and  based on  that advice  they                                                               
prepared a sectional analysis. They  provided that information to                                                               
Senator Seekins  last year and  no one else.  He said he  did not                                                               
have a revised sectional reflecting the new CS.                                                                                 
SENATOR ELTON commented  that the committee would  need to review                                                               
the DOL document before making a decision.                                                                                      
CHAIR  WAGONER   asked  Commissioner  Campbell  to   provide  the                                                               
committee with a revised sectional.                                                                                             
4:43:29 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DYSON recapped  what the  sponsor was  trying to  do and                                                               
asked if there was a better way.                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER CAMPBELL  replied the  bill is  complex and  it does                                                               
many  things so  the department  would like  to continue  to work                                                               
with the  sponsor to offer  opportunities and language  to reduce                                                               
the chance for unintended consequences.                                                                                         
4:45:27 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEDMAN  observed that  the bill is  very complex  and he                                                               
would  hold  his  questions  until   the  updated  sectional  was                                                               
4:45:57 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SEEKINS   commented  subsection   (c)  on  page   3  was                                                               
precipitated because there are  agreements that affect management                                                               
policy  in the  state  that neither  the Board  of  Game nor  the                                                               
legislature  knows about  on a  formal basis.  He used  the State                                                               
Wildlife Grant  Project as  an example and  said the  question in                                                               
that  instance  was  whether the  document  committed  particular                                                               
management processes  and actions  without any there  having been                                                               
any external review.  SSSB 170 just asks for the  light of day so                                                               
that the  people who are  charged with that  fiduciary management                                                               
responsibility are actually involved.                                                                                           
4:48:00 PM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER CAMPBELL  highlighted his concern using  the halibut                                                               
charter  issue.  At a  recent  North  Pacific Management  Council                                                               
meeting the issue  of whether or not skippers and  crew should be                                                               
able to retain  fish was hotly contested. On behalf  of the State                                                               
of Alaska  he made  the policy decision  to enforce  no retention                                                               
for  skippers and  crew in  Southeast and  to watch  Southcentral                                                               
closely. As such  he was able to realize a  goal that the sponsor                                                               
also supported. Without the ability  to make the policy call, the                                                               
goal would not  have been realized for at least  another 30 days.                                                               
He   reiterated  his   commitment   to   transparency  and   full                                                               
4:50:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELTON asked  what would have happened if  the language in                                                               
subsection  (c) had  been  law  6 months  ago  when  there was  a                                                               
challenge  to the  predator  control program  that  was based  on                                                               
procedural issues.  He suggested  the language  creates questions                                                               
that could potentially affect the predator control policy.                                                                      
COMMISSIONER CAMPBELL replied it's not  the intent but he is very                                                               
concerned  that  the   section  could  be  used   to  attack  any                                                               
department  action that  didn't have  board blessing.  Whether or                                                               
not  it  would  have  affected the  predator  control  policy  he                                                               
couldn't  say, but  Section 15(e)(1)  on page  9 certainly  could                                                               
have an  affect. It  contains language  about consumptive  use of                                                               
the  big  game  prey  population  as a  preferred  use.  The  new                                                               
language is problematic because  there are dramatically different                                                               
conclusions from  who is a reliable,  reasonable or knowledgeable                                                               
person.  He  suggested that  with  that  language the  department                                                               
would  be in  court all  the  time even  though that  is not  the                                                               
CHAIR WAGONER announced he would hold SB 170.                                                                                   

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